Saturday, June 07, 2008

Enticing opening paragraphs

"There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge."
--Raymond Chandler in Red Wind.

9 comments:

Joseph said...

Everybody who wants to write mysteries should study every word that Chandler ever wrote.

Now I gotta go watch Big Brown win The Belmont.

Southern Writer said...

I haven't read Raymond Chandler, but this sounded strangely familiar. A lot like this:

The Santa Anas blew in hot from the desert, shriveling the last of the spring grass into whiskers of pale straw. Only the oleanders thrived, their delicate poisonous blooms, their dagger green leaves. We could not sleep in the hot, dry nights, my mother and I. I woke up at midnight to find her bed empty. I climbed to the roof and easily spotted her blond hair like a white flame in the light of the three-quarter moon.

(Janet Fitch / White Oleander)

Must be something about those Santa Anas.

Julia Buckley said...

I posted this exact same wonderful paragraph on DL last year, and a huge debate ensued, somehow, about whether Chandler was as good as Robert Crais and vice versa, and someone posted a similar Crais paragraph.

I thought Chandler was far better.

Dharma Kelleher said...

I love that the last line is such a non-sequitur.

Dharma in Phurnace, AZ
~where those Santa Ana winds do blow...

Joseph said...

Big Brown was eased at the head of the stretch.

That's why I never bet on anything with a heartbeat.

kitty said...

"The night was sultry."

-- Mrs. Lift in Throw Momma From The Train

...

Karen Duvall said...

Awesome first graph.

I think it's kind of fun to flip through books of different genres just to see how the author's chose to start their books. Some use atmosphere, some a conversation, some a memory from the past. And all are such a perfect reflection the author's voice right off the bat.

I've found the first paragraph to be the most difficult to get right. I usually don't perfect mine for a long while after the first draft is done.

I've been working on the first sentence of a book I finished in January for what seems like forever! Sticks and stones may break my bones, but I'd see them coming long before they hurt me.

MM said...

The Santa Ana's blow in Southern California. Its when the wind blows from east to west instead of off the coast. They are hot dry and miserable. But everyone from So. Cal knows that when the Santa Ana's are blowing anything can happen. Its sort of a local legend. Its mentioned frequently in LA based movies. I believe its used in LA Story and The Holiday.

Chumplet said...

So THAT'S Raymond Chandler! My opening paragraphs on Evil Editor mentioned the Chandler pulp and paper mill serving up its stink with extra sauce, and someone confused it with Raymond Chandler. Can't imagine how...