Welcome to Jersey Girl Book Reviews, Robert!
Before we get to the interview, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
I live in Huntsville, Alabama with my wife, Dixie, and three kids (ages 11, 10 and 5). I’ve been an attorney for the past sixteen years with the law firm of Lanier Ford Shaver & Payne, where I primarily handle medical malpractice cases from the defense side. I am a graduate of Davidson College (best known now for being the alma mater of NBA MVP, Stephen Curry, of the Golden State Warriors) and earned my law degree at the University of Alabama.
The Professor, my first novel, is an Amazon bestseller and won the 2014 Beverly Hills Book Award for legal thriller of the year. My second novel, Between Black and White, which comes out on March 15th from Thomas & Mercer, is the sequel to The Professor.
How long have you been a writer?
I started writing short stories in college in 1995/1996, but didn’t begin The Professor, my first novel, until 2000/2001.
Do you have a day job, or is being an author your career?
I am an attorney with the law firm of Lanier Ford Shaver & Payne in Huntsville, Alabama.
What inspired you to become a writer? Describe your journey as a writer.
I have enjoyed stories since I was a little boy and have loved reading since I dove into the Bobbsey Twins series in the fourth grade. The first stories I wrote were in a creative writing class in college. My critiques were positive enough to make me think I might have a knack for storytelling. More importantly, I loved it! Probably my favorite class in college. I think at that point I knew I was going to write a novel one day. The idea for The Professor hatched during a law school day dream: What would happen if a law professor actually had to try a case? At first, the idea was just a smart aleck thought but it never went away and, over the course of the next few years, the idea evolved into a story featuring a legendary law professor that played football for Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant who returns to the courtroom to help a young former student. One night, I sat down and wrote the prologue to The Professor, and showed it to my wife. She loved it and encouraged me to write the whole thing. Eight years, three re-writes, and thirty eight drafts of the final re-write later, and we had a publisher.
Please give a brief description/storyline about Between Black and White?
In Between Black and White, Tom McMurtrie and Rick Drake travel to Pulaski, Tennessee to defend their good friend, Bocephus Haynes, on charges of capital murder. Bo is charged with brutally killing Andy Walton, the man believed to have led the lynch mob of Ku Klux Klansmen who killed Bo’s father forty-five years earlier.
What was the inspiration for this story?
I was in the middle of writing the second draft of The Professor, and, during a difficult day of revisions, I started thinking of new ideas for novels and the following situation popped in my head: A five year old African American boy watches his father murdered by the Ku Klux Klan and grows up to be a lawyer whose quest is to bring the men who killed his father to justice.
How did it feel to have your first book published?
It was surreal. I remember a photograph my wife took at Barnes & Noble with our kids right after The Professor was released. They were standing at the display rack and gesturing at my books. My books?! I still could hardly believe it.
Do you write books for a specific genre?
The Professor and Between Black and White are both legal thrillers.
What genres are your favorite(s)? What are some of your favorite books that you have read and why?
I love all variety of thrillers. John Grisham’s first five novels were a huge influence--I think I was in a cold sweat after reading the first ten pages of A Time to Kill. I love Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch and Lincoln Lawyer series, as well as the John Sandford “Prey” novels and Greg Iles’ Penn Cage series.
Do you have a special spot/area where you like to do your writing?
In our house, we have converted an upstairs attic into a small writing studio, which is where I do most of my writing these days.
How do you come up with the ideas that become the storyline for your books?
I’ve always been a big day dreamer, and sometimes situations will pop into my head, i.e. what would happen if a law professor had to try a case? I normally will write the situation down, and, at least on two occasions, these notes have evolved into novels.
When you write, do you adhere to a strict work schedule, or do you work whenever the inspiration strikes?
I try to write every morning from around 5:00 am to 7:00 am. For me, the best writing happens when I’m in a nice routine of making steady progress each morning.
What aspects of storytelling do you like the best, and what aspects do you struggle with the most?
My favorite thing about storytelling is setting up the characters: their motivations and the nuances of what makes them who they are. The thing I struggle most with is taking a lengthy first draft and revising it into a tighter finished product.
What are your favorite things to do when you are not writing?
Spending time with my family is number one. My boys are knee deep in sports, and I love practicing with them. I also love taking family trips. And I have always loved to read. Just finished The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins, and The Stranger, by Harlan Coben, which were both fantastic.
What is/was the best piece of writing advice that you have received?
“Read a lot, write a lot.” This is from Stephen King’s memoir on writing, and he calls it “the Great Commandment” for every prospective writer.
What is the most gratifying thing you feel or get as a writer?
I love hearing a reader describe how he or she has been entertained or inspired by my novels. Several readers have commented that they have been sad to get to the end of my story, because they enjoyed it so much. As I have had that feeling myself many times as a reader, it is incredibly gratifying to think that I have made someone else feel that way about my characters and story.
How do you usually communicate with your readers/fans?
In person at book club events (The Professor was picked by over twenty book clubs), signings and speaking gigs. I also regularly interact with readers on my Facebook page www.facebook.com/RobertBaileyBooks and website www.robertbaileybooks.com.
Is there anything in your book based on real life experiences or are they purely all from your imagination?
Between Black and White is a purely fictional story. However, the town of Pulaski and the restaurants and history set out in the story are very much real. I did a good bit of research on Pulaski so that the scenes in the book would be more authentic.
What authors have been your inspiration or influenced you to become a writer?
Harper Lee, John Steinbeck, John Grisham, Greg Iles, John Sandford, Michael Connelly, Steve Martini, Brad Meltzer, Harlan Coben, J.K. Rowling, and Stephen King are just a few of the writers who have been huge influences.
