When retired University of Arkansas law professor Robert Laurence is asked if his first novel, Departure Lounge, is autobiographical, he quotes Henry James. “All of my characters are fictitious just like every person I meet.”
Having taught law since the 1970’s, both commercial and American Indian law, Laurence believes that the transition from professor to author is a rather logical progression. “Law,” says Laurence, “is a profession of words. We read. We write. We speak.”
Still it took the wisdom of an MFA student at the University of Arkansas to inspire Laurence. Her comment on one of his characters, “I’d like to have a beer with her,” served not only as encouragement but instruction. Her comment helped him understand what he needed to do in order to develop this character driven story.
Departure Lounge rings with an authenticity that makes the reader ask if this book is really fiction. Which it is. Set in the long ago nineteen-eighties, before cell phones, before e-mail, this story takes the reader from New Mexico to Florida to Greece, Thailand, Scandinavia, the Persian Gulf, South Asia, our own Ozarks.
Laurence writes beautifully of all the world because as a self-described obsessive traveler he has been there. It is not the travel descriptions, however, that move the reader along in this page-turner. Laurence deftly makes the reader care about the characters’ lives.
Since stopping his travels in 2009, Laurence has devoted his time to writing, tending 35 acres, and rescuing retired thoroughbred horses. Law finds its way into his life via his interest in the anti-slaughter movement of American horses.
On Tuesday, June 24 at 7 p. m. at Nightbird Books on Dickson Street in Fayetteville, Laurence will read from Departure Lounge and his new novel, The Book-by-the-Cover Judger. His reading will be preceded and followed by the Ozark Poets and Writers’ open mic. The public is invited to read up to four minutes of writing.
Nightbird Books on Dickson Street in Fayetteville offers a pleasant array of beverages to quench summer’s warmth.