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Excerpt – TRY DARNESS by James Scott Bell

This week, the


Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing


Try Darkness


(Center Street - July 30, 2008)


by


James Scott Bell



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

JAMES SCOTT BELL is a former trial lawyer who now writes full time. He has also been the fiction columnist for Writers Digest magazine and adjunct professor of writing at Pepperdine University.

The national bestselling author of several novels of suspense, he grew up and still lives in Los Angeles. His first Buchanan thriller, TRY DYING, was released to high critical praise, while sis book on writing, Plot and Structure is one of the most popular writing books available today.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Ty Buchanan is living on the peaceful grounds of St. Monica’s, far away from the glamorous life he led as a rising trial lawyer for a big L.A. firm. Recovering from the death of his fiancée and a false accusation of murder, Buchanan has found his previous ambitions unrewarding. Now he prefers offering legal services to the poor and the underrepresented from his “office” at local coffee bar The Freudian Sip. With his new friends, the philosophizing Father Bob and basketball-playing Sister Mary Veritas, Buchanan has found a new family of sorts.
One of his first clients is a mysterious woman who arrives with her six-year-old daughter. They are being illegally evicted from a downtown transient hotel, an interest that Ty soon discovers is represented by his old law firm and his former best friend, Al Bradshaw. Buchanan won’t back down. He’s going to fight for the woman’s rights.
But then she ends up dead, and the case moves from the courtroom to the streets. Determined to find the killer and protect the little girl, who has no last name and no other family, Buchanan finds he must depend on skills he never needed in the employ of a civil law firm.
The trail leads Buchanan through the sordid underbelly of the city and to the mansions and yachts of the rich and famous. No one is anxious to talk.
But somebody wants Buchanan to shut up. For good.
Now he must use every legal and physical edge he knows to keep himself and the girl alive.
Once again evoking the neo-noir setting of contemporary Los Angeles, Bell delivers another thriller where darkness falls and the suspense never rests.

“Bell has created in Buchanan an appealing and series-worthy protagonist, and the tale equally balances action and drama, motion and emotion. Readers who pride themselves on figuring out the answers before an author reveals them are in for a surprise, too: Bell is very good at keeping secrets. Fans of thrillers with lawyers as their central characters—Lescroart and Margolin, especially—will welcome this new addition to their must-read lists.”
—Booklist

“Engaging whodunit series kickoff . . . Readers will enjoy Bell's talent for description and character development.”
—Publishers Weekly

“James Scott Bell has written himself into a niche that traditionally has been reserved for the likes of Raymond Chandler.”
—Los Angeles Times

“A master of suspense.”
—Library Journal

“One of the best writers out there, bar none.”
—In the Library Review


Excerpt of chapter one:

THE NUN HIT me in the mouth and said, "Get out of my house."

Jaw throbbing, I said, "I can't believe you just did that."

"This is my house," she said. "You want more? Come on back in."

Sister Mary Veritas is a shade over five and a half feet. She was playing in gray sweats, of course. Most of the time she wears the full habit. Her pixie face is usually a picture of innocence. She has short chestnut hair and blue eyes. I had just discovered those eyes hid an animal ruthlessness.

It was the first Friday in April, and we were playing what I thought was some friendly one-on-one on the basketball court of St. Monica's, a Benedictine community in the Santa Susana mountains. The morning was bright, the sky clear. Should have meant peace like a river.

Not a nun like a mugger.

Backing into the key for a spin hook, I was surprised to find not just the basket but a holy Catholic elbow waiting for my face. I'm six-three, so it took some effort for her to pop me.

"That's a foul," I said.

"So take it out," she said.

"I thought the Benedictines were known for their hospitality."

"For the hungry pilgrim," Sister Mary said. "Not for a guy looking for an easy bucket."

"What would the pope say to you?"

"Probably, Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

"You're a pagan. It probably did you some good."

"A trash-talking sister." I shook my head. "So this is organized religion in the twenty-first century."

