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Md. Author’s First Novel Thrills Readers

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By THERESA WINSLOW
The Capital of Annapolis

GRASONVILLE, Md. (AP) — There was no backup plan. If Robert Bidinotto’s first novel didn’t sell, he wasn’t sure what the next step was going to be.

“I guess I was going to become another (department store) greeter,” said the 62-year-old Grasonville resident.

But he needn’t have worried.

“Hunter: A Thriller” sold, and sold and sold.

“You read the first couple pages and it’s obvious the gentleman knows how to write,” said Chase Bouchard, a fellow author from Montreal.

Bidinotto attributes his book’s success to a combination of luck and skill. Whatever the case, “Hunter” has gone where few self-published books venture, selling over 56,000 copies since its release in June, he said. Most were e-books for Amazon’s Kindle.

“I was watching his reports online and they were going through the roof,” said fellow thriller author Stephen England of Cecil County. “`Hunter’ is possibly the best vigilante novel since (Tom) Clancy’s `Without Remorse.”‘

Last week “Hunter” was listed on Kindle paid charts as No. 3 in Spy Stories & Tales of Intrigue, No. 22 in Romantic Suspense, and No. 65 among Thrillers.

Bidinotto said “Hunter” rose as high as No. 4 overall for a brief time after being listed as an editor’s top pick on Nov. 27.

Until then, he’d sold 4,000 copies, a respectable number, but not enough to pay the bills. Now, the grandfather of two has a new career and envisions a “Hunter” series.

“I’m not usually a reader of thriller novels. but once I started it, I couldn’t put it down,” said Debbie Scott of Kent
Island, a family friend. “I’m looking forward to the next book. I wish he’d get working on it.”

Bidinotto has started, but most of his time since the book came out has been spent on marketing, since he’s a one-man show.

“Hunter” revolves around investigative journalist Dylan Hunter, who has quite a bit of Bidinotto in him, and Annie Woods, a CIA officer. “I’ve always been a crusader-idealist,” Bidinotto said. “When I don’t like something, I like to see it changed. Dylan Hunter is who I would be if I could get away with it.”

The novel is set in Washington, D.C. amid a series of vigilante slayings. Bidinotto maintains a blog called “The Vigilante
Author.”

It’s both a reference to the novel and his fondness for bucking the establishment, something he’s done throughout his life.

He took on the criminal justice system in the pages of a national magazine, as well as two nonfiction books. He also bucked the traditional route of publishing — finding an agent, then shopping the book around to different companies.

At his age and with the state of the publishing industry, Bidinotto figured putting the book out himself was the fastest and
best way to go. He invested about $1,000 in the process. “Hunter” is available in both electronic and print editions.

“He’s a pretty amazing author,” said Jennifer Chase of California, a fellow thriller writer and criminologist.

Chase enjoyed the many different layers of “Hunter” and how Bidinotto was able to “push emotional buttons” with his writing.

“Robert’s going places,” she said.

Bidinotto is a self-taught writer.

He cobbled together many freelance gigs before landing a job with Reader’s Digest, where he stayed until the mid-1990s and won awards for his reporting.

After leaving, he worked for a series of nonprofits, where he edited several publications. He left in the fall of 2008, then
started a book on environmentalism. When the grant for the book ran out, he was without work.

He’d always talked about writing a novel, so, with his wife’s permission, he gave himself a year to get it done. He vowed to finish before his 62nd birthday on June 5. At 11 p.m. on June 4, he printed out the final pages.

“I was an emotional basket case for about a week,” he said.

There was plenty of work still to be done, however. He had to get word about the book out, and hopefully pick up some favorable reviews. Over the course of writing “Hunter,” Bidinotto became somewhat of an expert on self-publishing, so he blogged, tweeted and meticulously tracked sales.

He was fairly confident the book was good, but also knew that nonfiction skills don’t always translate to fiction.

Bidinotto’s not sure how “Hunter” became an editor’s pick for Kindle. He was emailing people at Amazon to let them know about his stellar reviews, which could have been the catalyst. No one from Amazon returned phone calls.

“It’s been a fun ride,” Bidinotto said. “Even the struggles have been fun. I like the idea of being captain of my fate.”

Information from: The Capital of Annapolis, Md. www.hometownannapolis.com

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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