Endangered: A Novel 
by Jean Love Cush 


             A SON ACCUSED OF MURDER...

                                      A SYSTEM RIDDLED WITH BIAS...

An innocent black teenager is accused of murder in this provocative and compassionate thriller that skillfully probes issues of race, class, crime, and injustice and offers a searing portrait of modern America.

From the time her son, Malik, could walk, Janae Williams taught him that the best way to stay alive and out of trouble with the law was to cooperate. Terrified for his safety, she warned him, “raise your hands high, keep your mouth shut, and do whatever they say,” if the police ever stopped him. But when a wave of murders hits Philadelphia and fifteen-year-old Malik is arrested, Janae’s fear is compounded by guilt and doubt—would Malik have escaped jail if he’d run?

Unable to pay for legal fees, Janae reluctantly allows Roger Whitford, a white human rights attorney, to represent Malik. With the help of an ambitious private attorney named Calvin Moore, Roger is determined to challenge the entire criminal justice system and expose its inherent bias against all black men. Armed with two decades of research, the attorneys make the unprecedented argument that black males should be protected under the law as an endangered species. This controversial case starts a media blitz that results in a firestorm of debate on race, prison and politics in America.



Four boys were hanging out on Fortieth Street. They had skipped school because they wanted to extend the Martin Luther King holiday weekend. They were dressed alike in blue jeans, leather jackets, and sneakers as if they were part of the same team. Except, one wore a green wool hat low on his head to protect his ears from the frigid cold.

The wind blew Malik Williams’s hoodie off his head, and he quickly snatched the covering back on. Eric Richardson’s numb hands were stuffed in his pants pocket. He drew his neck deeper into his leather jacket, wishing he had worn a scarf.

“Dude, give me some of your chips,” Eric said.

“I only have a little bit left,” D’Andre responded, flicking the outside of the foil bag with his gloved fingers.

“Then give me half of that.”

D’Andre extended the bag to Eric, then quickly tilted it to his own mouth and downed the rest of the crumbled potato chips.

Malik laughed. “Sucker! He played you.”

Eric shoved his hand, empty, back into his pants pocket. Embarrassed, he teased, “Who got played earlier today?”

Malik twisted his lips into a frown. “Man, you weren’t even there. What are you talking about?”

“Oh, snap!” D’Andre instigated, “Tell us again. Tell us what said to Sean G.”

Feeling himself, Malik puffed out his chest. “I was like hell no!”

Suddenly, there was the sound of police sirens. The noise was getting closer, clearly heading toward the young boys. Louder and louder. The sound of fifty cats screaming. Malik could feel the building vibration of the noise through the soles of his sneakers. His heart began to beat faster.

The potato chip bag fell to the ground as red and blue lights flashed brightly against the dimming sky.

Eric tugged on his friend Malik’s arm, but Malik was an immoveable force. His mother’s words, which rang in his head, would not allow him to go along and escape with the others. For me, Malik, do what they say. He could see her warm smile in his mind and knew there was no way he was going to let her down. Eric tried to pull him again before running away at full speed, knowing the police were there to harm them, not help.

Malik spun around in a slow circle, a delayed reaction to his friends scrambling like ants to get behind closed doors. Before Malik could turn around completely, three Philly police cars came to a screeching halt in front of him, blowing up dis- carded fast-food wrappers, cigarette butts and mangled plastic bottles. Drivers’ and passengers’ doors swung open. Five officers exploded out of the cars with their guns drawn.

“Hands up! Hands up!” a short, white, balding man in uni- form ordered. The other four followed after him in V formation like geese migrating south.

Heavy, hot breath gushed from the lead officer’s mouth. His gun was pointed at Malik’s head. Four more barrels were directed at his chest.

“I didn’t do nothing,” Malik blurted as his hands went straight up. A lump formed in his throat, making swallowing almost impossible.

“Shut the fuck up,” the lead officer demanded. “Do you have a gun? Do you have a weapon?”

The policeman, with the name RHINEHOLD in all black capital letters engraved on a small bronze-colored rectangle on his chest, took wide steps toward Malik. He positioned the gun inches away from the young man’s head. Malik could see into the dark emptiness of the barrel.

