I'm an award-winning author and journalist and a professor at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where I teach in the MFA in Creative Nonfiction and Journalism programs. I specialize in true crime and my monthly column on the genre, “Stranger Than Fiction,” appears online in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. During my 35-year career as a newspaper staff writer and freelance journalist I have written features and commentaries on an array of subjects – history, current events, law, business, politics, media ethics, science, travel and the craft of nonfiction.
My latest book is Empire of Deception: The Incredible Story of a Master Swindler Who Seduced a City and Captivated the Nation. It’s the saga of con man Leo Koretz, the Bernie Madoff of the 1920s and a fraud artist extraordinaire the New York Times dubbed “the most resourceful confidence man in the United States.” The smooth-talking Chicago lawyer enticed hundreds of people to invest as much as $30 million – some $400 million today – in his imaginary Panamanian oil fields. The New York Times Book Review praised Empire of Deception as “intoxicating and impressively researched.”
Empire was the Chicago Writers Association’s 2015 Nonfiction Book of the Year, won the Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award and was a finalist for one of Canada’s top awards for non-fiction – the 2015 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize. It also made the Globe and Mail and National Post Top 100 Books lists for 2015. Available from Algonquin Books in the U.S., HarperCollins Canada and HighBridge Audiobooks.
My previous book, The Cajuns: A People’s Story of Exile and Triumph, published in 2005 by John Wiley & Sons, was released simultaneously in Canada as The Acadians: A People’s Story of Exile and Triumph. It tells the dramatic story of the deportation in the 1750s of most of the French-speaking inhabitants of Nova Scotia and how these refugees overcame exile and incredible hardships to establish today’s vibrant Acadian and Cajun cultures. The book was shortlisted for two prizes, the City of Dartmouth Book Award and Evelyn Richardson Memorial Literary Award for Non-Fiction. Les Éditions au Carré of Montreal acquired the rights to publish a French translation.
My 1994 book Calculated Risk: Greed, Politics and the Westray Tragedy remains the most comprehensive account of the May 1992 explosion that killed 26 Nova Scotia coal miners. It recreates events leading to the disaster, introduces readers to the men who died and the families and friends they left behind, and explores the political and legal fallout from one of the worst workplace tragedies in recent Canadian history. Calculated Risk won the City of Dartmouth Book Award, was recognized with a special prize as runner-up for the National Business Book Award, and was shortlisted for the Evelyn Richardson Memorial Literary Award for Non-Fiction. The book and my archive of taped interviews with miners and their families were used as the basis for Westray: The Long Way Home, a critically acclaimed play that twice toured Canada. I was also retained as a researcher and consultant for director Paul Cowan’s Genie Award-winning National Film Board documentary, Westray.
As well, I have published three collections of true-crime stories. Shades of Justice: Seven Nova Scotia Murder Cases (Nimbus 1988), won the Evelyn Richardson award. Crime Wave: Con-Men, Rogues and Scoundrels from Nova Scotia’s Past (Pottersfield 1991), was short-listed for the Arthur Ellis Award for best Canadian work of true crime. And Bluenose Justice: True Tales of Mischief, Mayhem and Murder (Pottersfield 1993), shortlisted for the City of Dartmouth award.
My comprehensive reference guide, Media Law for Canadian Journalists, 3rd edition (Emond Publications 2018), has been adopted as the core text for university and college journalism programs across the country. I am a co-author of Digging Deeper: A Canadian Reporter’s Research Guide (Oxford University Press), the first comprehensive research guide for Canadian writers and journalists. A revised third edition was released in 2015.
I’m a member of the Crime Writers of Canada, the Writers Union of Canada, the Mystery Writers of America, the Crime Writers Association (UK) and the Writers Federation of Nova Scotia. Check out my profile page and reviews and ratings of my books on Goodreads.
(BTW, my surname is pronounced like robe, not robb.)
My articles, commentaries and book reviews have appeared in major national publications, including the Chicago Tribune Magazine, Chicago Review of Books, Irish Times, Globe and Mail, National Post, Toronto Star, Canadian Business, Canada’s History, History Ireland, Winnipeg Free Press, Literary Review of Canada, Canadian Lawyer and The Lawyers Weekly.
