Try Dying

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Ty Buchanan is a rising star in his L.A. law firm, until the suspicious death of his fiancee forces him into the underbelly of the city to discover the truth behind her death. He soon has more than his career on the line, as he finds himself tangled up with a mysterious group of former gang members, and becomes the target of a killer.

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Ty Buchanan is a rising star in his L.A. law firm, until the suspicious death of his fiancee forces him into the underbelly of the city to discover the truth behind her death. He soon has more than his career on the line, as he finds himself tangled up with a mysterious group of former gang members, and becomes the target of a killer.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Former trial lawyer Bell (No Legal Grounds) starts this engaging whodunit series kickoff by plunging successful young L.A. attorney Ty Buchanan into deep mourning for his fiancée, Jacqueline Dwyer. Apparently, wife-murderer Ernesto Bonilla shot himself on a highway overpass and his body landed on Dwyer's car, killing her. Buchanan, in the grip of intense grief, is further burdened when a scruffy man accosts him at the funeral and demands money in exchange for "the truth": that Dwyer survived Bonilla's fall, only to be murdered. When the police dismiss this explanation, Buchanan risks his career and his life to get to the bottom of the mystery, crossing paths with a variety of powerful movers and shakers and ending up a murder suspect himself. Readers will enjoy Bell's talent for description and character development, even if the overall setup of a white-collar worker scouring the mean streets is familiar terrain. (Oct.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781599956848
  • Publisher: Center Street
  • Publication date: 10/24/2007
  • Series: Ty Buchanan Series
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Meet the Author

A former trial lawyer associated with one of L.A.'s top law firms and later working out of an independent office, James Scott Bell has written over 300 articles on trial law, as well as six books for trial lawyers. Now a prolific fiction writer, he applies his in-depth knowledge of the justice system to his legal thrillers.

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Read an Excerpt

Try Dying
By James Scott Bell Center Street Copyright © 2007 James Scott Bell
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59995-684-8

Chapter One On a wet Tuesday morning in December, Ernesto Bonilla, twenty-eight, shot his twenty-three-year-old wife, Alejandra, in the backyard of their West Forty-fifth Street home in South Los Angeles. As Alejandra lay bleeding to death, Ernesto proceeded to drive their Ford Explorer to the westbound Century Freeway connector, where it crossed over the Harbor Freeway, and pulled to a stop on the shoulder.

Bonilla stepped around the back of the SUV, ignoring the rain and the afternoon drivers on their way to LAX and the west side, placed the barrel of his .38 caliber pistol into his mouth, and fired.

His body fell over the shoulder and plunged one hundred feet, hitting the roof of a Toyota Camry heading northbound on the Harbor Freeway. The impact crushed the roof of the Camry. The driver, Jacqueline Dwyer, twenty-seven, an elementary schoolteacher from Reseda, died at the scene.

This would have been simply another dark and strange coincidence, the sort of thing that shows up for a two-minute report on the local news-with live remote from the scene-and maybe gets a follow-up the next day. Eventually the story would go away, fading from the city's collective memory.

But this story did not go away. Not for me. Because Jacqueline Dwyer was the woman I was going to marry.

Chapter Two As Ernesto Bonilla's lifeless body was falling through the air, I was in the conference room of Gunther, McDonough & Longyear, high above Westwood Boulevard. An African mahogany conference table the approximate value of the GDP of Ukraine separated me from one Claudia Blumberg, plaintiff. She was, at first glance, impossible to think ill of, which was a big consideration here. If this case ever went to trial, and she testified, she could make a great impression on a jury.

It was my job to see that never happened. I had to tear into her so subtly and expertly that she and her attorney would not dare take this all the way. Do a Sopranos on her with sharp-tongued skill. Which I had in spades.

The walking ego and boogie-woogie bluster sitting next to her was one Barton Walbert, a Buddha-like figure if you're going by belly size. But his tactics were anything but divine. He was just waiting to throw legal grenades at me during the deposition.

And he could do it. Walbert was one of the most successful plaintiffs' attorneys in the country. He had won twenty multimillion-dollar verdicts, including one for close to a billion against one of the biggest corporations in the world.

I was a pup compared to Walbert. He was fifty-three and in his prime. At thirty-four, I was just hitting my stride. But the arrogance of youth is a good thing for trial lawyers. Like the young gun who comes to town looking for the aging outlaw, wanting to test the best, I was loaded and ready.

"Ms. Blumberg," I said, "your attorney has explained to you why we're here today, has he not?"

