Writer, lawyer, and journalist. Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, CA, former reporter; worked as a civil litigator for seventeen years, retired 1999.
Two-time winner, Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest; Best Book of the Year, Washington Post, 2004, and Idaho Book of the Year, Idaho Librarian's Association, both for The Cyanide Canary.
(With Joseph Hilldorfer) The Cyanide Canary (nonfiction), Free Press (New York, NY), 2004.
The Jury Master (novel), Warner Books (New York, NY), 2006.
The Cyanide Canary was adapted as an audiobook for Books on Tape, Inc.
Robert Dugoni's background in law has served as a useful resource for his writing career. In 2004 he joined Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigator Joseph Hilldorfer to write The Cyanide Canary. The book, told from Hilldorfer's perspective, documents the investigation and trial of Allan Elias, owner of the Evergreen Resources company. In 1996 Elias ordered twenty-year-old employee Scott Dominguez to clean out a storage tank. Elias told Dominguez that the tank was full of only dirt and water, when in reality it contained hydrogen cyanide, a highly toxic substance. As a result of his exposure to this poison, Dominguez was left with severe brain damage. Investigators also discovered that Elias's company had a long history of employee injuries and safety violations. The case was brought to court, where Elias was sentenced to seventeen years in prison and a six-million-dollar fine.
Reviewers applauded the authors of The Cyanide Canary for providing an inside look into environmental crime. "Using a simple narrative structure, the authors succeed impressively in describing the layers of government and their machinations, while keeping the story lively and interesting," Rebecca Porter commented in Trial. Additionally, a Science News critic felt that "the engaging style of this book mimics that of a fictional thriller," while Carolyn See, writing in the Washington Post, similarly regarded the book as "a bona fide thriller pitting joyous, decent good guys against a villain without a scintilla of redeeming social value." Finally, Connie Fletcher, reviewing the book in Booklist, called The Cyanide Canary a "fully rounded, gripping story of how environmental crime is prosecuted in the real world."
Dugoni followed The Cyanide Canary with his first novel, The Jury Master, in 2006. Dugoni's fiction debut features protagonist David Sloane, a wrongful death attorney who has won his last fourteen cases in a row. David receives a mysterious file from a presidential advisor who has since died from a purportedly apparent suicide. By possessing the file, David's life is put in danger and he must protect himself while attempting to unravel a thirty-year-old conspiracy. Critical response to The Jury Master was mixed. David Wright, reviewing the novel in Booklist, felt that the plot and prose lacked originality, and stated that "readers looking for legal action or psychological depth best look elsewhere." A Kirkus Reviews critic held a similar opinion, describing the end of the book as "an unfortunate fusion of over-cooked plotting and overwrought prose [that] results in a tumble." However, a Publishers Weekly reviewer remarked that "all of Dugoni's characters have a fresh and believable edge, and there is plenty of action in far-flung settings," and Sharon Katz, in a review posted on the Reviewing the Evidence Web site, found that "Dugo- ni's first novel … is filled with high tension and a sound but complicated story line." Finally, Jeff Ayers, writing in the Library Journal, proffered further praise, concluding that "this thriller is reminiscent of the early John Grisham and should easily find its way onto the best sellers lists."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August, 2004, Connie Fletcher, review of The Cyanide Canary, p. 1880; February 1, 2006, David Wright, review of The Jury Master, p. 32.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2006, review of The Jury Master, p. 54.
Library Journal, February 1, 2006, Jeff Ayers, review of The Jury Master, p. 70.
Publishers Weekly, January 9, 2006, review of The Jury Master, p. 31.
Science News, October 2, 2004, review of The Cyanide Canary, p. 223.
Trial, December, 2004, Rebecca Porter, review of The Cyanide Canary, p. 55.
Washington Post, September 24, 2004, Carolyn See, "Slime and Punishment," review of The Cyanide Canary, p. C3.
Reviewing the Evidence,http://www.reviewingtheevidence.com/ (April 10, 2006), Sharon Katz, review of The Jury Master.
Robert Dugoni Home Page,http://www.robertdugoni.com (April 10, 2006).