Selma MannRead More
You may be familiar with my novels, but in recent years I've devoted more time to writing poetry, which I enjoy enormously. I've attached links to a few of my published poems. I've also included a link to a lovely literary journal called Conclave: A Journal of Character, which was kind enough to feature some of my poetry in the Autumn 2012 issue.
"One of America's bestselling authors turns his talents in a wonderful new direction with this rich gathering of poems. Armed with a storyteller's sensibility and his trademark humor, Bernhardt writes of 'children, work, the dreams of others' in this beautiful collection filled with longing and loss, irony and humor, the bittersweet complexities of parenting, the secret dreams of writers." – Rilla Askew, book blurb
My newest poetry collection explores the complex tapestry of family and the subtle interconnections that bind us to our past and forms the ballast to identity. Popular culture merges with classical allusions, weaving the colorful threads of a fabric composed of moments lived and still to be lived. These poems remind us that we are part of a collective history and that we are never alone.
This is the book that started it all. Young Ben Kincaid, fresh out of law school, joins a large Tulsa law firm, meets a spunky young legal assistant named Christina McCall, and is soon involved in mystery and murder. This book went through eight printings in the first three months of publication and fulfilled my lifelong dream of being a published writer.
I must admit that, at the time I wrote it, I didn't perceive Primary Justice as the first of a series, but after it started hitting the bestseller lists, the publisher wanted a sequel. This book finds Ben launching his own practice—and Christina is his first client, accused of murder. It also introduces Jones and Loving to the regular cast. Despite the grim plot description, this is possibly the funniest book in the series.
Ben tries working as in-house counsel for a large conglomerate, but murder still follows him even in corporate America. I was leading an Explorer Post when I wrote this, and my experience on the ropes course figures prominently in the book. I did only slightly better than Ben does.
My first hardcover was inspired by my involvement with HateWatch at the Poverty Law Center. It was my first book to win the Oklahoma Book Award. Ben goes head-to-head with a white supremacist militia group in a small town in Arkansas. This book was published more than a year before the Oklahoma City bombing. At the time it was released, many critics scoffed that I had made too much of these "backwoods bullies." After the bombing, no one ever said that again.
The best book I had ever written at the time, and still one of the very best in the series. Ben is involved in an illegal adoption that culminates in murder. Harry had just been born, so it is perhaps unsurprising that this book is, in the words of Publishers Weekly, "a meditation on good fathers, bad fathers, and fathers never known."
Another strong entry, especially for fans of courtroom drama, or readers wanting to know more about Ben's stormy relationship with his father. Ben represents Tulsa's mayor who has been charged with murdering his wife and children. Some superficial resemblances to the O.J. Simpson trial attracted too much of the critics' attention when the hardcover was released, but it was fabulously successful in paperback, possibly because it's a good book, or possibly because the title contains the word "Naked."
Readers learn a lot more about Ben and his past in this entry, not to mention his (and my) musical taste. This book also introduces Paula Jones, later to be Jones's wife, and reveals that Christina has been secretly going to law school at night. My mother called the ending "sublime"—one of my all-time favorite reviews. This book won the Southern Writers Guild's Gold Medal Award.
My first of several books with an environmental theme. Ben travels to the Pacific Northwest and soon becomes embroiled in a conflict between loggers and environmentalists. This was my second book to win the Oklahoma Book Award.
Christina graduates from law school, just in time to represent Ben when he's charged with murder. This is another of my favorites, and it's the first Ben book not to have the word "Justice" in the title. I had argued for this for some time, but was told a title change might impact sales. It did—for the better. This was my first book to hit the New York Times bestseller list.
I wanted to call this book "Bad Faith," a legal term from contract law that also encapsulates the theme of the book, which is Ben's exploration not only of religious faith, but faith in the law and other matters even closer to home.
I think this is the best book in the series; it's still the one I recommend first to new readers. Ben, a vocal long-time opponent of the death penalty, represents a man on death row in perhaps the most desperate of his cases, and in the process, learns something important about life that changes him forever. I love this book.