"Yes." She was cute, with short, auburn hair and intelligent brown eyes. There was a fragility about her that made her seem like porcelain. A jury would warm to her. I was Iceman.

"You understand that you are under oath and that your answers must be truthful, just as if you were in court?"


"Did you confer with your attorney before coming here today?"

She hesitated a moment and glanced at her lawyer. "I'm okay," she said.

"I noticed that you looked at Mr. Walbert just then," I said. "Is that because you're not sure what your answers should be?"

"Objection," Walbert said. "What you notice is not relevant, Mr. Buchanan. Just ask questions."

"That's what I'm trying to do, Mr. Walbert."

"Relevant questions."

It was all just jockeying for position here. A couple of sumos stamping their feet, circling. Standard stuff. I liked to get the other attorney riled if I could. That might lead to a little game of qui?n es m?s macho? I always wanted the other attorney to lose a little cool in depositions, because it would be captured in transcript and maybe come out at trial. Of course, I'd never faced a Barton Walbert before. This could get interesting.

Modern American litigation makes no pretense of the old collegiality. Back in the days when Melvin Belli was hoisting a skull and crossbones over his San Francisco office, trial lawyers could fight all day in court, then go out for dinner and drinks and tell tall tales of enrapturing juries by the sound of their voices. At least, that's what my law professors used to say. But now, in keeping with the general tenor of the times, incivility is more the order of the day, and gloves are off. You used to take ten paces, turn, and fire. Now your opponent is as likely to turn on eight and shoot you in the back.

"You need any water, Miss Blumberg?" I gestured at the silver pitcher on a tray on the table. Little drops of sweat on the outside of the pitcher mirrored what was going on in my pits. Which told me I was ready to go.

"I'm fine," Claudia Blumberg said. She was nervous, naturally. This was not her domain. And besides, being deposed ranks with root canals on the scale of things people most like to do.

She was twenty-three years old and suing our client, Dr. Lea Edwards, for ten million dollars for libel, invasion of privacy, and harassment.

Chapter Three Claudia's story, a s laid out in the immortal prose of Barton Walbert's complaint, was this. At seven years of age she was molested by her father. Shortly after that, her parents filed for divorce. The abuse became a central issue in the divorce proceedings, as her mother fought for custody. And won. She won largely because of the expert testimony of a psychiatrist, Dr. Kendra Mackee.

Mackee was considered an expert in repressed memory therapy. Not everybody believes this to be legitimate science, including our client, Dr. Edwards.

After the divorce, Claudia continued to see Dr. Mackee. But Claudia, as her story went, could not remember her father's abuse. Her father, of course, denied the accusation and publicly called Dr. Mackee a quack and a menace. That Mackee did not sue for defamation was seen as a great career move. It got her a lot of publicity and tons more work with victims.

When Claudia Blumberg was seventeen something startling happened, something that turned Dr. Mackee into a media darling. Under hypnosis, Ms. Blumberg suddenly recalled her father's sexual trespasses in gross detail.

And it was all caught on videotape in Mackee's office.

Mackee got a whole hour on Larry King as a result, smacking softball after softball into the seats. And stoking the ire of the noted memory skeptic, Dr. Lea Edwards.

Edwards was so disgusted she wrote an article questioning Mackee's methods and suggesting that Claudia was either lying or being manipulated. Edwards backed it up with information gathered, it was alleged, through means that invaded Claudia's privacy.

Which is why Claudia Blumberg went to Barton Walbert and why we were all dancing that day in the conference room of Gunther, McDonough & Longyear.

"Ms. Blumberg, you first went to see Dr. Mackee when you were how old?"


"Do you remember that, or have you been told this?"

"I remember Dr. Mackee's office."

"What do you remember about it?"

"I remember that it had plants and a nice lady sitting in the front."

"What nice lady?"

"The receptionist."

"Do you remember what she looked like?"

Before she could answer, Walbert said, "I'll object as to relevance, and instruct my client not to answer."

Walbert knew exactly what I was trying to do. If I could show that Claudia Blumberg's memory of her experience as a seven-year-old was actually pretty sharp, that would undercut her claims of having lapsed into repressed memory. That, in turn, would strengthen my client's position, as expressed in that article debunking the repressed memory claim in this case.

The article that had prompted the lawsuit.

"For the record," I said, "you are instructing your client not to answer a question about her memory, correct?"

"Relevance, Mr. Buchanan, that's all."

"Your client's memory is central to this case, sir."

"Your client is being sued for invasion of privacy and defamation, sir," Walbert shot back.

"And truth is a complete defense to the latter, sir."

All these sirs were like little gloves to the face. We were a couple of sword fighters insulting each other.

