Several years ago, when I took my first stab at writing fiction, I was greatly influenced by the work of James Scott Bell. Some time later, at a convention and with my heart pounding, I met Jim for the first time. Recently we enjoyed a writer's conference together where I felt I got to know him better. On the last night of the conference he autographed a copy of his latest work for me. After I returned home, I snuck away to the beach where I enjoyed surf, sun, and A Greater Glory, by James Scott Bell (Bethany, 2003). As quickly as I could, I interviewed him. Here's what he shared with me:

Eva: Jim, what fiction authors inspire you?

Jim: I've had so many influences in my life: Hemingway, Saroyan, Chandler, Hammett, John D. MacDonald, Lawrence Block, Dean Koontz, Stephen King. For style and storytelling, of course, not necessarily content. I enjoy bringing the suspense style to Christian books.

Eva: Your newest book, A Greater Glory, begins a new series from the "Shannon Saga," a trilogy written with Tracie Peterson. What made you decide to continue with Kit Shannon's story alone?

Jim: I had the concept for this series and when Bethany bought it they offered a suggestion about teaming me with Tracie. I wasn't entirely sure about this, but they flew us to Minneapolis to meet and we just hit it off. Tracie is such a great person, both as a writer and partner. But we sort of agreed from the start that after the first three, if Bethany wanted more, I'd do them myself. Tracie has other series of her own to attend to.

What's so great is that the voice we developed together is now in my head, and that's how I'm doing the current series.

Eva: We are both novelists. Novels are born out of a passion. What was yours for Kit's story?

Jim: I wanted to do something that was a legal thriller, but also a little different. No one had done a historical legal thriller, and I thought about what period of time might be exciting. Well, early 1900s Los Angeles was a really exciting period, and not much has been done on it. Since I grew up in L.A. and love the history, it was a natural.

So who should be the hero? It also happens that women were just getting into the law at that time. I thought that a young Christian woman, whose mother had been defrauded by lawyers, might have the grit to try it. Kit Shannon was born, an Irish American with moxie and a Christian heritage. I hope that my Kit Shannon books can become a real alternative for many readers.

Eva: Okay, Jim, I will have to say you impressed me with your pick of time and place. Why that period and why that city?

Jim: To expand on what I said above, this was a time when L.A. was moving from an Old West and Mexican Rancho sort of feel to a real city, with intimations of greatness. It was like America at the time, too, as people were starting to move from the rural areas into cities in greater numbers. The auto was coming into vogue, a little item called moving pictures, airplanes. There were big men with big ambitions--Harrison Gray Otis of the L.A. Times, and William Randolph Hearst of the L.A. Examiner. There was just a lot going on.

And the courtrooms were wild places, too. Earl Rogers, a character in the series, was a real person, and many consider him the greatest trial lawyer who ever lived. Unfortunately, the bottle caught up with him. Other people of the time who pass through the books are John Barrymore, Theodore Roosevelt, Jack London, Harry Houdini and Carry Nation.

Eva: In A Greater Glory, you spin several stories of intrigue at once...and manage to do so very well, by the way. You draw in the magic of Houdini, the spies of pre-World War I, the tricks of journalism and what we, today, call "rag mags." How did you do the research for all this?