The First Two Pages: “There’s an Alligator in My Purse” by Paul D. Marks

In April 2015, B.K. Stevens debuted the blog series “The First Two Pages,” hosting craft essays by short story writers and novelists analyzing the openings of their own work. The series continued until just after her death in August 2017, and the full archive of those essays can be found at Bonnie’s website. In November 2017, the blog series relocated to my website, and the archive of this second stage of the series can be found here.

I first “met” Paul D. Marks when both of us were contributors at the group blog Criminal Mindsalternating in the Friday slot there—and soon after we became blog partners at SleuthSayers as well. In addition to commenting on one another’s posts, we quickly started up a correspondence on email—something resonating about our posts, our outlooks on crime fiction and on craft and more. Quickly too, we became more than blog partners or pen pals. We became friends. And despite us living on opposite coasts, I’m pleased to count him today as one of my closest friends in the crime fiction community.

Paul is a fine writer, whatever he’s writing, whether it’s an essay for one of his blogs or a novel, like his award-winning White Heat or the forthcoming sequel Broken Windows, or one of his terrific short stories. His story “Ghosts of Bunker Hill” for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine deservedly topped the magazine’s readers poll in 2016, and his story “Windward” for the anthology Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea, has earned a slew of honors: as finalist for this year’s Derringer, Macavity, and Shamus Awards, and as one of 20 stories selected for the forthcoming Best American Mystery Stories 2018 anthology, edited by Louise Penny and Otto Penzler.

Paul’s a generous editor too—and a successful one. He also co-edited two volumes of the Coast to Coast anthology, and the latest one continues to garner attention. It’s up for an Anthony Award this year for Best Anthology; another of the collection’s stories was selected for this year’s Best American Mystery Stories; and other stories have been named finalists for the Agatha, Anthony, Derringer, and Macavity Awards as well. (I was pleased that Paul invited me to contribute my own story to the collection, and it’s been an honor to have been part of the project’s great success. Thanks again, Paul!)

Today, Paul talks about his story for another collection: “There’s an Alligator in My Purse” for this year’s Bouchercon anthology, Florida Happens: Tales of Mystery, Mayhem, and Suspense from the Sunshine State, edited by Greg Herren, which will be released by Three Rooms Press on September 4. (You can pre-order here for pick-up at Bouchercon).

Paul’s First Two Pages essay is part of a series by contributors to Florida Happens; last week, Holly West talked about “The Best Laid Plans,” and the next two weeks will include reflections by Alex Segura and Debra Lattanzi Shutika. Stay tuned!

Please use the arrows and controls at the bottom of the embedded PDF to navigate through the essay. You can also download the essay here to read off-line.

Marks Alligator

4 thoughts on “The First Two Pages: “There’s an Alligator in My Purse” by Paul D. Marks

  1. Gayle Bartos-Pool

    A very good breakdown of what goes in those First Two Pages, Paul. Whether it’s a novel or a short story or a screenplay, you do have to have that hook to grab the potential reader/viewer. Your explanation was a crash course for writers on how and what to include/exclude. Also, I am so glad Art is keeping up Bk’s great blog.

    1. Art Taylor Post author

      Thanks so much, Gayle! I’m pleased to be continuing Bonnie’s fine work here, and I’m learning so much myself from other authors’ reflections on their work. It’s a pleasure here in so many ways.

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