Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Zingers: First Lines with Grab

First lines. We have all picked an unknown novel off the shelves of a favorite bookstore, thumbed to the beginning and read the first line only to be dragged into the story with a compelling, frightening, or witty opening. Here are a few—three to be exact—opening lines that reached out and grabbed me. They act as the hook, and the author spends the rest of the novel reeling you in.

“Richler didn’t want to interview Reno, the coward, reprobate, and whiner, but newspaper correspondents don’t always have a choice.”

Richard Wheeler is known for compelling first lines, and his novel, An Obituary for Major Reno, opens with a zinger—it not only makes me want to read further, but it gets me curious just who Reno is, and why he is such an unlikable sonuvabitch.

“The corpse might as well have been in a minefield, surrounded by razor wire, and guarded by trigger-happy snipers. There was no way Adrian Monk would go near it.”

How can you stop reading Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu, with an opener like this? I dare you, try. And just why won’t Monk go near it? Gets you curious, doesn’t it.

“When the port wing began to flap I knew I was in trouble, not that I hadn’t been for some time.”

Jack Higgins—his older work at any rate—is one of my favorite writers. And this first line from The Last Place God Made is an example why. His work is dramatic, fun, and takes you places you have never before been. And damn if his opening lines don’t make you curious of what is happening, and why.

If any of you have read first lines you think are particularly defining, or sensational, or just damn good send them to me: My Email.


Anonymous said...

Yeah those early Jack Higgins books--just about flawless for what they were. A Prayer for The Dying is still my favorite Higgins; I even like the baroque and in some ways inexplicable film version Mike Hodges made of it. Right up to the double grand opera in the last few minutes. I assume Hodges was put in a rest home shortly thereafter.
Ed Gorman

Benjamin Boulden said...

I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I saw the film version of A PRAYER FOR THE DYING before I read the novel. When I finally did read the novel--a few months later--I couldn't help but picture Mickey Rourke as the disillusioned Martin Fallon, and all the rest of the cast--Bob Hoskins, Alan Bates, etc.--as the novel revealed itself.

I very much enjoyed PRAYER, and the film version is probably at the top of my list of films made from Jack Higgins' novels.