Thursday, April 9, 2015

Great opening sentences: Hard-boiled edition

A friend recently got me started reading the novels of Roger Zelazny, who's been in the business since the Sixties. He started me out with the full collection of Amber novels, and he followed it up with A Night In The Lonesome October. I liked the Amber chronicles, although my favorite was the first of the ten (!) books, partly because of its noir – even Marlowe-esque – action and tone (which were quickly lost once it became a still-enjoyable, but no longer the same, dimension-shifting story of sword and magic). Lonesome October, on the other hand, will probably become my annual Halloween read. It's that good.

Zelazny also wrote the dreadful Damnation Alley early in his career (it was made into the barely-recognizable yet somehow even more dreadful movie of the same name starring Jan Michael Vincent and George Peppard).

But I tell you all that to tell you this: I'm currently reading Zelazny's The Dead Man's Brother, an ultrapulp mystery thriller written in 1971 but for whatever reason not published until 2009 (the fact that Zelazny died in 1995 could be a factor: Harper Lee, pick up the white courtesy phone; Harper Lee, the white courtesy phone, please).

And it begins with this sentence:
I decided to let him lie there, since he was not likely to bother anyone, and I went to the kitchen to make coffee.
As long-time readers know, I curate a small collection of classic first sentences, and this just made the list. So I figure that, however guilty, this will be a pleasure.

In fact, I think I'll put it in a display next to this little treasure.

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