"No one can be lonely who has a book for company." ~ Nelle Reagan

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Professor by Robert Bailey

The Professor
Author:  Robert Bailey
Published:  January 2014
Publisher:  Exhibit A Books
Pages:  411
Genre:  Legal thriller
ISBN 9781909223585
Source:  A complimentary copy was provided by JKS Communications in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  Receipt thereof bears no influence over my opinion nor this review.

Thomas Jackson McMurtrie is a living legend scorned. Forty years ago, he gave up a promising career as a trial lawyer to become a law professor at the University of Alabama at the request of his mentor, Alabama football Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. Now Tom is forced into retirement, betrayed by both a powerful colleague and his own failing health.

Meanwhile the young family of one of his oldest friends is killed in a tragic road collision. Believing his career is over, Tom refers the case to a brilliant, yet beleaguered, former student, who begins to uncover the truth behind the tragedy, buried in a tangled web of arson, bribery and greed.

But as the eve of trial approaches, the young attorney’s case begins to unravel. In over his head and at the end of his rope, he realizes there’s only one man who can help…

“The Professor” is the first in a series of tense legal thrillers featuring the enthralling and brilliant legal team of McMurtrie and Drake, combining the thrills and authenticity of a John Grisham novel for the audience that flocked to “Friday Night Lights.”

My Thoughts:

2014 is proving to be the year of promise!  Robert Bailey and his new legal thriller, The Professor, is on my growing list of note-worthy books of the new year.  The Professor is Bailey's debut novel.

When the author of Forrest Gump, Winston Groom, said The Professor was "gripping from the first page to last" he was bang on.  I began this book Saturday morning and finished early afternoon.  I just couldn't put it down and this is no light weight coming in at over 400 pages.  

When a young family is killed in a collision with a semi in a small town in Alabama, questions arise about hours logged in by drivers and the timetables of the companies they work for.  Professor Thomas McMurtrie is approached by the mother of the young mother killed in the crash to find answers about responsibility for the accident.  She doesn't believe her son-in-law is in the wrong and wants those who tore her family apart to be held responsible.

Professor McMurtrie, Tom, has too much on his plate and hands the case to a former dynamic pupil struggling to start his own practice nine months out of law school.  When arson, bribery, and murder further complicate the case, the young lawyer turns to Tom for assistance.  Together they search tirelessly for the clues and witnesses who are brave enough to come forward in the name of justice.

Grisham turned me on to legal thrillers more than twenty years ago and I have been an avid fan since.  Now along comes Robert Bailey, another lawyer/author sharing the thrills of courtroom drama.  I enjoyed the flow, the legal drama, the hidden clues, the tenacity of the small firm vs the giant...it all adds up to a good thrilling read.

Warning to sensitive readers:  sexual content, though not graphic, in the form of prostitution and abuse is dotted occasionally through the novel.  The story, in my opinion, didn't need it.  It felt gratuitous.  There's enough strength in Bailey's plot and skill without it.  I would be a dedicated fan if future novels withheld this content.  Otherwise, The Professor has an excellent plot told by a sharp legal mind.  

Author Links below:

Meet 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.

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.

For the past 14 years, Bailey has practiced law as a civil defense trial attorney in Huntsville. 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,” will be published Jan. 28, 2014 by Exhibit A Books.

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.

Q&A with author and attorney Robert Bailey

How did you come up with the story for “The Professor?”
The answer is twofold.  First, I’ve always been interested in stories of legends, especially Alabama football legends. Second, when I was in law school, I always wondered what it would be like if a professor had to try a case. Could he or she do it?  Would the classroom cross over to the courtroom? These questions piqued my interest, and Thomas Jackson McMurtrie was born.

What do you think readers will like about “The Professor?”
The answer, in my opinion, is the redemptive nature of the story. This is the story of a man in the twilight of his career that is done wrong, but he won’t quit. He comes back against all odds. A backstabbing former student. Cancer. Nothing can get Tom McMurtrie down. He embodies the principles of those men that played for Coach Bryant, some of whom stand with Tom in the courtroom in one of the climactic final scenes of the book.

What are the elements of a great legal thriller?
I’m not sure there is any recipe or formula.  However, I think any story, whether thriller or not, has to have an emotional hook.  Something that makes the reader climb on board for the journey. A lot of times that hook is identifying with a character and what he/she is going through or the situation he/she faces.  I think this is particularly so in thrillers.  Having a protagonist encounter a situation that stimulates the reader’s emotions and makes the reader want to follow the protagonist’s journey through it. 

Have you ever considered a career in teaching law?
No, I never have.  However, teachers have had a profound influence on me.  I was blessed to have many wonderful teachers in elementary school, high school, college and law school.  My mother and grandmother were also teachers, so I have a great regard for that profession.

How did growing up in the south influence your writing?
Obviously, you write what you know, and I have lived my entire life in the South. I have always been drawn to southern literature and stories with a southern flare to them.  

You’re obviously a huge fan of the legendary Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. What do you think made him such an iconic figure?
I think it starts with the winning.  Coach Bryant was an incredibly successful football coach for over thirty years.  There were many great college football coaches during his heyday in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, but Coach Bryant was undoubtedly the best and his record speaks for itself.  323 victories.  Six national championships.  But it’s more than just the winning. He was such a great character.  He was tall and had that gravelly voice.  He wore the Houndstooth hat and smoked Chesterfield cigarettes.  He carried himself like an Old West gunslinger.  In fact, there were many comparisons between Coach Bryant and John Wayne. There is also the regard that his former players show him.  So many of them count Coach Bryant as their most significant influence in life.  Finally, Coach Bryant’s story is so inspiring.  Here was a man born of the most humble of beginnings, one of nine children to a poor family in Moro Bottom, Arkansas, who grew to be one of the most recognizable figures in sports history.  A man who dined with Presidents and celebrities.  Who, when he died, was given his own stamp.  Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant personified the American dream.  

How in the world did you find time to write a novel while working as a full-time attorney and caring for three young children?
Simple: I got up at 4:00 in the morning before work and before the kids were awake, and wrote for a couple of hours every morning. The pages eventually began to pile up.

“The Professor” is billed as “the first McMurtrie and Drake investigation.” So can we get any sneak peek into what’s next?
Book two, which is entitled “Between Black and White,” will take Tom and Rick to Pulaski, Tennessee, where they will defend an old friend on charges of capital murder.

(Q and A courtesy of JKS Communications)

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