The Magical Lure of the Intimate Voice

I have written here and elsewhere of the power of a great opening line. If you can imagine a bookstore as a crowded singles bar with each book hoping to get lucky, that first sentence essentially functions as the author's pick-up line. Sure, a sexy book jacket helps, since it ...

Bringing Up the Rear: The Literary Mic Drop

Many years ago, my agent offered me the following advice: "The most important sentence of your novel is the first one. The second most important sentence is the last one." There certainly have been vivid, memorable first lines, many of which we can quote by heart--from "Call me Ishmael" in Herman Melville's Moby Dick to ...

From Hard-Boiled Mysteries to Film Noir to the World

Earlier this month, the St Louis Jewish Film Festival asked me to introduce the screening of Fire Birds, an Israeli murder mystery set in Tel Aviv (with English subtitles). To prepare my introductory remarks, I watched the film. Somewhere toward the middle of the movie, I had my epiphany. "Thank ...

The Big Lebowski Meets The Big Sleep

The other night I settled down to watch "The Big Lebowski," a terrific Coen brothers film that features three of my favorite actors (Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, and Steve Buscemi) playing three of my favorite characters (the Dude, Walter Sobchek, and Donny Kerabatsos). The Dude, Donny, and Walter I'd last watched ...

Who Tells the Story: From the Bible to Marlowe

Who will tell the story? Every author must answer that question before typing "Chapter One" at the top of that first page. Not who will write the story. That's the author's job. But who will tell it? Who will serve as the narrator? One common answer is known as Third Person Omniscient. That's ...

Mystery #1 for Literary Snobs: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

The topic of my last post on the Poisoned Pen Press blog was about the challenge of convincing literary snobs that there are indeed great works of literature that meet all criteria of that lowly genre known as Mystery. The 3 basic requirements of the genre (as more fully explained ...