Excerpt: Court of Lies by Gerry Spence - Tor/Forge Blog




Excerpt: Court of Lies by Gerry Spence

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Placeholder of  -37Gerry Spence is one of the greatest trial lawyers of our time. He has not lost a jury trial in fifty years and has never lost a criminal or a capital case. Now, in Court of Lies, Spence gives us an explosive courtroom thriller of murder, passion, and the twists and treachery of law and justice.

The beautiful Lillian Adams has been accused of the murder of her husband. The honorable Judge John Murray is presiding over the trial. But the prosecutor, Haskins Sewell, doesn’t plan to let justice run its course. Consumed by political ambition, Sewell plots to advance his own career by framing Lillian for murder and railroading Judge Murray into prison…

New York Times bestselling author Gerry Spence’s new novel, Court of Lies, will be available February 19th. Please enjoy this excerpt.


Every workday morning, the town fathers gathered at the Big Chief Café for breakfast. Hardy Tillman claimed the joint hadn’t been hosed out since the big fire in ’47. “This place even smells like the old West, and I mean the old West,” Hardy said. He ran the Main Street filling station in Jackson Hole. He sported a budding beer belly, but everybody in those parts admitted Hardy was tough. Nobody tried Hardy Tillman.

Generations of spiders had spun their webs between the horns of mounted elk heads that stared down with glass eyes from the once whitewashed walls, now smoke-stained and, near the kitchen, darkened to bay-horse brown from the blowout of scorched pans and flaming grills. Under half an inch of dust and grease, a rusted musket lay across the antlers of a mule deer head, the trophy of a forgotten hunter.

Posters of current movies starring Doris Day as Calamity Jane, and the fast-gun hero, John Wayne in Hondo, curled at their corners as if struggling to roll up in slumber. The floor was covered with linoleum that was mopped daily, and the hard boots of working men had worn away its original red brick design except in the far corners of the café.

Each morning two waitresses, Mary Johnson and Molly Hocks, rushed the men’s orders to the kitchen, bounced back to fill their coffee cups, empty or not, and shortly, like gastronomic midwives, delivered their breakfasts steaming hot and laden with grease.

“How’s my darling doing? I dreamed about you all night, honey,” Molly Hocks cooed.

“Don’t give that line again, honey,” Harry Halstead, part-time mountain guide and part-time bartender, said. “That’s what you told me yesterday and I tipped you the last two dimes in my pocket, which’ll have to do you for today since you’re still giving me that same old dream.”

Peaks of hilarity bounced off the café walls and comingled with the jangle of pans and kettles from the kitchen and the hollering of the cooks and waitresses—the racket reaching the raging uproar of an orchestra gone mad.

A potpourri of appetizing aromas escaped from the kitchen—of ham, bacon, and frying sausage, of fresh coffee and pancakes hot off the griddle. The odor of workmen in their overalls of dirt and sweat mixed with the scent of a few business types, their hair shiny in Brylcreem and radiating a smell akin to lilacs and bug spray. As each waitress whisked by, she was trailed by a wake of fragrance perhaps attributable to a dab of something called Seven Winds, “for the woman who wants to be loved,” or a spray of Nostalgia, that “turns my lamb into a wolf.”

Over the ruckus and racket, the men at Lester McCall’s table were talking in high shouts about Lillian Adams. She’d been charged with the murder of her husband, Horace Adams III. His friends called McCall “Too Tall McCall.” He was six and a half feet tall, and he said, “I don’t give a damn what they call me as long as they call me for supper.” His voice reverberated from the walls like the um-pah-pah of a bass horn in a high school marching band.

“Well, I knew Lillian as a kid,” McCall bellowed through the tumult. “She always did whatever she damn well pleased and got whatever she damn well wanted. But it sounds like she went a little too far this time. Old Adams had more money than I got gravel in my gravel pit, and, at that precise moment before she pulled the trigger he was all that was standin’ between her and it.”

“I don’t think she did it,” Harold Farmer, the town’s mayor said. His head was bald, but he displayed an undisciplined beard in order to show some hair, of some kind, someplace. “She wasn’t the kind to go killing for money. When we were kids in high school, I took her rabbit hunting one Saturday. I wasn’t figuring to just hunt rabbits. I wanted to bag me a bunny, if you get my meaning.” He laughed. “But she wouldn’t let me shoot even a cross-eyes jackrabbit. She said, ‘I’m on the rabbit’s side.’ But I will say one thing for her: She sure could outshoot me.”

“Don’t have to be much of a shot to hit somebody with your gun shoved up against his head,” Harv Bailey said as he took a big bite out of a glazed doughnut and a swig of coffee to help wash it down. He owned the local men’s store, with his typewriter shop in the back. He was wearing the latest banded jacket, jodhpurs, and hiking boots that laced up to just below the knees. He wore his mop of black hair in a cowlick, the product of a careful application of hair coloring that contrasted with a sprinkle of white in his three-day-old beard. He took out a pack of Lucky Strikes and offered one to Ben Mays, the Teton County Assessor.

“I’m trying to quit,” Mays said as Bailey lit their cigarettes. Some called him “Magpie” Mays. His habitual plumage was a black suit, a white shirt and black tie—put a person in mind of a magpie. “The judge should’ve taken himself off of the case. She isn’t related to him by blood, I’ll give you that, but the judge and Betsy haven’t got any kids except her, and they always saw her as belonging to them. I know for a fact the Adams dame had the judge’s number couple of times in the past. And I hear she’s still pretty much running things up there in the courtroom.”

“I wonder how come old Judge Murray let her outta jail with practically no bond at all. Fifty thousand is nothing to her,” Henry Green said. “Should’ve been ten mil at least. She probably had a little meeting with the judge in his chambers, if ya know what I mean.”

“You’re full a shit,” Hardy Tillman said. He and Judge Murray had been best friends since grade school. Hardy stood up and spit his words into Henry Green’s face again. “I said you’re full a shit.”

Henry Green looked down, blew on his coffee and sat tight in his chair.

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