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First Lines

by Terry Carroll

James Crumley, who recently died, is credited with one of the best opening lines in hardboiled fiction.

From The Last Good Kiss:

"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 Sonora, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon."

Crumley claimed it took him eight years to write that line.

It may have taken him eight years to polish the sentence.

The claim about eight years brings to mind a mystery I'm sure I'll die without solving: Of all the lines in a 65,000-word novel, why is the first one the toughest?

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