"Play."

Okay, she wanted my outside game? She'd get it. True, I hadn't played a whole lot of ball since college. A couple of stints on a lawyer league team. But I could still shoot. I was deadly from twenty feet in.

Not this morning. I clanked one from the free throw line and Sister Mary got the rebound.

Before becoming a nun, she played high school ball in Oklahoma. On a championship team, no less. Knew her way around a court.

But I also had the size advantage and gave her a cushion on defense. She took it and shot over me from fifteen feet.

Swish.

Pride is a sin, so Sister Mary tells me. But it's a good motivator when a little nun is schooling you. I kicked up the aggression factor a notch.

She tried a fadeaway next. I got a little bit of her wrist as she shot.

Air ball.

Sister Mary waited for me to call a foul.

"Nice try," I said.

"Where'd you learn to play," she said. "County jail?"

"You talking or playing?"

She got the animal look again. I hoped that wouldn't interfere with her morning prayers. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour we talk smack.

I took the ball to the top of the key. Did a beautiful crossover dribble. Sister Mary swiped at the ball. Got my arm instead with a loud thwack. I stopped and threw up a jumper.

It hit the side of the rim and bounced left.

I thought I'd surprise her by hustling for the rebound.

She had the same idea.

We were side by side going for the ball. I could feel her body language. There was no way she was going to let me get it.

There was no way I was going to let her get it.

I was going to body a nun into the weeds.



2

WE WENT DOWN. The brown grasses at the edge of the blacktop padded our fall.

I had both hands on the ball. So did Sister Mary.

She grunted and pulled. By this time we were out of bounds.

I started to laugh. The absurdity of a frantic postulant and a macho lawyer in a death grip over a basketball was hilarious.

Sister Mary didn't laugh. She wanted the ball.

I had to admire her doggedness. She's the type who'd go to the mat with the devil himself if she had to.

But I still wouldn't let her get the ball.

Then I was on my back, holding the ball to my chest. Sister Mary was on top of me, refusing to let her hands slip off the ball.

Her body was firm and fit and I looked at her face thinking thoughts one should not think of a woman pledged to a life of chastity.

I stopped laughing and let her have the ball.

She took it and rolled off me.

Neither of us said anything.

Then a voice said, "Now, isn't that a pretty picture?"

Father Bob stood at the other end of the court, hands on hips.

One displeased priest.

I shot up, helped Sister Mary to her feet. "Nothing to see here," I said. "Just a little hustle and flow."

"Or grab and go," Father Bob said.

Sister Mary said nothing. Her face was flushed and she was breathing hard.

"A friendly game of one-on," I said. "You see? I'm doing my part to help the community stay in shape. You want a piece of me next?"

Father Bob, who looks like Morgan Freeman's stand-in, said, "I know a few tricks even Sister Mary hasn't learned yet."

"I have to go now," she said. Without her characteristic smile, she dropped the ball in the grass and jogged toward her quarters.

Father Bob motioned me over. "Tread carefully," he said.

"I know," I said.

"Do you?"

"What's not to know?"

He picked up the ball and spun it on his finger. Like a Globetrotter.

"Not bad," I said.

"God created the world to spin on its axis," he said. "Perfectly. And he created man to be in perfect communion with him. Only man messed up. He messed up the way things are supposed to spin." He grabbed the ball with both hands. "In the garden, you know the story."

"A snake got Eve to eat an apple."

"Don't know if it was an apple," Father Bob said. "It just says ‘the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil.'"

"Was that such a bad thing to want?"

"If a serpent's offering it to you, it is. Now, we've come a long way trying to get things to spin right again. That's the reason for the church. That's the reason for people taking holy vows. And that's the reason you have to tread carefully around here."

I took the ball from him and tried to spin it on my finger. It fell to the ground and bounced.

"See?" Father Bob said.

"Fine."

"Then are you ready to earn your daily bread?

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