Robert Thornhill writes some of the funniest, most creative mystery books I’ve read. He has 26 Lady Justice books about a group of senior citizens who form the City Retiree Area Patrol (C.R.A.P.), which uses the life experiences of retirees to help the police solve cases. He calls the series a comedy/mystery, which describes it well. The series has won numerous awards and acclaim. In addition, he has seven children’s fantasy books, the Rainbow Road, where children follow the rainbow and find special gold leprechaun coins that give them special powers. In addition, he has written a cookbook of recipes from Mel’s Diner in the Lady Justice books. And he’s done all this in just seven years!
I think the first question we all want to know is how you managed to write so many successful books in such a short time?
I didn’t start writing until I retired at the age of 66. I had never written before. I had been a real estate broker for 35 years. When I started writing, somehow the words just kept coming. Being retired, once I started that’s about all I did. My poor wife called it diarrhea of the brain. I loved doing it, so I just kept going.
You didn’t start writing books until you were 66. What made you suddenly start writing books, especially so many of them?
As I mentioned, I was retired and bored, so I did a lot of reading. At the time, Janet Evanovich had 13 novels in her Stephanie Plum series. I read them all and loved them. When I finished the last one, I thought I might be able to do that, so I went to my computer, pretended I was Janet Evanovich, and wrote 3 chapters using her Stephanie Plum characters. I gave them to my wife who had also read the Plum series. She loved what I had written and encouraged me to start my own series. That’s how Lady Justice began. You may read those first three chapters here.
Given that you started a new career at 66, the same age that Walt started working with the police, how does the Lady Justice series reflect your own life?
Walt is my alter ego. Other than the crime stuff, everything Walt experiences, I have experienced. Some people have questioned the notion of a 65 year-old guy becoming a cop, but as I write, I never have Walt do anything I couldn’t or wouldn’t do myself
<em?I saw that on Amazon, it lists a Peg Thornhill as the designer of the cover of your book. Is that a relation? How did she get involved in doing this?
Yes, Peg is my wife.
We worked together in real estate for over 20 years.
She was the marketing end of our partnership, doing all the ads for newspapers, homes magazines, etc.
Being skilled at Photoshop and Publisher, she started doing all my book covers after we retired from real estate and I started writing.
Your grandson Blake inspired the creation of your Rainbow Road series. How did he do this, and what does he think of your series?
Blake knew I was writing. One day he came home from school with a second grade assignment to write a book. He wrote about a boy and girl who meet a leprechaun. Peg and I helped him format his little book and helped him make a cover. When he was through, he said, “Grandpa, you should write a kid’s book!” So I did. Seven of them. They’ve been very popular. I’ve even dressed as Lucky Leprechaun and made presentations to grade school kids.
In Your second Lady Justice book, Lady Justice and the Lost Tapes, Walt goes undercover as an Elvis impersonator, which draws upon your own experiences. How did you get into playing Elvis?
When I was the broker of a Re/Max office, one of my agents was getting married. She was an Elvis fan. The other girls in the office persuaded me to dress up like Elvis and give her a serenade. It was so much fun I just kept doing it. I had my own costume made. When we lived in Maui, I did my Elvis gig several times at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel, and actually won the Maui Elvis Look-Alike Contest! You can watch me here:
You have your own cookbook. What are some of your favorite foods to cook?
I’m not a real cook. I just dabble. I did the cookbook just for fun and use it as a give-away when someone buys several books. Like Walt, my signature dish is tuna casserole. You can see me make it here.
Your writing style is very unique, almost like you are sitting back and telling a fun, somewhat winding story instead of being focused and driven. Did this just arise naturally, or did you develop this style intentionally?
It just arose naturally. I visualize Walt’s adventures in my mind, then just write what I see.
What did you like to read when growing up, and what do you like to read now?
As a little kid I read the Bobbsey Twin series and LOTS of comic books. Now I love mystery novels such as Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series.
Click here to read my review of Lady Justice Takes a C.R.A.P.
Click here to read my review of Lady Justice and the Lost Tapes
Click here to read my review of Lady Justice Gets Lei’d