Until by Timmothy B. McCann
(Avon, $12.00, PG) ISBN 0-380-80579-0
Timmothy B. McCann got by with a little help from his friends. Two years ago McCann wrote Until, the story of two African-American professionals who meet via the Internet. He couldnít find a publisher for his manuscript and decided to do it himself.

McCann used the ĎNet to send out e-mails and sample chapters and received feedback from hundreds of women around the world. His virtual focus group let him know when his work accurately captured the thoughts and feelings of real women and, when it did not. His hard work paid off. In six months, McCann sold 2,000 copies of Until from the comfort of his one-bedroom apartment in Florida. Publishers began to embrace the project. Avon reissued Until this summer.

Until is the story of Betty Anne Robinson and Andrew Patrick Staley. Betty is a trial attorney with a high-profile Florida law firm. She is in the early stages of a comfortable and loving relationship with Evander, a blue-collar worker ten years her senior. Drew is a financial planner who owns his own firm. He is scratching to build his business one client at a time. Drewís fiancťe, Felicia has recently died of cancer.

As their lives begin to take different turns, they intersect in a chat room on the Internet. She is ďDeltaDream.Ē He is ďDLastRomeo.Ē There, under the cloak of anonymity the Web provides them, Betty and Drew begin to chat.

DLastRomeo: Hello, DeltaDream, how are you tonight?

DeltaDream: How are you? Itís been a long time. I remembered you telling me about your girlfriend.

DLastRomeo: Iím impressed that you even remember. Itís been over a month since we chatted.

DeltaDream: Or longer. I very rarely come online anymore. But I remember the conversation because you donít often find intelligent life-forms on the information superhighway.

DLastRomeo: I guess thatís true. So how is Mr. Wonderful?

DeltaDream: Jeez. Was I that bad? You sound like my best friend. She says that all the time. Heís fine. Actually I canít chat too long tonight because he should be calling in about 45 minutes.

DLastRomeo: Iíll keep that in mind. So what do you do when you are not surfing the Internet and chatting with Romeos?

Conversation begets understanding which begets respect which begets something neither can define. Betty and Drew begin to connect on a personal level.

Timmothy B. McCann is among an increasing number of Black men who are producing relationship novels. He has done a good job with this, his first novel. In Until, McCann has captured the essence of the Internet chat culture. His story of two upwardly mobile African-American professionals touches on issues of racism and sexism without destroying the integrity of the basic plot.

However, the strength of the novel is not in the developing relationship between Drew and Betty, but in his characterization of Betty and in her conversations with her best friend Jacqui. Jacquetta Jordan is a scene stealer whose story demands to be told.

Until is a love story. It is not a romance, but a romance-in-progress and I would like to revisit these characters soon.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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