My work has been shortlisted for the National Newspaper and National Magazine awards and I have won three Atlantic Journalism Awards. I review nonfiction for Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and the Chicago Review of Books and I was a contributing editor to Elm Street magazine from 1998 to 2004. I have also written for the Victoria Times-Colonist, Saltscapes, Canadian Home & Country, Quill & Quire and for publications based outside Canada, including the American Journalism Review, Chicago Tribune, the Irish Times, History Ireland magazine, Northern Ireland’s Belfast Telegraph and the Australian magazine Business Review Weekly. I write a column on media law and ethical issues for Media, the Canadian Association of Journalists’ magazine, and I was the founding editor of the media law section of J-Source, a website that promotes excellence in the practice and teaching of journalism. I was on the staff of the Halifax Chronicle Herald for twenty years, where my roles included legal affairs reporter, investigative reporter, copy editor, morning edition editor and columnist on politics and current affairs.
I am a professor in the School of Journalism, University of King’s College in Halifax, where I teach nonfiction writing and journalism. I have been a member of faculty since 2004 after teaching part-time for more than a decade. My specialties include narrative nonfiction, investigative reporting, writing and editing, defamation and other forms of media law, journalists’ ethics, freedom of information and the history of journalism. Defendants in defamation suits and publication ban prosecutions have retained me as an expert on journalism ethics and the standards of responsible journalism, and and I have conducted professional development seminars for Rogers Media, the Canadian and Ontario community newspaper associations, and the Canadian Association of Journalists. I have been invited to speak to an array of groups and organizations, including the Atlantic Booksellers Association, the Canadian Judicial Council and the Bibliographical Society of Canada.
My academic research explores the origins of Canadian journalism and I have been invited to present my findings to academic conferences in Canada, the United States, France and the United Kingdom (visit my page on Academia.edu for more information and downloads of my work). I’m a member of the American Journalism Historians Association and the AJHA’s Speaker’s Bureau. I have published articles in the Journal of International Media and Entertainment Law and the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society Journal, and book reviews in American Journalism: A Journal of Media History and The Historian. I have a graduate degree in Atlantic Canada Studies (Saint Mary’s, 2008) and an undergraduate degree in Canadian Studies (Mount Allison, 1980). My MA thesis is titled “Creating Some Noise in the World': Press freedom and Canada’s First Newspaper, the Halifax Gazette, 1752-1761.” The Tantramar Heritage Trust published my BA thesis in 2007 under the title, The Life and Times of Josiah Wood: A Builder of Sackville.
chapters in books:
“Telling True Stories: Creative Approaches to Bringing Nonfiction to Life,” (Inter-Disciplinary Net e-book, 2016)
“‘Written with Powers Truly Comick’: Joseph Addison, Richard Steele and the Birth of Social and Political Satire,” in The Funniest Pages: International Perspectives on Humor in Journalism (Peter Lang 2015)
“Deny, Delay, Deter, Defeat: Promise and Reality in Canada’s Access Regime,”
in FOI: Ten Years On: Freedom Fighting or Lazy Journalism?
(Abramis UK 2015)
“Seeking Truth from Power: Strategies for Using Freedom of Information Laws,”
in Access to Information and Social Justice: Critical Research Strategies for Journalists,
Activists and Scholars
(Arbeiter Ring Publishing/ARP 2015)
“The Rediscovery of Village Thibodeau,”
in Acadia Then and Now: A People’s History
(Andrepont Publishing 2014)
“Why We Love to Hate Lawyers,”
in Why Good Lawyers Matter
(Irwin Law 2012)
“Bans on Publication and Other Media Restrictions,”
in From Crime to Punishment: An Introduction to the Criminal Law System
(Carswell, 8th ed. 2014)
“Libel, Journalists, and the Online World,”
in The New Journalist: Roles, Skills, and Critical Thinking
(Emond Publishing 2010)
“Legal Disaster: Westray and the Justice System,”
in The Westray Chronicles: A Case Study in Corporate Crime
“Sackville Promotes a Railway: The Politics of the New Brunswick and Prince Edward Railway, 1872-1886,”
in People and Place: Studies of Small Town Life in the Maritimes
(Acadiensis Press 1987)