By Feoshia H. Davis
Lawyer by day. Political thriller novelist by night.
That’s just the kind of tale Northern Kentuckian Rick Robinson might chronicle, but in this case it’s the story of the author himself. Robinson, whose career spans the nitty gritty of Capitol Hill and Cincinnati’s legal community, has turned a nagging passion to write into a second career.
The Fort Mitchell attorney, former Republican congressional aide and KyForward columnist, has just published his latest thriller Writ of Mandamus. It’s the fourth in a series and follows Congressman Richard Thompson through nearly 300 pages of intrigue and mystery from Kentucky to Washington to Ireland, with some Middle Eastern conflict thrown in.
Writ of Mandamus is on track to be the series’ best-selling book to date; currently the series is selling over 100 Kindle ebooks a day. It’s racked up several awards, including Grand Prize at the London Book Festival and Best Suspense/Thriller by the Next Gen Indie Book awards.
Just like the books he authors, for Robinson it’s been a fast-paced journey from his first book The Maximum Contribution, published in 2007. Since then, he says he’s grown as a writer, while picking up an impressive array of awards. All of his books appear regularly on Amazon’s Top 100 list.
Not bad for a man who believed he’d have to self-publish that first book – which he thought would be his only book – and hand them out to friends.
“I didn’t expect to find a publisher. I thought I’d take it and give it to a client who is a binder, get 150 copies made, and make friends suffer through it as a Christmas present,” he remembers in a recent interview with KyForward.com at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Crestview Hills.
Instead, pushed by his wife Linda, who said the book wasn’t “half-bad,” Robinson sought a publisher instead. The book was picked up by Headline Books, a small Terra Alta, W.V.-based publisher that has published his subsequent books. The series was the publisher’s idea, one that turned worked well for Robinson.
“The series is what publishers want. This is the one thing I thought I’d do once and get it off my bucket list. The fact that it’s become the night job is a surprise,” he says.
Meeting with Jesse Stuart sparked passion for writing
Robinson caught the writing bug early. As a teenager he spent the day with the revered Kentucky fiction writer Jesse Stuart, who borrowed heavily from Appalachian culture for his short stories, poems and novels.
“I was at (what is now) the Drawbridge Inn (in Fort Mitchell), and I got to spend the day with the old man. I was his gofer for the day. And I was fascinated by the guy,” Robinson said.
It was Jesse Stuart who provided him writing inspiration, though Robinson’s first book wasn’t published until nearly 30 years later.
“He gave me a book of his short stories, and I determined at this time of my life I wanted to be a writer. Jesse had written stories about coming of age in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. I wanted to write stories about coming of age in a small river town of Northern Kentucky. There was one problem. I was 17 years old, and 17-year-olds don’t have too much to say about coming of age,” Robinson joked.
So, life went on. Robinson earned his law degree from Northern Kentucky University’s Salmon P. Chase College of Law in 1983. He also went on to a career in politics, as legislative director to former-Congressman Jim Bunning. Robinson was also a candidate for Congress himself in 1998. When he left Washington, he joined the Cincinnati law firm of Graydon Head in 1993, where he continues to work today.
“The kids came along, and I went with where my gut was, and that was going with a law degree and coming back here to practice law with Graydon Head,” Robinson said.
Throughout finishing law school, starting a family and managing his career, Robinson still had that coming of age novel in the back of his head. Then one day, a client told Robinson he should tap into his political and legal experience instead. That’s when Congressman Thompson was born.
“Well, the lightbulb went on. Thirty days later, I was 150 pages into The Maximum Contribution, which was my first book,” Robinson said.
Writing as a second career
Since then, readers have followed the senator through four books. Each have earned awards and continue to sell well on Amazon.com. He said he’s evolved as a writer, picking up a thing or two from the writing seminars he’s been invited to speak at over the past few years.
“As I sat down and really started paying very close attention to the craft of writing — how to pace a story, how to make dialogue better — that really paid off. That led into Manifest Destiny, which became the 2010 independent book of the year,” he says.
Robinson says it takes eight months to a year to finish a book, and he’s about 20,000 words into Sen. Thompson’s next adventure, The Advance Man.
Why does he think the books have caught on with readers?
“Everybody loves politics. Even the people who hate politics, love politics. They love to hate it. As I tell people, If you like politics you’ll love my books, if you hate politics, I kill politicians,” he said with a laugh.
He’s working on two other books, as well. One is a sports book.
“The Cubs are in the world series, so it’s fiction,” he said. “And things happen from there.”
As for the other book’s subject? Robinson has finally come of age.
“Alligator Alley is finished. It’s a complete and total deviation from my other work. It’s about coming of age at age 50, which is probably the best description of my life. It will probably be out in the spring,” he said.
Books by Rick Robinson
Writ of Mandamus (May 2, 2012)
Strange Bedfellow (a collection of political columns) (Dec. 14, 2011)
Manifest Destiny (April 1, 2010)
Sniper Bid (Nov. 4, 2008)
The Maximum Contribution (Sept. 18, 2007)
Feoshia Henderson Davis is a freelance writer based in the Northern Kentucky area. She is a former reporter for The Kentucky Post and The Cincinnati Post. She can be reached at email@example.com.
(Photos provided by Rick Robinson)