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.

73 replies on “FAQ”

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.

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

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

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!

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!

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.

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.

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

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.

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. ☺

Thanks, Gena! I’m so glad you enjoyed the story. I hope you enjoy “Between Black and White” too. I am currently working on a third book, which will continue the series. Thanks, again!

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 🙂

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)!!

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!

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!!

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

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.

Mr. Bailey
Just finished your third book.
I’ve always been a Bear fan even though I’m a Auburn graduate and love my school. I read a lot and love it. Your books have been a wonderful surprise. I enjoyed all of them and can’t wait for the next. You have exceptional talent. Don’t change a thing. Hope you wife is still doing well and condolences on the loss of your father. Mine died from lung cancer at 57, he loved Bear and what he stood for.

A year or so ago I found The Professor and Black and White on Amazon read both in a couple of days and boy was I blown away with the story lines. Then a couple of weeks ago I found the The Last Trail and I was in hog heaven I cannot say enough about your writing. I am ready for the next one keep up the good work and God Bless Dixie.

Oh my —- it has been a while since I read books I could not put down. I have read The Professor, Between Black and White, and The Last Trial and they are all wonderful!!! Am patiently waiting for the next and the next and the next………
Great writing!!!

I am a lover of an intellectual detective, such as: Rex Stout, erle stanley gardner, ellery queen ,gerd Nyquist, Jo Nesbø and so on. Robert Bailey’s books with their elegant style, rich vocabulary and corresponding pathos are among the best instances of the genre

Mr. Bailey,
I have read hundreds of books, and have not enjoyed one more than The Professor, which I finished in two days. I am a native Alabamian, have a son who graduated from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and am a Stage 4 cancer survivor. You have a rare gift with words and I applaud your success!

I read The Professor, and it was an awesome book. I’m a huge fan of legal thrillers, and Mr. Bailey did not disappoint. If you like The Professor, just wait until you read Between Black and White. You won’t be able to put it down. If you haven’t read these books, do yourself a favor. You can thank me later. Roll Tide Roll!

I am an avid reader and have never ever enjoyed a series like McMurtrie & Drake!! I am on the last book of the series and am trying hard not to read it too quickly since it is the last book! Thank you so much for writing such awesome books! It is 2:21am and I am about to start the last book! God bless and keep writing such riveting stories!

Well, it’s over! I finished the last book! I tried very hard to read slowly but I could not. This was although sad, an excellent ending. I hope to read more books with these characters so that they continue the storyline! Excellent series!! I most definitely will check out Legacy of Lies!! Thank you again Mr. Bailey!! ….Rose

SHAZAM!! I devoured them whole, only allowing myself about two days to read each one! It was as if my webbed hands could not release the books! After gobbling up the first three, I have slowed my insatiable appetite of THE FINAL RECKONING due to the savage episodes in Part I. When faced to watch a movie scene with blood & guts, I close my eyes. I am having a bit of trouble reading this one with “my eyes closed!” I am not sure I want to “see” what comes next! However, I won’t be able to stave off the next page for long; my curiosity will haunt me until I know for sure if my conjecture matches yours!

I truly enjoyed your ZOOM appearance at the Giles County Public Library; I am looking forward to a “live” one eventually. It was especially touching to hear you say that you dedicated your book to Danny Ray Cobb. We taught together and he often joined our monthly “Retired Teacher Trips.” We miss him.

I do sincerely love to read “historical fiction.” For twenty years I took my eighth-grade students to Hannibal, MO each fall break after reading THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER; I have traveled to Telluride, CO twice after reading BRIDEY’S MOUNTAIN, just to name a very few of the literary settings. Currently, I will not find it necessary to travel but mere minutes from my house to the backdrop of Pulaski, TN. I still recall the day in 1983 when I had a run-in with the Grand Wizard of the KKK on the Courthouse Square!!

I have ordered my copy of LEGACY OF LIES, and I look forward to digesting it soon! I am definitely looking forward to your next personal visit to Pulaski! Until then, just so you know…

Your #2 Biggest Pulaski Fan after Danny Ray Cobb,
Connie Boring

Thank you, Connie! So happy you have enjoyed the stories and the Zoom event with the Giles County Public Library. That was a fun event! I just signed a copy of Legacy of Lies for you, and it is probably heading your way soon. Thanks again!

I just finished THE FINAL RECKONING …and a box of tissue!!! From chapter to chapter and page to page, I teetered from, “WOW! This is great!” to, “NO! How could you?” I am an emotional wreck! I am confident you ripped every emotion I have from my soul! Loved it! Hated it! Loved it! Can’t wait to read the next one! Thank you…I think!

Mr. Bailey: I am a real fan of legal thrillers and really love your books. You are right up there with the likes of John Grisham. I just have one correction in “The Professor”. I read it on my Kindle so I do not know the page number but it was at 17%. You talked about Dawn’s white Mustang hatchback. You stated, “He press the button and opened the passenger-side back door.“ I am a real Mustang gal. In fact, they call me “Mustang Jackie“. Anyone who knows Mustangs knows that there is no back passenger door on a Mustang. All Mustangs are two doors. (That is excluding the new electric Mustang Mach E which us diehard Mustang enthusiast do not consider a Mustang at all.) Some people consider the hatchback itself as a third door, but it would definitely not be a passenger side door.

Thank you so much for your message! I’m so glad you have enjoyed the stories. Thanks also for pointing out that snafu with the Mustang. Can’t believe we missed that! I love the look of a Mustang but have never actually driven or ridden in them much. Anyway, sorry for that mistake and hope you will keep reading my novels. The next thriller, The Wrong Side, comes out in August.

I have read all the Robert Bailey books and love them! They have great story lines and believable characters. I am always drawn in and can’t put them down. I was originally interested because I attended the University of Alabama in the late 70s and knew Coach Bryant. I could relate to so much of what was written about the football teams and players. Mr. Bailey writes with great authority and knowledge of the time and feeling for the beloved coach and his players. These are great books and not to be missed.

Thank you!! So glad you enjoyed the story. I hope to write more Bocephus books too. My next novel, RICH BLOOD, will introduce a new slate of characters but will be in the same fictional universe with some nods to prior characters. Thank you for your message!

So I just finished all 6 books and HAVE to know when the next one is coming out. My mom, church group, and work group are all reading the series and are obsessed… and have to know! 😆

Thank you, Katie! Next book, RICH BLOOD, is tentatively slated for publication in August 2022, but may be moved up. I will update when I know more. Also, if you want a change of pace from the thrillers, please give my inspirational novel, THE GOLFER’S CAROL, a shot. It came out last November. Thank you again for your message!

I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again…move over John Grisham….Robert Bailey came to write and has conquered the legal thriller. August 2022 can’t come fast enough.

I just finished reading Rich Blood and can’t wait for the next one in that series. I believe you’ve cemented yourself as one of the best authors in the Legal Thriller genre. I’ve read everything you’ve written except for The Golfer’s Carol but it’ll be my next read. You’re a gifted storyteller and I look forward to your new releases as much as I have any from Grisham, Connelly or King. I have always said Stephen King develops characters so well that you wouldn’t be surprised to meet them one day. The highest praise I can give is to say I feel the same way about McMurtrie, Drake, Haynes, and Rich. These are characters to be admired for their perseverance in the face of tragedy. Their unwavering commitment to those they love keeps them going regardless of their own circumstances. Thank You for sharing these characters and their stories with us.

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