Robyn Hill

Rumrunner by Robyn Hill

‘Having a rope around your neck hurts. But still, that aint nearly as bad as what itll do to your windpipe once that lynch mob decides to drive that truck out from under you.

All this past year, Ive been thinking, fourteens too young to die, so I aint gonna die. Now Im standing here on this truck bed, thinking fourteens too young to die, but Im going to die anyway.’

Its 1924. The Great War is over, Prohibition is on, and fourteen-year old Nicky Gallagher is trying to support his mom and younger siblings. Problem is, jobs are scarce in rural Kansas, and Nickys big mouth keeps getting him fired. So he does the only thing he can do: he becomes a bootlegger.

Its illegal. Its dangerous. And he loves it. Soon, Nicky and his moonshine partner, Simon Jones the only black man in their small town are making a comfortable living. But the dangers are multiplying. Law enforcement and revenuers are on the prowl for illegal stills. Rival bootleggers are in competition with each other for customers. But for Nicky, the biggest danger comes from the Klan, which is moving into the area. Soon, Nickys in much more than a race to deliver liquor. If the law catches him, hell lose everything hes worked for. If the Klan catches him, hell lose a lot more.

Rumrunner, my first young adult novel, is set on the Kansas-Oklahoma border where I live, and is inspired by real events.


The Book Doctors: We often say that the voice of your book should be reflected in your pitch. And this pitch starts with such a strong, unusual and powerful voice. Right down to the poor punctuation and spelling. It really sounds like a 14-year-old kid from rural Kansas. And the pitch starts right in the middle of crazy life-and-death action, just grabs us by the back of the neck and shakes us. Love it! And the story is so compelling. It’s filled with danger and stakes that couldn’t be higher. Plus, we love when a good person is forced to do illegal and/or bad things. For the right reason. And what could be a better reason than feeding your family in a place where you are marginalized because of your race? However, I don’t think you should continue the bad punctuation and spelling after the initial quote from the book. Change back to proper English. It will make the initial quote stand out even more. I’d like a few more word pictures of the life of a rumrunner like being chased by cars, outrunning the law. And I’d like more of a sense of the culture at that time for a young black man. What were his opportunities? What were his restrictions? And I don’t like the last line: “He’ll lose a lot more.” Show us the very real and horrifying repercussions for himself and his family.