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Opening Shots

Opening Shots

Take a “glimpse beyond the page and into the mind of the writer”, and discover the first published stories of mystery and crime writers.

Collected in Opening Shots are the stories of twenty authors spanning the years from 1952 to 2000.  These are the first published works of such mystery icons as Simon Brett, Max Allan Collins, Loren D. Estleman, Joan Hess, Peter Lovesey, Margaret Maron, Sara Paretsky, Donald E. Westlake, and Lawrence Block.  Block also serves as the anthology’s editor as well as providing the book’s introduction.

Block writes, “when I hit on the premise of this particular anthology, it struck me that a collection of first stories by prominent mystery writers would be not only entertaining but instructive.”  It is indeed.  Any budding mystery writer will find this collection a gold mine of successfully constructed stories that opened that first door to publication.  Additionally, a short essay prefaces each work, illuminating valuable backstory for readers and writers about each story’s creation.

As an example, in his story introduction, Block mentions how an editor from Manhunt—a magazine for “tough-minded crime stories“—liked his story.  “If I could come up with a snappy ending,” writes Block.  A couple revisions later—and a fortuitous new job—and the story was accepted.  His story, “You Can’t Lose”, ends with as snappy an ending as its beginning.

“Anyone who starves in this country deserves it.  Really.  Almost anybody who is dumb enough to want to work can get a job without any back-breaking effort.”  So begins Block’s brief story about a con artist.  The narration recalls the style of Block’s novel, Grifter’s Game.  Though perhaps a bit rougher around the edges.  Then the narrator gives us a name—a familiar one—Leonard Blake.  It’s the same name con artist Joe Marlin uses in Grifter’s Game, suggesting the narrators might very well be one and the same.

The anthology also includes: “Laud” by David Black; “Double Glazing” by Simon Brett; “Public Servant” by Max Allan Collins; “Spring Fever” by Dorothy Salisbury Davis; “The Tree on Execution Hill” by Loren D. Estleman; “Now’s the Time” by John Harvey; “Death of a Romance Writer” by Joan Hess; “Compliments of a Friend” by Susan Isaacs; “The Bathroom” by Peter Lovesey; “The Death of Me” by Margaret Maron; “Freedom” by Susan Moody; “The Dripping” by David Morrell; “A Taste of Life” by Sara Paretsky; “Fan Mail” by Peter Robinson; “Jim and Mary G” by James Sallis; “The White Death” by Justin Scott; “The Tinder Box” by Minette Walters; and “Arrest” by Donald E. Westlake.

Anthologies such as these are an ideal venue in which readers can discover new authors.  This hardcover volume was published in 2000.  Copies are still available for sale online or, perhaps, may be found at your local library.  It’s worth tracking down to enjoy these stories that launched more than a dozen careers!

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Categorised in: Mystery, Reviews

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  1. Grifter’s Game « The Poisoned Martini
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