Robert Bailey

Book Review: Between Black and White

Upon reading Robert Bailey’s first novel, The Professor, I felt it was quite the thrilling tale, and it is a novel I highly recommend. I took some time before picking up the sequel, Between Black and White. Little did I know that I would finish it in four days, something I’ve never accomplished with a book of its size. 

Between Black and White picks up immediately following the events of The Professor, from the perspective of a side character from the first book. Bocephus Haynes is convicted of a murder he is convinced he didn’t commit, despite all evidence mounting against him as the culprit. With nowhere to turn, he summons The Professor to try his case.  The Professor isn’t convinced he can try a murder case, a field he’s completely inexperienced in, but he bites the bullet and takes it on. With the help of his new legal partner, Rick Drake, The Professor begins to uncover clues about the case which could provide an alternative to the evidence and the culprit.  However, much like the last novel, there are demons on the other side who don’t want The Professor to succeed, and are willing to take violent measures to do so.  It’s a race against the clock for The Professor and his team to keep their friends close and their enemies closer, as the life of their client is at stake.

The Professor was able to take a simple civil case and turn it into an adrenaline trip.  Right from the beginning, the novel pulled the reader into what would otherwise be a boring case. The story was backed by genuine characters and a real understanding of the law on Bailey’s part. The antagonists were absolutely ruthless, and the power of heroic characters was what ultimately allowed the good guys to succeed.  Between Black and White shaves away any flaws from The Professor, and amplifies the good stuff. Between is absolutely non-stop in its plot, character development, action, and suspense. It expands the premise from the first novel and introduces new characters, while capitalizing on what made the first novel great. 

What specifically makes Between better than The Professor is that it knows how to handle its story and characters with elements of law.  The Professor spent a lot of time investigating the case and on the trial itself.  In Black and White, the investigation takes up less time and is usually blended with some action to keep the pace going.  The trial, while even more high-stakes than its predecessor, doesn’t take up much time either.  The characters from the first novel are also greatly expanded upon. In addition, Black and White also has more villains, many of whom don’t reveal themselves until late. The Professor’s villain was that of a puppet master, whereas Black and White has more of a group of villains conspiring against the heroes, an element which is advantageous for this type of story… 

One thing I mentioned in my Professor review was that the novel made great use of dramatic irony to keep the reader interested. This element is still used here, but to a greater effect.  In The Professor, the reader knew what the villain’s plan was as the story delivered the clueless reaction from the heroes. Black and White is more sparing with its information. It teases, but it still leaves the reader asking questions and adds to the element of surprise. 

I can do nothing more than recommend that you read Between Black and White, but read The Professor first.  It is an absolute roller-coaster ride from start to finish and doesn’t let up. The characters are lovable, the law elements are once again handled very well, and it contains one of the most shocking character revelations I’ve ever read.  Do yourself a favor, support an author, and read this book.  You won’t regret it. 

You can purchase Between Black and White here.

-David Brashier; Huntsville, Alabama; March 2016

Book Review: The Professor

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I’ve always wanted to write a legal thriller ever since discovering the likes of John Grisham.  Legal thrillers can be captivating, authors who write them can roll stories out in their sleep, and they make big bucks.  To some extent, they can be considered "snack books" (as my English teacher says), or books with no literary merit and basic covers, because they are so common.  I don’t read legal thrillers that often, but I can only wonder how legal authors keep finding inspiration when the genre has such a presence in the book world. The effort it takes to write one is even more staggering to me, as the qualification is that you, obviously, have to be or previously been a lawyer.  Otherwise, prepare to take the BAR exam or spend money on extensive research.  But even then, it’s amazing how lawyers who aren’t involved in criminal law can write good crime thrillers. 

Robert Bailey is a civil defense lawyer in the Huntsville area, who is two books into a legal thriller series.  His first novel, The Professor, involves a pre-law teacher at the University of Alabama getting laid off from his job through an unusual series of events.  Down on his luck and jobless, The Professor is approached by an old friend who asks him to be the plaintiff in a suit against a trucking company, as one of the company’s drivers collided with the suer’s family and killed everyone involved.  The Professor turns down the case and hands it over to a former student of his, insisting that he is too old to get back into trial law.  When his student is duped by a system rigged against him, The Professor suddenly finds himself at the helm of the biggest case of his career.

The Professor is a no-nonsense page turner.  It keeps the reader invested by throwing in as much suspense and mystery as possible.  The story involves a perfect example of how companies try to get away with murder, literally. Dramatic irony is cleverly used throughout the story as our main characters are fooled out of victory.  There are countless moments where the reader simply wants to reach inside the pages and tear the villains to shreds.  All the while, Bailey ties every scenario together.  The firing of The Professor, the lawsuit, and all those involved are addressed by the end of the story. There’s even some emotional struggle tied in from the main characters.  Though Bailey covers the main details, there are still a few areas unaddressed.  The ice is almost spread too thin in terms of the number of characters involved in The Professor’s trial, and a few instances left my head scratching.  However this is Bailey’s first novel, and these characters could show up again in books following, so I won’t be too quick to judge

Bailey also panders to his Alabama audience by visiting many locations in the state, and even southern Tennessee.  I was reluctant to invest myself in the story, as it’s clear from the get-go that it’s set against the backdrop of UA, something I’ve grown up seeing my entire life; it’s cultural in this state. To me, it’s dull and boring, but Bailey’s story is so investing the location doesn’t matter in the long run.  Even then, though I’m overly familiar with these locations, it doesn’t change the fact that they are still close to home.

I can’t imagine how one balances a law career and the creative capacity to write a novel based on that career, but Bailey doesn’t leave any boxes unchecked.  He knows law inside and out, and The Professor shows that he is invested in what he does and can use it to tell a great story.  Though some aspects of the novel seem basic or nuanced, and there a few grammatical issues, it doesn’t keep the story from feeling any less compelling.  Even if crime novels aren’t your thing, give this novel a read for a guaranteed good time.  I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.

You can purchase The Professor here

-David Brashier; Huntsville, Alabama; November 2016