Congressman Richard Thompson’s reelection campaign is sent into a tailspin when his opponent files a lawsuit asking the Court to order that Thompson live up to his campaign promises and vote against a pending federal spending bill. Thompson’s efforts to dodge the issue thrust him into the middle of a nefarious business deal where arms dealers are using the Keeneland horse sales to illegally run F-14 Tomcat parts to the government of Iran. In a fast-paced story that travels from the storied horse farms of Kentucky to the green fields of Ireland, Thompson is forced to realize that more is at stake than simply a campaign. In the end, an unlikely hero steps forward to make his future path clear.
Let’s start with you. Just who is Rick Robinson?
Father, husband, lawyer, political hack and mandolin player — all of which play a role in my literary voice. I’ve spent 30 years in law and politics, including some time on Capitol Hill as the Legislative Director for Congressman Jim Bunning. I ran for Congress myself in 1998, which will be remembered as the year that the voters though I’d be a better writer than Congressman. When I write, I try to give my readers that “insider” feel to politics. I want them to know what it feels like to spend a week on the campaign bus.
How did you become a thriller author?
I am the guy who always felt he had one book in him, but spent 30 years trying to write the wrong one. When I was in high school, I spent a day with the great Jesse Stuart, who wrote these fantastic novels about coming of age in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. I wanted to write like Jesse, except tell stories about coming of age in a Kentucky river town. For nearly thirty years, I tried to write the great coming of age novel. One day, a friend of mine pointed out that I had never come of age. He did note that I had all these great stories from the campaign trail. A light bulb went off in my head and a month later I had 150 pages.
Did you start with an outline for WRIT OF MANDAMUS, or just jump in and write?
I just jump in and write. I generally know where I am going, but my characters tend to divert me along the way. I’ve tried to outline in the past. However, every time I try to make one of my characters zig, they immediately zag. My sample readers can always tell when I’m trying to push a character in a direction they don’t want to go. Outlines just usually cause me more re-writes.
Did you hit any unusual glitches, or have any amazing bits of serendipity, along the way?
The story of Writ of Mandamus flows from my love of horse racing and a trip that my wife and I took to Ireland for our 25th wedding anniversary. The research was more fun than a writer should be allowed. Keeneland Race Track in Lexington, Kentucky gave me full run of the place and allowed me to take my dust jacket photo in the barn area. And, who could go to Ireland and not be inspired. Throw in Middle Eastern intrigue and you have the story. No real glitches other than not wanting to leave Keeneland or Ireland.
Tell us a bit about your protagonist.
Richard Thompson is a Member of the United States Congress who is constantly struggling to stay to his political ideals. Thompson is a character who morphs everything I learned as a candidate with everything I learned running campaigns for other candidates. He tries not to get caught up in being a Congressman, but like most in D.C. struggles to stay true.
At what point in the writing of a book do you start planning out the next?
I’m always planning out the next book. Currently, I’m co-writing a sports thriller with a friend of mine, have the basis for the next Thompson novel in my head and am three chapters into a thriller outside the Thompson series. And, I’m nearly finished with that coming-of-age novel I always wanted to write.
Anything special you’d like us to know about WRIT OF MANDAMUS?
If you like politics, you’ll love my books. If you hate politics, I kill politicians. So, there is something in my writing for everyone. A funny thing happened while I was writing Writ. I came up with a scheme for my antagonists to illegally export military parts from the U.S. to Iran. A couple of weeks after I had written the chapters on the scheme, I read where someone was arrested in New Orleans for trying to do it.
Were any real events the basis of the novel?
My books are filled with a lot of real-politics and color. I try to make the color current and at actual places. Several of my characters are based upon real people and folks are constantly trying to guess who is who. But, I change the names to protect the guilty. The scenes from Ireland and the Keeneland horse sales are all real-time impressions.
The book opens with a courtroom scene where the lawyer uses magic tricks before the jury. When I first started practicing law there was an old guy in town who used to get yelled at all the time by judges for doing magic tricks in the court room. I always remembered listening to him doing opening and closings and worked it into the lawyer in Writ.
When you’re not busy writing bestsellers, what are you doing?
I love music and play with a couple of folks on a regular basis. For St. Patrick’s Day this year we performed Irish folk tunes at a local pub. I’m not the greatest mandolin player, but playing in front of people drinking heavily on St. Patrick’s Day makes it easier.
What can we expect next?
I hope to have my coming of age novel, ALLIGATOR ALLEY, on the shelves by Christmas.
Favorite Jacket Blurb:
“A paragon among Capitol Hill staffers and maybe the only person on Earth who both understands the civics book chapter on ‘How a Bill Becomes a Law’ and knows how to get good seats at the Kentucky Derby.” ~Bestselling author, P.J. O’Rourke on Rick Robinson
Rick Robinson has spent over 30 years in law and politics, including a stint on Capitol Hill and a run for US Congress. He has been active on all levels of politics, from advising candidates on the national level to walking door to door in city races.
To learn more about Rick, please visit his website.