Thursday, November 13, 2008

Best first line since THE LAST GOOD KISS

Beyond the cover, which initially attracts the eye of a passing reader, a book's first line is very important to winning over potential book buyers. One of my personal favorites in crime fiction is this, from John D. MacDonald's DARKER THAN AMBER (the 7th Travis McGee):

We were about to give up and call it a night when somebody dropped the girl off the bridge.

Probably the most famous in the genre is the late James Crumley's THE LAST GOOD KISS:

When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonora, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.

Who wouldn't want to keep going after that?

Well, I mention this because a reviewer for Booklist (in a starred review) recently had a few nice things to say about Reed Farrel Coleman's new Joe Serpe novel, THE FOURTH VICTIM (writing as Tony Spinosa; Bleak House):

"Spinosa, aka Reed Farrel Coleman, has ginned up a really hard-edged novel set in a wonderfully gritty milieu and filled with fully fleshed characters. The plot lays out a labyrinthine but believable trail of violence, murder, corruption, politics, deep-dyed racism, and big money. Serpe and Healy are a terrific odd couple, but a dozen lesser characters are also compelling, often for their sheer coarseness or loathsomeness. Even Spinosa's depiction of the fiercely competitive, hardscrabble business of home heating-oil delivery rings with authenticity (the author actually has a commercial license to convey hazmat materials). If thats not enough, the first line of this fine novel... is one of the two best first lines this reviewer has come across in 25 years of hard-boiled reading (the opening to James Crumley's The Last Good Kiss is still the best)."

The first line of THE FOURTH VICTIM:

At his best, Rusty Monaco was a miserable, self-absorbed prick, and tonight he was paying even less attention than usual to the world outside his head.

Now, I open the floor to you (if anyone's listening)... What is your favorite opening line from a mystery or thriller?


David Thompson said...

Oh, another good one is from Tom Piccirilli's THE COLD SPOT: "Chase was laughing with the others during the poker game when his grandfather threw down his cards, took a deep pull on his beer, and with no expression at all shot Walcroft in the head."

pattinase (abbott) said...

On those cloudy days, Robert Neville was never sure when sunset came, and sometimes they were in the streets before he could get back.

Tell me anyone could stop reading after that opening.

I AM LEGEND, Richard Matheson

Jeff Abbott said...

You hit my all-time favorite with DARKER THAN AMBER. Simple and powerful.

paulbrazill said...

"Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don't know. I had a telegram from the home: 'Mother passed away. Funeral tomorrow. Yours sincerely.' That doesn't mean anything. It may have been yesterday."

sexy said...