The Early Years
Bob Harris was born in Dundee, Scotland, a city at
that time famous for jute, jam and journalism. Nowadays it is famous as
the home of Captain Scott's ship the Discovery and for its meat pies.
He grew up making comics and games and writing stories, to the
detriment of his social skills. In his teens he was a voracious reader
of science fiction and of the new genre called 'heroic fantasy'. In
those days fantasy consisted of 'The Lord of the Rings' and old books
by the likes of William Morris and Lord Dunsany, all of which came with
introductions by Lin Carter.
He attended St. Andrews University because a) it
had a fine reputation for classics and b) it was close enough to Dundee
for him to take his laundry home at weekends. While studying Latin and
Greek, he broadened both his reading and his social skills to the point
where he could talk to several people at once and pronounce most of the
names in 'War and Peace.' He was the first student in 20 years to write
Latin poetry as part of his honours course, a fact which has so far
failed to impress anyone who gets out more than once a month.
Eventually he achieved a first class honours
degree in Humanity (Latin) to the surprise of some and the relief of
others. After graduating he made his first trip to the USA. He then
spent time as a nursing auxiliary and worked as a voluntary helper at a
religious conference centre before returning to St. Andrews to pursue
While failing to complete a doctorate on the
writings of the early Church Fathers (if you think it's easy, you
should try it some time!) he co- wrote, co-directed and co-starred in a
short, topical musical comedy entitled 'The Ayatollah And I' (he played
Jimmy Carter). His performance made such an impression on the audience
that to this day some of them can almost remember it.
That summer he travelled extensively around the
north-eastern USA. He ate his first oysters in Baltimore, his first
lobster in Boston, and his first knish in New York. In Washington he
dropped in on some Iranians who were on hunger strike outside the White
House. None of them recognized him. That same day he was approached by
some Moonies who generously offered to recruit him. He politely
declined, claiming a previous appointment.
Back in St. Andrews Bob's life changed forever
when he met American Rotary Scholar Debby Turner who was then working
on her first novel. They found that they had much in common: eating,
drinking, dancing and discussing the classic introductions of Lin
Carter (see above). After they had travelled across Europe sharing a
small tent they realised they were fated to marry. So they did.
Creativity - sometimes for Profit!
Bob had abandoned academia to work as a bartender
which gave him invaluable experience of changing beer barrels and being
threatened. In the meantime he designed his board game 'Talisman' and
signed a deal with Games Workshop for it to be published. At roughly
the same time Debby had sold her first book. Soon they were making
enough money that Bob abandoned the bar to take care of their first
baby, Matthew, while Debby worked on her next two novels.
Some years later the couple had three young sons
and Debby had several novels under her belt (uncomfortable, but it
means that people can tell just by looking at you that you're a
novelist). They had also become good friends with the famous and
successful American author Jane Yolen who happily spends a good part of
every year in St. Andrews.
With the aid of an electron microscope and a ouija
board Jane managed to detect Bob's literary potential. She cunningly
lured him into a writing career by employing the ancient Highland
strategy of suggesting there might be money in it. First they wrote a
couple of short stories together, then Bob sold some solo stories. Then
they wrote 'The Queen's Own Fool'. After this they were signed up to
write the 'Young Heroes' series of novels, and the rest is mythology.
Bob's first solo novel 'Leonardo and the Death Machine' was published in 2005 by Harper Collins. It was translated into several languages and became a best seller in Italy. He followed this with 'Will Shakespeare and the Pirate's Fire,' and, more recently, with The World Goes Loki Trilogy from Floris/Kelpies.
The first of a new series, 'The Artie Conan Doyle Mysteries,' is published in February 2017, and in October 2017 Bob's Richard Hannay adventure, 'The Thirty-One Kings,' is published by Birlinn/Polygon.
Over the past several years Bob has worked
occasionally as a salesman and an actor. Today he regularly works as a
professional role-player in assessment and training programmes for
When he isn't writing Bob likes to listen to blues
and jazz, read, play board games, watch Fred Astaire movies and follow
the NFL. He still dabbles in games design, so watch out! He plays
squash regularly, tennis irregularly, and really should get back to
fencing. He can play two tunes on the harmonica: one is 'Oh Susanna'
and the other one isn't.
Bob Tells his Secret
"The 'J' in my pen name doesn't stand for
anything. In fact I have no middle initial. I inserted the 'J' solely
to differentiate myself from Robert Harris the author of 'Fatherland'
and 'Enigma'. I'm sure he's more than happy to see any confusion
between us avoided at all costs. When my first story was about to be
published I intended to be J. Robert Harris (for 'Just Robert Harris,')
but when I saw it written down, it looked so pretentious I decided at
once to change it to a middle initial. Now, aren't we all glad that's