"Ask your questions, Mr. Buchanan, and I'll decide if they're relevant, and if you disagree you can go ask a judge."

That was another ploy guys like Walbert used to great effect. If you had to keep going to court to get a judge to rule that a question had to be answered, the game could get pretty expensive.

I went on. "So you recall certain things about Dr. Mackee's office when you were seven, only those things your attorney has allowed you to share with us today."

Walbert's cheeks pinkened like a Christmas ham. He touched Claudia's arm and shook his head. Don't dignify that with an answer, he was saying.

I let it pass. "Did you continue to see Dr. Mackee after that first visit?"


"Have you continued to see her up to the present time?"


"That would be about sixteen, seventeen years, right?"


"And would it be fair to say that over the years Dr. Mackee and you discussed on numerous occasions the alleged abuse by your father?"

"Objection," Walbert said. "Doctor-patient privilege."

"I'm not asking about any content," I said. "Just if such discussions happened."

"Same objection. I'm instructing my client not to answer."

I looked at Claudia Blumberg. "You can ignore your counsel's advice and make life much easier."

Walbert stood up. "You will not address my client, Mr. Buchanan, unless it's with a relevant question. Do it again and I'll walk her out of here and seek sanctions against you."

Qui?n es m?s macho?

I stood up, too, because Barton Walbert was about five-ten and I am sixtwo and wanted him to be reminded of that at every opportunity. "No need to blow, Mr. Walbert. The truth is what we're after."

"You're wasting everyone's time. And if that's what you want to do we'll just end it right here."

"If you would allow me to ask a question, Mr. Walbert, we won't have to waste Ms. Blumberg's time by dragging her in here again."

"Relevant questions, Mr. Buchanan." Walbert sat down again, as did I.

"Ms. Blumberg, since Mr. Walbert is giving such sterling advice, perhaps he has discussed with you the concept of free speech, which is quite relevant to a suit for defamation. Has he?"

"Objection. Attorney-client privilege."

"A whole lot of privilege going on," I said. "I'll ask you, Ms. Blumberg, if you gave Dr. Mackee permission to videotape your sessions."

This detail was key, and I knew Walbert could not in good faith object. Our contention was that by giving Dr. Mackee permission to shoot video, Claudia Blumberg had waived any claim to privacy, which was part of her lawsuit.


"And did Dr. Mackee tell you the reason she wanted to videotape your sessions?"


"Tell me what she said."

Walbert said, "I'm going to direct my client not to answer, on grounds of privilege."

I was ready for him. "Then I'll ask my question this way, Ms. Blumberg. And I remind you again that you are under oath here, just like you would be in a court of law. Dr. Mackee told you she wanted to video the sessions because she thought you were on the verge of a breakthrough, and that this breakthrough could be very informative and helpful to all sorts of victims suffering from repressed memories of abuse, and that she would call you Margaret and that would protect your identity, and here was your chance to do a great service to humanity. Have I got that pretty much right, Ms. Blumberg?"

Claudia Blumberg's eyes got as wide as truck tires and I knew I'd nailed it.

Walbert knew it, too. His face twitched. In the world of Barton Walbert versus everybody, that was a taste of victory for me.

What they didn't know was that I had prepared this question based on a mere hunch. Having read everything there was on Dr. Mackee, I had gotten sufficiently into her head to know she was a supreme self-promoter. She had made a lot of speeches and presentations to both psychological and legal audiences, and made the video of Ms. Blumberg a big part of the show. She had to have suggested something like I'd imagined.

"Isn't that right, Ms. Blumberg?" I repeated.

Walbert knew better than to object at this point. It would look too much like he was covering up the truth, and this section would be brought out and read to the jury at the appropriate time.

"Not in those words," Claudia Blumberg said.

"But that was the substance of what she said, right?"

She nodded.

"I need a verbal response for the stenographer," I said.

"Yes," she said.

So there it was. Maybe the most important piece of evidence in the whole case. Because if we could show that Claudia Blumberg knew she was going to be used in public, her claims of invasion of privacy would evaporate and would make defamation that much harder to prove.

I had to work hard not to dance on the table in front of them both. That wouldn't exactly have been in keeping with the decorum demanded by the firm of Gunther, McDonough & Longyear, where I was about to be deemed a superstar.

I thought of Jacqueline then, how proud she'd be of me. I'd tell her all about it at dinner. We were going to discuss wedding plans over oysters in a restaurant by the sea in Malibu. And then we'd watch the moon rise over L.A., huddled together on the beach.