What is your definition of success as a writer?
Wow, I don’t know. I can tell you that my goal is to be #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and for my books to be made into movies. I guess that sounds crazy, but I haven’t placed a ceiling on my writing. After The Professor came out, my son Jimmy (9 at the time) asked me what my dream was in writing, and I told him that I wanted to be walking down the beach and see someone huddled under their umbrella and reading my book. A few months later, after a signing in Seaside, Florida, we were relaxing by the shore and my wife snapped a picture of someone reading The Professor under their umbrella. So…since I’ve realized that dream now, why not shoot for #1?
Are you currently writing a new book? If yes, would you care to share a bit of it with us?
Yes! I am about forty pages into my third book in the McMurtrie & Drake series. The working title is The District Attorney, and the story will pit Tom and Rick against their old friend, Powell Conrad, the newly elected district attorney of Tuscaloosa County, in a murder case with ties all the way to the Governor’s mansion…
Thank you, Robert, for visiting Jersey Girl Book Reviews, and for providing us with a glimpse into your life and writing career!
About The Author
Bailey was born in Huntsville, Ala., in 1973. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Davidson College in North Carolina and graduated from the University of Alabama School of Law in Tuscaloosa, Ala., in 1999. In law school, Bailey was honored with the Award for Outstanding Achievement at the American Judicature Society Interscholastic Trial Competition. He made Law Review and was a member of the Bench and Bar Legal Honor Society. Somehow, between studying and preparing for the bar exam, Bailey managed to watch every home football game.
Bailey practices law as a civil defense trial attorney in Huntsville at the law firm of Lanier Ford Shaver & Payne. In addition to representing health care providers and nursing homes in medical liability cases, he defends trucking companies, insurance carriers, insureds and businesses in injury-related lawsuits.
Bailey is admitted to practice before the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, the U.S. District Court – Northern and Middle Districts of Alabama and Western District of Tennessee – and in all Alabama state courts.
He is a member of several professional associations including the International Association of Defense Counsel, Defense Research Institute, Alabama Defense Lawyers’ Association, Huntsville-Madison County Bar Association and the Alabama Bar Association.
Bailey’s first novel, The Professor, was published on Jan. 28, 2014 by Exhibit A Books. His second book, Between Black and White will be published on March 15, 2016.
Bailey is married with three children. When he’s not writing or practicing law, he’s playing golf, coaching his sons’ little league baseball teams and, of course, cheering on the Crimson Tide.
Between Black and White by Robert Bailey
Book 2: McMurtrie and Drake Legal Thrillers Series
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Publication Date: March 15, 2016
Format: Paperback - 398 pages
Kindle - 2138 KB
Genre: Legal Thriller
Buy The Book:
Buy The Series: McMurtrie and Drake Legal Thrillers Series
Book 1: The Professor
Book 2: Between Black and White
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book release day promo event hosted by JKSCommunications.
Set in Pulaski, Tennessee, Between Black and White tells the story of Bocephus Haynes who, as a young boy, witnessed the brutal murder of his father by 10 local members of the Ku Klux Klan. As an African American lawyer practicing in the birthplace of the Klan years later, Bo has spent his life pursuing justice in his father’s name. But when Andy Walton, the man believed to have led the lynch mob 45 years earlier, ends up murdered in the same spot as Bo’s father, Bo becomes the prime suspect.
Retired law professor Tom McMurtrie, Bo’s former teacher and friend, is a year removed from returning to the courtroom. Now McMurtrie and his headstrong partner, Rick Drake, must defend Bo on charges of capital murder while hunting for Andy Walton’s true killer. In a courtroom clash that will put their reputations and lives at stake, can McMurtrie and Drake release Bo from a lifetime of despair? Or will justice remain hidden somewhere between black and white?
Between Black and White is Robert Bailey’s second novel featuring the dogged legal team of McMurtrie and Drake. His debut novel, The Professor, won the 2014 Beverly Hills Book Award for legal thriller of the year and was an Amazon bestseller, spending several weeks at #1 in the legal thriller category.
My Book Review:
In Between Black and White, the second book in the McMurtrie and Drake Legal Thriller Series, author Robert Bailey utilizes his extensive legal knowledge and experience interwoven with his passion for his alma mater, University of Alabama, to weave an unforgettable legal thriller that will captivate the reader's attention from beginning to end.
Between Black and White is a fast-paced and riveting story about one man's forty-five year quest for justice. This classic legal chess game is set in Pulaski, Tennessee, where law partners Tom McMurtrie and Rick Drake defend local attorney Bocephus Haynes, a friend and fellow Alabama alumni, when he is arrested for the murder of Andy Walton, a former KKK Imperial Wizard and successful businessman. The seasoned legal professor and his young protegee hunt for the real killer in order to exonerate their friend in a powerful and compelling story that has enough gripping thrills and chills interspersed with drama and suspenseful twists and turns that easily keeps the reader guessing until the surprising conclusion.
The author does a wonderful job of interweaving his legal experience and passion for 'Bama football with a richly detailed and factually descriptive references that easily transports the reader to the small Tennessee town that was the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan, for a gritty dark tale that interweaves the turbulent racial tensions in the Deep South with one man's personal quest for justice.
With a complex and realistic cast of characters; witty dialogue and dramatic heart pounding interactions; and a fascinating legal thriller storyline that flows seamlessly from beginning to end; Between Black and White is an exceptional legal thriller that will resonate with the reader for a long time.
Between Black and White is the second book in the McMurtrie and Drake Legal Thriller Series, and can be a stand alone read, but do yourself a favor and read the books in sequential order, you won't be disappointed!
RATING: 5 STARS