Excerpt: 'True Believer'

Best-selling novelist Nicholas Sparks, author of "Message in a Bottle" and "The Notebook," is back with his ninth novel, called "True Believer."

In "True Believer," Sparks follows investigative journalist Jeremy Marsh, who has made a career out of debunking the supernatural. A born skeptic, Marsh travels to the small town of Boone Creek, N.C., determined to find the real cause behind the ghostly apparitions that appear in the town cemetery.

But then he meets Lexie Darnell, granddaughter of the town psychic, and in order to make love work, Marsh has to make a giant leap of faith.

You can read an excerpt from "True Believer" below.

Excerpted From Chapter One

Jeremy Marsh sat with the rest of the live studio audience, feeling unusually conspicuous. He was one of only half a dozen men in attendance on that mid-December afternoon. He'd dressed in black, of course, and with his dark wavy hair, light blue eyes, and fashionable stubble, he looked every bit the New Yorker that he was.

While studying the guest onstage, he managed to surreptitiously watch the attractive blonde three rows up. His profession often demanded effective multi-tasking. He was an investigative journalist in pursuit of a story, and the blonde was just another member of the audience; still, the professional observer in him couldn't help noticing how attractive she looked in her halter top and jeans. Journalistically speaking, that is.

Clearing his mind, he tried to focus his attention on the guest again. This guy was beyond ridiculous. In the glare of television lights, Jeremy thought the spirit guide looked constipated as he claimed to hear voices from beyond the grave. He had assumed a false intimacy, acting as if he were everyone's brother or best friend, and it seemed that the vast majority of the awestruck audience -- including the attractive blonde and the woman the guest was addressing -- considered him a gift from heaven itself. Which made sense, Jeremy thought, since that was always where the lost loved ones ended up. Spirits from beyond the grave were always surrounded by bright angelic light and enveloped in an aura of peace and tranquillity. Never once had Jeremy heard of a spirit guide channeling from the other, hotter place. A lost loved one never mentioned that he was being roasted on a spit or boiled in a cauldron of motor oil, for instance. But Jeremy knew he was being cynical. And besides, he had to admit, it was a pretty good show. Timothy Clausen was good -- far better than most of the quacks Jeremy had written about over the years.

"I know it's hard," Clausen said into the microphone, "but Frank is telling you that it's time to let him go now."

The woman he was addressing with oh-so-much empathy looked as if she was about to faint. Fiftyish, she wore a green-striped blouse, her curly red hair sprouting and spiraling in every direction. Her hands were clasped so tightly at chest level that her fingers were white from the pressure.

Clausen paused and brought his hand to his forehead, drawing once more on "the world beyond," as he put it. In the silence, the crowd collectively leaned forward in their seats. Everyone knew what was coming next; this was the third audience member Clausen had chosen today. Not surprisingly, Clausen was the only featured guest on the popular talk show.

"Do you remember the letter he sent you?" Clausen asked. "Before he died?"

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