It was going to be the perfect night.

Chapter Four How doe s a hot young lawyer on the rise, a guy with a future draped with Brioni, go from the twentieth floor to the county jail? How does a guy become something he's never been, more animal than man, able to and wanting to hurt people? Kill people? How does he go from light to darkness as fast as you can flip a switch in a mortuary basement?

It begins with a phone call.

"Oh God, Ty."


Fran was Jacqueline's mother.

"Oh God, oh God."

I was in my office, about to leave in the glow of deposition victory, when the call came. I knew from Fran's voice it was about Jacqueline. Accident maybe. Slip and fall. In the hospital.

"Fran, what is it?"

"She's dead, Ty. Oh God ..." Her voice was spectral now. I could hear her crying.

"Can you talk to me?" I managed to say.

"An accident," she said. "On the freeway."


"Where is she? Where'd they take her?"

"I don't know."

"Who told you?"

"Someone ... I don't know ..." She was lost to tears and I knew she couldn't say any more.

"I'll be right over," I said and hung up. I was vaguely aware that light was fading outside my office windows. The phone may have rung a couple of times, but I didn't pick up.

I heard some part of myself suggest I was sitting on a movie set, and they'd remove the walls any second now and the director would yell Cut and the lights would switch off and we'd all go home with cheerful good-byes. Nobody yelled Cut.

What was I supposed to do now? Go identify the body? Look at Jacqueline on one of those beds they slide out of the metal drawer? The world receded like a stinking tide.

All that was left was memory. That's where I wanted to hide.


Excerpted from Try Dying by James Scott Bell Copyright © 2007 by James Scott Bell. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 5, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    There is a reason James Scott Bell is a master of the craft of w

    There is a reason James Scott Bell is a master of the craft of writing and Try Dying, the first in the Ty Buchanan series about a LA lawyer, is the perfect example of why. From page one, where we learn of the tragic death of Ty's fiancee, to the very last page where he tries to prove his innocence, Mr Bell creates intriguing characters and an exciting plot that the reader can not help but love and keep turning pages to find out who-dun-it.

    This fast-paced mystery starts out strong and keeps raising the stakes of suspense with a good amount of humor and humanity sprinkled in.

    Try Dying is the first James Scott Bell story I have read, but it will not be the last. I look forward to the next one in this series, as well as many more in his arsenal.

    Victoria Allman
    author of: SEAsoned: A Chef's Journey with Her Captain

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 21, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Loved this book!

    Review by Jill Williamson

    Lawyer Ty Buchanan is working on a high profile case when his fiancé is killed. The cops say it was a freak accident, but some strange occurrences lead Ty to believe she was murdered. As Ty investigates, his life falls apart. He trusts no one but an outcast priest and a basketball-playing nun.

    Loved this book! I lived in Los Angeles for nine years, so it was really fun to know all the places the main character went. But that wasn't what was so great about the book. James Scott Bell knows how to tell a story you can't put down. He weaves suspense into every scene. And his characters are brilliant. I was completely enthralled with Ty and the mystery he was struggling to unravel. If you like suspense, mystery, lawyer stories, this one is for you. Check it out!

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  • Posted May 8, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Try Dying is a rollercoaster ride.

    Try Dying by James Scott Bell is like a rollercoaster ride. Plenty of suspense and wondering as we follow Ty on his journey in dealing with his grief and finding answers on why did this happen?

    Ty is overwhelmed by grief at the death of Jacqueline, his fiancee. When a man commits suicide and falls off an overpass, he hits Jacqueline's car, crushing her to death. The authorities rule it a freak and horrible accident. But when a mysterious man approaches him, Ty is shocked at the man's revelation that his fiancee was murdered. Ty is a lawyer and becomes consumed with finding out what really happened to Jacqueline. In exchange for her contacts and resources, Ty teams up with Channing, a reporter who wants to write a book on his tragedy. When she is found dead, Ty is accused of her murder.

