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For Latest Political Thriller, NKY Author Embedded Self in DC's Gay Scene

This article originally appeared in the May/June issue of UNiTE Cincinnati magazine.

Rick Robinson may not fit the profile of an author with his finger on the pulse of gay culture, and he knows this. So when the former legislative director to former Northern Kentucky Congressman and Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning, a Republican, chose Washington, D.C.’s DuPont Circle as a location in his latest political thriller, he embedded himself in the gay scene.

For research purposes, of course.

“First off, I am very supportive of gay rights and I point out to my fellow Republicans that one of the earliest persons to speak out on gay rights was Barry Goldwater and that Goldwater, when Clinton was President, he came out and supported the gays-in-the-military policy of Clinton,” Robinson told UNiTE Cincinnati. “I always talk about it as a matter of liberty.”

“I have written about gay rights which has led to some interesting hate mail.”

Robinson, an attorney from Ludlow who lives with his family in Ft. Mitchell, turned to writing when he left Capitol Hill. His D.C. background serves him well when recurring lead character Richard Thompson, a Congressman, pops up in his political thrillers, the latest of which, The Advance Man, led Robinson to experience Dupont Circle up close and personal.

“Years ago when I started writing, a friend of mine, a lobbyist for the Kennedy Center, he and his partner and I were walking past the Ways and Means Committee room and he looked over and said of the line to go in, he said, ‘See that line-up of people going in there,’ he said, ‘There’s more queens in there than there were in the Tower of London,” laughed Robinson. “I started laughing my ass off and said, I’m gonna use that line in one of my books.”

And now comes his chance.

The Advance Man, when Congressman Thompson finally ascends to the Senate to fill a vacancy, centers around the assassination of the Vice President and the chief suspect is the VP’s “advance man”, the guy who travels ahead of a leader to nail down all the details of travel, security, and the like. “They are trying to blame it on his advance man by trying to say he had a crush on the Vice President,” Robinson explained, “and the gay community knows that that isn’t the case and they are trying to hide him while folks try to find him.”

Yes, after returning to his apartment to discover the bad guys waiting for him, the advance man runs into a bar that happens to be of the gay persuasion, and so begins his hiding out in Dupont Circle.

“D.C. has always had a very vibrant gay community and a very active one inside of government on both sides of the aisle, and it’s one of those things, as I was looking to find out who would be the unexpected hero in this, why wouldn’t it be the gay community who are trying to hide somebody in plain sight accused of killed the Vice President?,” Robinson asked.

Robinson is currently working in D.C. as a lobbyist which made his own trip to Dupont Circle convenient. “I’m very into detail. When I write about a restaurant in Covington, if I say it’s fifteen steps, it’s because I took fifteen steps,” Robinson said. “I started tracking where the character would run out and where he would be immediately grabbed by somebody and pulled into a doorway which led me on a Saturday afternoon to a gay bar in Dupont Circle.”

At the bar, Robinson started taking pictures and jotted down notes, and when a fellow patron asked what he was up to, the author explained, and from there multiple patrons gathered ‘round, arguing over where the character would be taken. “Oh, you wouldn’t go there, it’s a leather bar, they’d know right away he was a stranger,” Robinson said he was told. “It was a riot.”

“You don’t have people writing about the community in such a way as it actually exists in D.C. People will write about it in sometimes caricature-ish ways in their books,” Robinson said. “We’re talking about Democrats and Republicans. There are Rs and Ds both. Part of the lifestyle of D.C. has been that forever, and nobody writes that in mainstream mystery literature.”

“I like to give people the real inside feel of D.C., of what it’s like on the campaign trail, in politics, along with the thriller aspect of the story I like to give the feel of what it’s like working on the Hill.”

And whether the reader is gay or straight, Robinson’s books are crowd-pleaders.

“If you love politics, you’ll love my books. If you hate politics, I kill politicians, so I have something for everyone.”

The Advance Man by Rick Robinson is available now at local bookstores and online at www.authorrickrobinson.squarespace.com. To read his columns & commentary at RCN, click here.

Written by Michael Monks, publisher of UNiTE Cincinnati and editor & publisher of The River City News