“No! No!” He pressed his eyes shut.

Using his free hand, Officer Rhinehold reached up for Malik’s arm and yanked it toward his back, forcing the boy to flip over and crash headfirst to the ground. The officer’s booted foot immediately pressed hard into his back.

Blood spilled from a deep tear in Malik’s skin just above his right cheek, as pain reverberated through his body. It was impossible to tell if the source of the pain was the boot in his back, the unnatural twist and crack his body made as he was flipped to the ground, or from when his face bounced off the cold concrete like a deflated basketball.

He tasted blood. He was afraid to spit it out, not sure if the officer would take it as a sign of disrespect. He swallowed hard against the lump in his throat and suppressed his need to gag.

“I’m sick of yous punk asses running around here like a band of animals,” Officer Rhinehold said, frothing at the mouth. “You’re going straight to hell, where you belong.”

The officer bent over Malik and patted him down, from his splayed-out arms to his feet. He kicked Malik in the side of his rib cage, and the boy instinctively curled into the fetal position.

“Flat on the ground!” the officer fumed, kicking the boy again. Rhinehold then cuffed Malik and snatched him up by the hoodie that was hanging out of his leather jacket. He dumped him into the caged backseat of his cruiser.

( Continued... )

© 2014 All rights reserved. Book excerpt reprinted by permission of the author, Jean Love Cush. This excerpt is used for promotional purposes only. Do not reproduce, copy or use without the publisher's written permission. Copyright infringement is a serious offense. Share a link to this page or the author's website if you really like this promotional excerpt.

Purchase Endangered: A Novel by Jean Love Cush
Fiction; Thriller; Probes issues of race, class, crime, and injustice 






Intimate Conversation with Jean Love Cush

A native of Philadelphia, Jean Love Cush graduated magna cum laude from Temple University School of Communication. She later earned a law degree, and worked as a prosecutor for the Philadelphia district attorney's office. Jean also served as a family law attorney helping low-income women escape domestic-abuse situations through community outreach, advocacy, and legal representation. 

As the host of her own weekly radio show, Jean continued to pour her energy into issues that matter to her. As the on air personality of A View From the Summit, she tackled such issues as public safety, education, inner city violence and the plight of African American youth. It was while at the radio station that the idea and research for her novel Endangered came about.

Endangered was published by Amistad/HarperCollins and has received rave reviews. New York Times best selling authors Ashley and JaQuarvis call it “a gripping tale that captivates from the first page to the very last.” Publishers Weekly said the author “crafted a compassionate story that commands the reader’s attention,” while Ebony Magazine declared Endangered a “page turner.”

Jean is currently working on her third novel, The Missing, which is scheduled for release sometime in 2016.  While writing books has been a dream of Jean’s since childhood, her greatest loves are God, her two beautiful daughters Sydney and Haley and her husband Charles Cush.

BPM: What is Endangered about?
Endangered is about Janae Williams whose 15-year-old son, Malik, is accused of the latest murder in a wave of violence that has just been relentless in Philadelphia. She is desperate to prove his innocence but does not have the money it will take. In steps the internationally renowned human rights attorney Roger Whitford with an offer of a free legal defense, but there’s a catch. In exchange for his representation, Janae must allow Roger and his partner, Calvin Moore, to use her son’s case to expose what they believe is the inherent bias in the criminal justice system against all black males. They argue that black males should be protected under the law as an endangered species.

BPM: Tell us about your main characters. What makes each one special?
Endangered has a wonderful cast of characters. Janae Williams is by far the most complex character, and who grows the most in the story. From the moment she hears her son has been arrested for murder, she is absolutely convinced that he is innocent. Her greatest challenge is coming to terms with the fact that she was completely unprepared for what could have been predicted in their crime-ridden community. She’s been drifting through life—surviving but not really living. Her son’s arrest is a wake up call that could change their lives forever. 

Then there’s Roger Whitford, the successful and maybe even fanatical human rights attorney. He’s waited his whole life to bring down what he believes is a criminal justice system riddled with bias against black males. He thinks he’s found the perfect client in Janae’s son Malik. 