    Follow Ty in his attempt to clear his name. James Scott Bell has written another winner.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2007


    ¿Try Dying¿ starts with action. Jacqueline Dwyer dies immediately. Buchanan, a litigating attorney, spends his days finding out why, Jacqueline, his fiancé, died. There are legal battles, gang battles, and a group of nuns and priests involved in his journey for answers. Who is telling the truth and who can be trusted? You will not know until the last few pages. This is not a book in which you will figure out the ending. Buchanan has a dry humor that borders sarcasm. Unfortunately, he does not know when to use it. Will Buchanan die in order to find answers? Anyone who likes a good ¿who-did-it-mystery¿ or a great legal mystery will love ¿Try Dying¿. If you like John Grisham, you will love James Scott Bell. This action-packed book is destined for the big screen. I recommend it! Reviewed by: Stephanie Rollins for

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  • Posted January 29, 2009

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    Book Noir at its Best

    Gritty. That was my first thought when I finished reading this book. The other was, wow this could totally be made into a movie. It reminded me very much of the movie Collateral starring Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx. The way the setting was described along with the action sequences and the just the mood in general made me feel like I was in a slow moving but suspenseful film noir. There's a lot of mystery and suspense in this book that keeps you guessing til the end. Things that appear to be unconnected somehow have a thread that ties everything together. I love all the characters in this novel especially the non traditional priest and the basketball playing nun. Really can't wait to read more about them. This is a book you could pass on to anybody who is a fan of the genre and they would not be disappointed. I would compare this book to be on par with John Grisham just without sex or cursing. Like I've said before it has been proven that you can write an excellent story without having to resort to filler material. There were several places in the story where I could see another author just throwing in a sex scene or placing a few f-bombs to add space. But the story does not need it at all. Instead what you get is action filled drama, several intense scenes of violence and a story that keeps you reading from page one. This book shows that Christian fiction is not just clean romance novels. I'm really looking forward to the next book in the series. Top notch writing, Mr. Bell, top notch.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2007

    Bell's best yet

    James Scott Bell has used his legal background and his mastery of the craft of fiction to produce a novel that is comparable to those of Raymond Chandler. Attorney Ty Buchanan suffers the loss of his fiance, finds that her death was no accident, and is swept up into a maelstrom of mayhem that leaves the reader anxious to turn the pages. The last thirty pages have to be read at one sitting, even if it's after midnight. I understand that the next Ty Buchanan book is already in the works. I can hardly wait.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

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    Enjoyable investigative tale

    Los Angeles attorney Ty Buchanan prepares for a defamation of character defense in which he claims the plaintiff has NO LEGAL GROUNDS to sue his client. However, as he prepares for the case, he suddenly is hammered with a tragedy, the death of his fiancée Jacqueline Dwyer. What makes her demise even more difficult to cope with is the randomness of the event that killed her. Spousal killer Ernesto Bonilla committed suicide on an overpass and plunged off it landing on Jacqueline¿s passing vehicle, killing her. --- At her funeral an unkempt out of place male demands Ty give him money in exchange for the truth behind Dwyer¿s death the stranger insists she lived after the Bonilla dive. Perhaps looking for a different explanation, Ty needs to know the truth but when he tells the cops, they assume he is a grieving person who has been conned. Although he understands he could harm his rising career, Ty investigates finding a conspiracy of the powerful concealing something, but what and how it ties to Jacqueline remains elusive. --- Though there is a solid legal thriller subplot, TRY DYING is more an investigative tale as Ty works Los Angeles seeking whether his late fiancée was murdered by someone else after the Bonilla incident. The story line is action-packed, but in every sense of the word is owned by the mourning young lawyer who cannot understand how this could happen and recognizes he may be reaching for a less random incident even if it is homicide. Fans will appreciate Ty¿s efforts to learn the truth at the cost of his career. --- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2007

    To-Die-For Plot

    Snap, crackle and pop. These are the sounds of James Scott Bell's latest novel, Try Dying. Tightly written prose wrapped around a to-die-for plot that has the reader turning pages faster than a race horse heading for the finish line. And never ever figure you know where the story is headed. The drama has more twists and turns than a roller coaster ride. Bell's characacters jump off the pages with depth, humor and humanness¿an attorney drawn to investigate a freak death like a moth drawn to a flame, a cloistered nun with a mean jump shot, and a priest who has learned to forgive from the heart. These characters come alive as the story unfolds in this fast-paced legal thriller. It opens with a freak accident. A man falls from an overpass and slams into traffic below, killing school teacher Jacqueline Dwyer, protagonist Ty Buchanan's fiancée. The accident rips Buchanan from his comfortable world of civil litigation and dumps him onto the mean streets of Los Angeles as he searches for answers that may not exist. Buchanan's survival is brought into question as he sinks deeper and deeper into this black whole of mystery, murder and betrayal. The question becomes whether he will find the answer before death finds him. 'I should have been more deferential, if I wanted to keep all my teeth. But there was river of ice in me all of a sudden. Like I'd used up all my fear.' Buchanan pulls the reader across this precarious divide separating love and hate, and eventually life and death, where knowing the answer become more important than life itself. It is James Scott Bell at his best.

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    Posted December 1, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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