FAQ

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.

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42 thoughts on “FAQ

  1. I loved “The Professor” and actually read it in 4 days. I could not put it down as I am a big fan of court room drama books like this one and like John Grisham writes. I had planned on attending the University of Tennessee Law School in the Fall of 1967, but I was also offered an opportunity to spend two years in the East Tennessee Stae Univesity working with students in a disadvantaged area of Tennessee. I had never intended to go into teaching, but I feel in love with it and ended up teaching Government and Political Science classes in high school and part time in college for 40 years. Also, due to my decision to go to East Tennessee State and working in the Teacher Corps, I met a wonderful youg art student on campus and we have now been married for 43+ years. I had first intended to write to you to encourage you to continue the story of Tom, Rick, Dawn in a followup novel, but I see that you are already working on one. I also liked the references to Coach Bryant. I had the honor of teaching under a principal for seven years who had played football under Coach Bryant. However, he and his twin brother played for Bear Bryant at Texas A&M. Good luck with your next book. I know that I am looking forward to it.

    • Thanks, Gary! I’m so glad you enjoyed the book, and I enjoyed your comments about teaching at East Tennessee State and meeting your wife. Great stuff! My next book, Between Black and White, comes out in January 2015.

  2. Dear Mr. Bailey,
    I write this to commend you on your first novel, “The Professor”.
    It is amazing to me that this is your first work. I am an avid reader of all subject matter, but those of courtroom drama are my favorites. You, certainly, did not disappoint me. Your character building was vivid – I could see each and all. The story, itself, was unique and gripping. I enjoyed this work as much as any of the great legal writers – I have read them all.
    It was pure luck – I opened my Kindle and there was an add for “The Professor”. I believe I only paid $3.00 for the book. I feel I owe you more.
    I am so glad to hear that you are writing another.
    I commend you on such a great start in your writing career!
    In the section: About the author, I see you are an attorney. If you are half the attorney that you are a writer, I could sure use you up in Wisconsin. If you can’t make it – Please, send Tom!
    John C. Kozel

  3. Just finished reading “The Professor” on my iPad. Couldn’t put it down Great reading. Can hardly wait for the next one.

  4. My husband and I just finished reading The Professor and liked it very much. My husband was wondering if your mother taught at Lee High School? He taught there with a Beth Bailey and was wondering if she was your mother.

      • Yes. My that is my husband. He is an avid reader. I recently heard about your book during a program about Huntsville authors. I knew it was one that we both would like. I checked it out from HPL and read it first. I was blown away about all the things in it that I knew he would love – including the parts that took place in Hazel Green. When he read the credits at the back and saw your parents name, he really got excited. We plan to purchase a couple of copies to send to friends – one who graduated from U of A Law School and is now a lawyer in Fairhope.
        Good luck with your next book!!

      • Thanks, Sharon! I really appreciate your and Coach Dugan’s support. As for the next book, I actually just delivered Between Black and White, the sequel to the Professor, to my publisher and the editing process will begin soon. Should be published in early to mid 2016. Anyway, thanks again!

  5. Robert
    I just wanted to commend you on “The Professor”. I was attracted to it through the U of A Alumni magazine. Both my wife and I enjoyed it immensely and can’t wait for the next one. The story line was excellent in its own write but the icing on the cake for us was the “Alabama Connection”, both to Alabama football and the local haunts around T-Town. For what it’s worth, I live in upstate New York but as a life long Alabama fan have been down many times to watch games. In our travels we have been to many of the places in your book which adds to the realism.. My wife and I are presently contemplating retiring to Alabama and have looked in both the Huntsville and Cullman areas. We are a little apprehensive, being “Yankees” as to how we will be received down there but have been assured by realtors that we will be welcomed. Hopefully, by the time your next book comes out in 2016, we will read it as Alabama residents. God Bless and Roll Tide!