Finally, Calvin Moore rounds out the three main characters. He’s the self-made, high-powered attorney. He wants nothing to do with his underprivileged past until his philanthropic boss persuades him to help out on Malik’s case. Slowly he comes around, and with as much passion as his partner, he is determined to prove Malik’s innocence.

BPM: How did you come up with your story idea?
A few years back, I had the wonderful opportunity to host my own weekly radio show called A View From the Summit in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The format of the show was to cover local interest stories. There had been an up tick in the number of murders in the city, and almost all the victims and their perpetrators were black males. Around the same time, the beating death of Chicago honor student Derrion Albert made national news. Across the country people were talking about what could be done to curb the inner city violence. I decided to do a show on inner city violence. It wasn’t until after the show, when I could not shake what I had learned, that I realized that there was a story waiting to be told. I kept digging, broadening my research to include the imprisonment of black males.

With Endangered, I wanted to explore how the violence, bias and the criminal justice system impact the lives of people living in these communities. It was so important to me that Janae and her son, Malik, were strong, fully fleshed out characters and NOT caricatures of people from the “hood” that we too often see on 60 seconds news clips.

BPM: What should your readers take away from Endangered?
Wow, what a great question. I want my readers to turn the last page of Endangered feeling completely satisfied and entertained. But equally important to me is that they have a greater sense of compassion and understanding for what black boys living in the inner city face on a daily basis, including the threat of violence, the police and incarceration.

BPM: How does Endangered relate to current social issues?
Endangered opens with Malik having to confront the police on his own. His friends have all run away at the first sound of sirens because of their own fears and distrust of the cops. This 15-year-old child has to endure guns drawn on him, an unwarranted beating, and verbal abuse before he is tossed into the backseat of a cruiser without any explanation.

Malik’s survives his encounter with the police but his story is reminiscent of current events where black males and their families seem powerless to the machine of the criminal justice system.

One of the major questions or themes of Endangered is whether we as a society are really committed to the belief that all human life is valuable. Today, in the US, we are asking those same types of questions in light of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, Ramarley Graham and so many others.

BPM: What do you wish you had known when you started writing?
Oh, that’s an easy question for me—that writing is as much a business as it is art. When I started writing, I considered myself an artist. I didn’t want to have anything to do with the business side of things. Trust me, that is a surefire way to never get published whether you self-publish or go the traditional route. It’s only when I changed my mindset that I started to see things happen in terms of actually getting my stories to readers. While in my heart I would rather sit at my computer all day and create, my brain tells me that there is other equally important work to do in order for readers to get to enjoy my stories.

BPM: How do you balance your personal life with your professional life as a writer?
To be honest, I don’t know that I do. I know I try really hard to create some semblance of balance. An interesting thing about writing is that once you’ve written the story, and it’s published, the other work of getting the word out begins. I try to include my family in promoting the book. If I go to a book signing, my two daughters help manage the sales, my husband is usually behind the camera taking pictures or video footage, all of which help me to be fully present for my readers. It’s a family affair!

BPM: Our life experiences, challenges and successes help define who we are on a personal and professional level. At what point in your career did you discover your real worth and own it?
This is more of a spiritual question for me. I remember when I graduated from law school and started practicing law as a prosecutor. I knew almost instantly that I didn’t want to be an attorney; that realization was absolutely devastating because I had invested so much time, energy and money into it. I didn’t stop practicing right away. I gave it a few years but my initial impression never changed. If I’m really honest, I knew most of my life that I wanted to be a writer but the law seemed like a practical thing to do. And how could I quit when I had beaten the odds of growing up very poor? But I did eventually give up the practice of law, and for some time I struggled with my “worth.” If I couldn’t define myself as an attorney then who was I? Now, I own my worth because it is not based on what I do but that I am a child of GOD.

BPM: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Definitely! I am blessed to be able to do what I love—write. And, I want to thank the readers in advance for their support. Also, remember once you have read Endangered, or any book by any author and loved the story, spread the word!!

BPM: How can readers discover more about you and your work?
Please visit the Jean Love Cush website — www.jeanlovecush.com
Like Jean Love Cush on Facebook — www.facebook.com/jeanlovecush
Follow Jean Love Cush on Twitter— www.twitter/jcush





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