Friday, June 02, 2006

For Openers We Have ...

There are few things quite as satisfying as a good opening line to a novel. James Crumley rolled out a doozy in The Last Good Kiss (1978): “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 Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.” Gillian Roberts had us from the kick off of Till the End of Tom (2004): “My mind was on Steinbeck; my foot was on a hand.” And though it’s historical fiction, rather than crime fiction, Larry McMurtry unholstered a winner with the first sentence of his epic 1985 novel, Lonesome Dove: “When Augustus came out on the porch the blue pigs were eating a rattlesnake--not a very big one.”

In recognition of the special talent behind such punchy starts. The Drood Review and Crimespree magazine are holding the second-annual Ross Thomas Award contest. Nominations for great opening lines from thrillers and mysteries can be made at the Ross Thomas Award site until July 1, 2006. “Anyone can submit a line (or lines, up to 50 words), as long as the work from which it is taken was published in English in 2005,” the site explains. A tally of finalists will be announced on August 1, with the winner being named during Bouchercon 2006 in September.

The victor in last year’s contest as Californian Jennifer Apodaca, whose 2004 novel, Ninja Soccer Moms, began with these immortal words: “The thing about revenge is that it takes a woman who is well and truly pissed to get it right.” Runners-up included Terrill Lee Lankford (“I don’t believe in Heaven or Hell, but on any given night Los Angeles can do a pretty good imitation of either locale.”--Earthquake Weather) and Susan Kandel (“What a pity my vintage Maud Frizon pumps didn’t come with steel-reinforced toes.”--I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason).

This annual commendation honors U.S. thriller writer Ross Thomas, the two-time Edgar Award-winning author of The Cold War Swap (1966), The Fools in Town Are on Our Side (1970), and Briarpatch (1985). As award organizers explain, “Thomas was a master at creating opening paragraphs that grab readers’ attention.”

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