    • Thanks, Rick! So glad that you and your wife enjoyed the story! And that is awesome that y’all might be moving down this way. I actually just delivered Between Black and White, the sequel to the Professor, to my publisher and the editing process will begin soon. Should be published in early to mid 2016. Anyway, thanks again for the kind words!

  6. Just checking to see when your next book will be out. So enjoyed The Professor. Saw a new edition of The Professor out for Kindle but not a new one yet so I found your website. Just read that I have a little wait – sure it will be worth it.

    • Thanks, Pat! The sequel to The Professor, Between Black and White, will be published in March 2016, so about eight months out. I have finished the manuscript and it is in the copy editing phase. Can’t wait to see what everyone thinks! Thanks again for your note.

  7. After reading “The Professor” I immediately entered an advance order for “between Black & White”. I just finished it and was NOT disappointed. I eagerly look forward to the next book. As a trained (but not practicing) Paralegal, and who’s best friend is currently a 1L at age 52, I crave well written Legal Thrillers. I know that I have found a new favorite. Thanks Counselor, for sharing your talents with us.

  8. Just read both your books in two days. Fair to say I just could not put them down. The most enjoyable reads I have had in a long time. Congratualtions. I can’t wait for Book 3…don’t keep us waiting too long

  9. I have loved both “The Professor” and “Between Black and White.” As a resident of Giles County, I find your rendition of our town and our people to ring very true — it’s a complicated place with a complicated history. So glad you recognized the boycott — a redemptive event for our town. I hope you are working on your next book!

    • Thanks,Cheri! So glad you enjoyed the stories. I really enjoyed the research I did on Pulaski in the writing of “Between Black and White.” It is a special place! Thanks again for your nice note.

  10. I just finished The Professor, and absolutely could not put it down. I just happened upon it on Amazon Sunday night, and after reading the first few pages…..I was completely sucked in. Initially because I live in Alabama, and love to read books set in the South. But, even better, I live in Hazel Green, and was born in Huntsville so it really hit home. But, then the characters swept me in completely, and the story line was incredible. I’m starting the next book tomorrow, and I read fast, so I hope you have more coming. ☺

      • Between Black and White was just as good, if not a little better, than The Professor. I loved both of them and look forward to the next one. (I especially loved the reference to Rachal’s Restaurant….I grew up going there 🙂

  11. I LOVED both your books – you’re right – the hook is the emotional piece(s) in the books! I am hooked! 🙂
    I live in Huntsville but didn’t realize you did until I came to your website. I am eagerly awaiting your new book(s)!!

  12. As a graduate of Bama, I loved the references to places in T-town in your first novel. Saw a write up about it in the Alumni Magazine and thought it sounded good. Couldn’t put it down, it was such a great book. Passed it along to various family members and friends when I was done reading it and they too loved the book. Was super excited to see you wrote a sequel your novel and wasn’t sure how it was going to tie into the first novel. Once I started to read it, I couldn’t put it down and again it has made the rounds in my family and friends circle. Hope you write more, really enjoy your writing. These would make a great movie!

  13. I am in the middle of Between Black & White…Loved the Professor…You are keeping me up late at night..Is the 3rd book on deck? cannot wait..You have quickly become one of my favorite authors and I read about 20-25 different ones….Keep writing!!

  14. Just finished reading bothe the Professor and Between Black and White and absolutely loved all the characters. Cant wait for the third installment!

  15. I stumbled upon The Professor when I was planning for a vacation in St. Thomas last December. I really enjoy a good book while relaxing by the ocean. The Professor was better than anticipated. I often laid out much longer than planned because I couldn’t put it down. I listened (Audible) to Black and White a few weeks ago. It was also excellent. You’re a great writer! I have to be in the car for a 3 hour trip-each way this afternoon so I immediately thought to look for another of your books. That’s what lead me to your website. I see your replies that you are working on your third book . I look forward to reading (or hearing) it. Thank you.

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