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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Between Black and White by Robert Bailey (Book Release Day Promo Event / Author Interview / Book Review)

In association with JKSCommunications, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book release day event for Between Black and White by author Robert Bailey!

Author Interview

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 and website

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

From the time he could walk, Robert Bailey has loved stories, especially those about the legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and his beloved Crimson Tide football team at the University of Alabama.

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.


Book Review

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
ISBN: 978-1503953079
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.

Book Description:

After the success of his bestselling debut legal thriller, The Professor, civil defense attorney turned author Robert Bailey is returning with a new story brimming with suspense, courtroom drama and turbulent racial tensions in the Deep South in Between Black and White.

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.

Book Excerpt:


Pulaski, Tennessee, August 18, 1966

The boy sat on the floor in the den of the two-bedroom shack, listening to the Cardinals game on the radio and practicing his only vice—chewing a big wad of bubble gum. His mother was still at the Big House, cleaning up after the party, but his father had just gotten home, his job done for the night. The boy lay on his back, blowing bubbles and throwing a baseball up in the air and catching it with his mitt.

The gunshots startled him.

They came from outside the house. Two blasts from a twelve-gauge. The boy was only five years old, but he knew what a shotgun sounded like. His father had taken him hunting several times, and he had fired one himself the last time they went. The boy scrambled to his feet and looked out the window.

He saw a wooden cross. Like the cross behind where the preacher spoke at church. It was on fire. Behind the burning cross were men dressed in costumes. Long white robes covered their bodies, and white hoods masked their faces. Holes had been cut out of the hoods for their eyes. All of them held shotguns across their body. One of the men stood a couple feet in front of the others and wore a darker hood than the rest. In the glow from the burning cross and the half moon above, this man’s hood appeared to be red.

With one arm the man with the red hood raised his shotgun and fired twice more in the air. The boy jumped back, then knelt to the floor and crawled closer to the window, peeking over the edge of the sill. As he did, Red Hood spoke.

“Roosevelt Haynes, get your ass out here!”

The voice, rough and deep, sounded familiar to the boy, and he felt the hair on his arms begin to rise.

“Roosevelt, I know you’re in there!” Red Hood continued, taking a step forward. “Don’t make us tear down that door!” The voice was louder. Closer. And the boy definitely recognized it.

“Daddy?” the boy called out, his heartbeat thudding in his chest. “Daddy, what is Mr. Walton—?”

A large hand clasped around the boy’s mouth, drowning out his words. The boy started to scream but then relaxed as he heard his father speaking softly in his ear. “Easy now, Bo, let me see.”

Then, slowly removing his hand from the boy’s mouth, Franklin Roosevelt Haynes peered out the window.


It was only a whisper, but the boy, who was kneeling just inches away from his father, heard it. “Daddy?” the boy whimpered.

Roosevelt ducked down and brought his index finger to his lips, shaking his head at the boy. Then he peered over the sill again. This time he said nothing, but his shoulders slumped, and a noise escaped his lungs that sounded like the moan of a wounded animal. Barefoot and shirtless, crouching below the window in the red pajama bottoms he wore every night at bedtime, Roosevelt covered his face with his hands and mumbled something that the boy couldn’t understand.

For the first time in the boy’s life, his father—a stocky, barrel-chested man who could handle cows and other livestock like they were rag dolls—looked small. Fear slithered up the boy’s chest and took hold of his heart like a boa constrictor. “Daddy?”

Finally, Roosevelt removed his hands from his face and turned his eyes toward the boy. With their heads almost touching, Roosevelt spoke into the boy’s ear. “Bo, I need you to promise me a few things.”

The boy started to cry and turned his head away from his father.

“Damnit, Bo, look at me.” Roosevelt grabbed the boy’s shoulders and shook them, and the boy did as he was told. “Bo, this is goin’ be hard on your momma. Promise me that you’ll take care of her.”

Roosevelt stole a glance out the window, and the boy heard Red Hood’s voice again.

“Roosevelt, you got twenty seconds! Ten we set fre to the house.”

The other men began to chant something in a low hum, but the boy couldn’t make out what they were saying. His father faced him again, still holding tight to his shoulders.

“Promise me, son.”

The boy’s teeth chattered. It was ninety-five degrees outside. Deep in the dog days of August. There was no air conditioning in the shack, but the boy was freezing. His tears had dried.

“I promise, Daddy.”

“Promise me that you’ll make something of yourself, son, you hear me? Make something of yourself.” His father shook him, and the boy nodded.

“All right, nigger!” The voice was even louder. Closer to the house. “Ten seconds!”

His father didn’t budge, his eyes focused on the boy. “Bo, you probably goin’ hear things about this. About why they done this. Don’t believe ’em. Not a word. You promise?”

“Ten! . . . nine! . . .” Red Hood began the countdown, but Roosevelt still did not move, waiting for Bo to answer.

“I promise, Daddy.”

“One day your momma . . . she’ll tell you everything, you understand?”

Bo nodded, and his father hugged him hard—so hard it hurt a little—and kissed the boy on the cheek.

“Six! . . . Five! . . .”

Roosevelt stood and took two steps toward the front door.

Fighting back fresh tears, the boy lunged for his father, grabbing him around the ankles and squeezing as tight as he could. “Don’t go, Daddy. Please don’t go.”

Roosevelt knelt and gently removed the boy’s hands, holding them in his own. “Bo . . .”

The boy looked up into his father’s eyes.

“I love you, son.”

“Three! . . . Two! . . .”

“I . . . I love you too, Daddy.” The boy choked the words out as snot began to run out of his nose and his eyes clouded over with tears. “Please . . . don’t . . .”

His father grabbed the doorknob and turned it. “All right now, I’m coming out!” Before he shut the door behind him, Roosevelt Haynes looked at the boy one last time.

“Don’t watch this, Bocephus. Whatever you do, don’t watch this.”

If only the boy had listened . . .

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!


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