Because I write for a living, I take it seriously and am always trying to be a better writer. For that reason, I subscribe to several twitter feeds that offer suggestions and advice for writers. One recently linked to an interesting list, the 100 Best First Lines of Novels. Number one, of course, is “Call me Ishmael,” from Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. It was fun to see what made the list, but I happened upon a book I’d never heard of with a very cool first line. The book is called The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley, written in 1978.
It made number 85 on the list, with the following first line:
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 Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.
One critic described Crumley’s writing as a “cross between Raymond Chandler and Hunter S. Thompson,” which puts him in good company as far as I’m concerned. Another account said “The Last Good Kiss has been described as “the most influential crime novel of the last 50 years” and yet I’d never heard of it. I was intrigued enough to order the book.
For the Vintage paperback edition, Rick Lovell, did this great illustration with the alcoholic dog Fireball Roberts lapping up beer from an ashtray in a seedy looking motel. In case you’re curious, the painting on the back wall is La Grande Odalisque by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, the original of which hangs in the Louvre. This could easily be included in my Beer In Art series.
Stephen Beaumont says
Speaking of the late Dr. Thompson, I must decry the absence of “We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold,” from Fear and Loathing, of course.
I just ran across this book myself recently, and it is absolutely a fantastic slice of semi-modern (early 70s) noir.