07 December 2018

Opening Lines: Best and Favorite

OK, we've had a few posts about opening lines but I do not think we SleuthSayers put up a post about the favorite and the best opening lines of a short story and novel we have written. So here is my subjective opinion of mine.

The Best opening line of a novel I've written is:

The wail of bagpipes echoes through the cold fog and silences the men at the earthen rampart behind the Rodriguez Canal.
– from BATTLE KISS (2011)

American breastworks at The Battle of New Orleans battlefield, Chalmette, LA
Photo ©2011 O'Neil De Noux

My favorite opening line of a novel I've written is:

There is no trick-or-treating Halloween night, two months AK – After Katrina.
– from CITY OF SECRETS (2013)

Photo of sculpture Mackenzie by Vincent De Noux used on cover of CITY OF SECRETS

The Best opening line of a short story I've written is:

It was a kiss with promise behind it, as much promise as a good girl would give, enough to make my heart race as we stood under the yellow bulb of her front gallery.
– from "Too Wise" (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Vol 132, No. 5, November 2008 Issue

My favorite opening line of a short story I've written is:

The black German shepherd wasn't a cadaver dog but she found the skeleton in the hideaway closet under the stairs of the unpainted, wooden shotgun house.
– from "Just a Old Lady" (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Vol. 60, No. 9, September 2015 Issue)

Lagniappe. How about a Worst? Here is the Worst opening line of a story I wrote that was published:

It was a dark and stormy night with the wind barking through the mangroves like the voices of angry two-year olds fighting over crayons and I dreamt of a land far away, very far away, a helluva distance away, probably on the other side of the world where it wasn't dark nor was there a storm barking through the mangroves, a place where the mangroves were peaceful and green and I could sit reading Shelley or Keats or maybe Sidney Shelton without the wind whipping the pages of my book or the rain pelting my eyes, blurring my vision of Daphne in a see-through dress with the sunlight streaming through the diaphanous material and I could see all her goodies and make yummy sounds as she slinked up to me like a skank in the night (no, it wouldn't be night because we would be on the other side of the world and the sun would be shining – through her dress).
– from "Like a Stank in the Night" (Hardboiled Sex 2006 Collection)

So what are your favorite and best opening lines? What about your worst?



  1. My best? maybe this: "The sun was streaming through the back window at Demeter's Bar as the old man sipped his drink and started talking about genetic engineering."---from "Shine On, Harvest Moon." Published online on authorjeffbaker.com., April 20, 2018.

    My worst? Too many to chose from! :)

  2. I don't know if I have a best opening line, but I vividly remember an opening line that literally opened a whole novel:" On Friday, Harry invited the crazy man to dinner." I think it got changed a bit in the final copy but it was enough to start Anna Peters on another mystery.

  3. Some great stuff, O'Neil. I especially like the line about the German Shepherd.

    Here's one of my fave opening lines from one of my works, White Heat: "My father always said I was a fuckup, that the only reason we get along is ’cause he keeps his mouth shut. Maybe he’s right:"

  4. These are great, O'Neil. I'm with Paul about the German Shepherd.

    I can't tell my best opening lines (If any even exist), but I know my favorites. From novels:

    "No way in hell her real name is Taliesyn Holroyd." That's from Who Wrote the Book of Death?
    "Kevlar makes Hendrix itch." from The Whammer Jammers.

    My favorite short story lines:

    "Bish Underwood hasn't told the girl on the couch a single lie yet, which is a very good sign." From Hot Sugar Blues, which was nominated for an Edgar. It's still one of only two stories that sold to the first place I sent it.

    "When Rick punched in the first night, both Vic and Josef told him to wear a hat or he'd be bald before the end of the summer." That's from The Girl in the Red Bandanna.

    I have several opening lines that are best left unmentioned.

    What strikes me now is that many of my opening lines are actually a straight line or set up for the SECOND line. I never noticed that before. The second line of Hot Sugar Blues is "Of course, she's only been here ten minutes."

  5. All of mine are from short stories. So, my best:
    From Broad Daylight, "When we arrived, Jack Olson was lying in a pool of blood on Carl Jacobsen’s study floor."
    From Certified: "Marriage is an honorable estate, and God knows needs all the support it can get these days."
    From Death of a Good Man: "Connor blew into Laskin like an ancient prophet, in a chariot of fire: a ’72 Chevy Nova billowing black smoke."
    From Miss West's First Case: "January 6, 1947, and I hadn’t seen my boss, Ron Conroy, since January first, when he’d sneaked out of my flat at dawn holding his shoes and socks."

    My worst? Do you think I'm really going to share them?
    Steve, I too noticed (doing the research for this) that many of my opening lines are set-ups for the second line, when the crap hits the fan.

  6. My best is from a 700-word story called The One I Loved: "I hardly ever gave her a thought any more, not till the day her lookalike pulled up to the Quick Sack."

    Or from the 250-word story Who Knew?: "Reynaldo was my bud from day one. He wasn't Indian like the rest of us in Special Ed."

    Worst ... from my drabble Frozen Meat: "No popsicles!"

  7. The first sentence in ‘8 Across’ (AHMM April 2008) almost became ‘Saxicolous.’ However, I added a preface, “The Great Valley slices through Mexico’s axis at a ‘depth’ of 7500 feet ABOVE sea level, a
    half mile higher than Denver, the Mile High City, which rises less than 5300 feet. From the basin
    floor, mountains climb to a height exceeding three and a half miles, and along these mountainsides
    perch villages as ancient as any habitations in the Americas.”

    I’m not quite certain how that jumped from one word to so many.


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