Rick Pullen wanted to be Perry Mason when he was a kid. He carried the dream to college where he quickly learned clients of defense lawyers weren’t always innocent and lawyers didn’t always win their cases.
At about that time, on a whim, he took a journalism course at The University of Richmond and fell in love. He resigned midyear from the university and was quickly accepted at The University of Tennessee, which had a more comprehensive journalism program. (His mother was apoplectic at the time, worried her son would become a college dropout.)
But there in Big Orange Country, he discovered investigative reporting. It was the era of Watergate and he was hooked. Who needed the law, he figured, when an investigative reporter could be judge, jury and prosecutor? He had found his calling and his mother could breathe easier knowing her son would be hitting the streets with a press pass instead of a tin cup.
Rick pounded his typewriter keys and later computer keyboard for several newspapers. Among the stories he uncovered was a Pentagon munitions scam, an Army procurement scandal and a bank land fraud scheme. His stories put the bank president in jail, forced the dismissal of a police captain, exposed a police sting operation that was buying new cars, and uncovered deplorable living conditions in public housing. He even uncovered Donald Trump’s political largesse had exceeded the legal limits of federal campaign contributions—back when there were some. (To Trump’s credit, he immediately asked the candidates for his money back.) Other famous people Rick exposed ignored his stories and the feckless Federal Election Commission, of course, did nothing. The power of money later became an element in Rick’s first novel, NAKED AMBITION.
Another element was politics. While Rick became known as an investigative reporter, he always wanted to write about politics and the legislative process. That was true until a discussion with his good friend Rich Gordon, then a reporter with the Richmond Times-Dispatch. (Today, Rich is a professor and director of digital innovation at Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University.) Over a couple of beers one evening after work, they were talking jobs, and Rich asked why would anyone want to be a political reporter. All it is, he said, was “he said, she said” stenography. There is no truth there, he explained. “What you write,” he said, “is the closest you’ll ever get to the truth in journalism.”
The conversation changed Rick’s attitude forever. Although he still enjoyed reading about politics, he no longer wanted to write about it. Instead, he dug deeper into investigative reporting. Later, when writing NAKED AMBITION, Rick realized writing fiction was the closest he would ever get to telling the whole truth. It left nothing out.
Rick later freelanced for several news outlets from home while he took on the role of stay-at-home dad. After several years of commuting downstairs to his home office, he switched from reporter to Washington Bureau director working out of the National Press Building. (Rick has been a National Press Club member since 1988.) He later became a magazine editor. In 2003, after editing a monthly business magazine for nearly four years, he was asked to create a new business magazine, Leader’s Edge (his second magazine startup).
The monthly publication covers the commercial insurance brokerage industry. (At this juncture, you should ask the question: Insurance? WTF? What could be more boring?) Rick saw the industry for what it was. Big money and risk. Brokers, he found, were problem solvers who got to dabble in any business they wanted—from Hollywood to aerospace to Silicon Valley. It all dealt with an unlimited array of danger. And what, he figured was sexier than that?
Today, Leader’s Edge is the leading magazine in its field. And in today’s shaky publishing world, it continues to rack up record sales, circulation and awards for its journalism. In 2015, Rick was named to the Folio 100—the 100 must influential people in magazine publishing. He was also a finalist for magazine editor of the year.
But making insurance sexy wasn’t enough. For years Rick imagined a courtroom scene with a wild plot twist that he couldn’t get out of his head. He described it to friends, trying to resolve how it might end. But like him, no one had a clue. He thought he could create a novel if he could just solve the legal puzzle. He realized his high school ambition had come back to haunt him. Where was Perry Mason when he needed him?
Then one beautiful summer afternoon over lunch in an outdoor café near his office in Washington, D.C. (not your typical August day in D.C.), with his friend and business colleague Coletta Kemper—and, of course, after several beers—he solved the problem.
“Well, duh,” Coletta said. And he was off to the races. Within four months he finished his first draft. And then the hard part began. Rewriting. It took him two years and three editors to complete his manuscript. Finally, NAKED AMBITION was born. It is a story of an investigative reporter (Hmm, where did that come from?), Beck Rikki, and his pursuit of dirty money, dirty politicians and one dirty woman. (Well, that last one may be wishful thinking.)
NAKED TRUTH, the sequel to NAKED AMBITION, was published in September 2018 by KoehlerBooks. He is currently working on his next book, a stand alone thriller.
Rick is also working on an as-yet-to-be-named anthology about famous thriller and mystery writers going from manuscript virgins to published novelists. Everyone has a first time and Rick is recording those events of the now rich and famous for literary history. Each chapter explores the anguish and determination many famous authors endure to get their first mystery or thriller published. Read some sample chapters about your favorite thriller authors.
Finally, Rick is working with his good friend rock n’ roll photographer Tom Gundlefinger O’Neal, on a book about Tom’s life as a photographer in the late 1960s and the first half of the 1970s. During that time Tom created 70 album covers for dozens of rock n’ roll bands. His most famous work is for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. He created their Déjà vu and their 4-Way Street album covers. He also did nine covers for Steppenwolf. His album cover credits range from John Denver to Jim Croce and the Four Tenors. Check back for progress on this book. Look on this site for a sample chapter on the photo shoot that created the Déjà vu album cover.
So there it is. Rick is what you might call stretched a little thin these days keeping his laptop smoking in high gear. Check out this website and sign up for periodic insights about rock n’ roll, dirty money and what your favorite authors were up to when they were unknowns.