Perhaps moreso then other genres we in the mystery and crime fiction community love our opening lines. It doesn’t take much to start an argument or to get us trading our favorites like baseball cards. Hell, we like our opening lines so much that we actually have a canon. It’s a small one sure, but the simple fact that we have one says a lot about the obsession itself. Most of us have committed the great ones to memory and can quote them at will.
Once, at a Bouchercon a few years back, I saw two authors standing in the corner going toe to toe like battle rappers bouncing opening lines off of each other until one of them started to sweat and stutter before admitting defeat by slinking away and crying. This dude was inconsolable at the bar later that night. True story swear to god.
Initially I was going to do a Top 10 Opening lines of 2010 post because…why not. I had read some good ones and this seemed like a fun way to talk about books. I decided that instead of a top 10 list that I would kick off the first annual award for opening lines. This award can only have one name, The Fireball.
So without further adieu (and tongue firmly planted in cheek) I give you the nominees for The 2010 Fireball award.
Please cast your vote for the best opening line of 2010 in the poll below. The poll will close on 1/30/11 and on 1/31/11 I’ll announce the winner.
Feel free to defend and debate the selections in the comments.
“Imagine shoving a cattle prod up a rhino’s ass, shouting “April fool!”, and hoping the rhino thinks it’s funny.” — Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey
“The night they were hijacked, Roxy Palmer and her husband, Joe, ate dinner with an African cannibal and his Ukrainian whore.” — Wake up Dead by Roger Smith
“Fuck you” — Savages by Don Winslow
“Patience was always a sucker’s game.” — Late Rain by Lynn Kostoff
“One bullet can really fuck up your day.” — Baked by Mark Haskell Smith
“The kid’s left arm angles out of the dirty snow like a stick of broken black kindling.” — Pike by Benjamin Whitmer
“The Rutherford girl had been missing for eight days when Larry Ott returned home and found a monster waiting in his house.” — Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
“A year later, when it was Harry Hudson’s blood on the floor of the Chieu Hoi Saloon, Mama Thuy remembered the first time she’d seen him — a big guy in a tweed jacket, helping Rita and Navy Swede mop somebody else’s blood from around the legs of the pool table.” — the Chieu Hoi Saloon by Michael Harris
“She turned over in bed, ran her fingers through the wet thatch of his chest hair, and said, “I want you to kill my husband.” – The Last Deep Breath by Tom Piccirilli
“So she walks in, trying to look cool, trying to look like nothing has happened, like nothing has gone wrong, but it’s difficult because she still feels the ghost of the revolver’s handle pressed against her palm and the scent of gunpowder in her nostrils.” – Katja From the Punk Band by Simon Logan
“Eager Gillespie once told me he’d be more likely to shit a diamond than live to see his twenty-first birthday.” – Day One by Bill Cameron
“TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: My name is Wilfred Leland James, and this is my confession.” – 1922 by Stephen King