The First Two Pages: “A Nice Pair of Guns” by Nick Kolakowski

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.

When Nick Kolakowski reached out about contributing a “First Two Pages” essay, I assumed he’d want to write about his new book Slaughterhouse Blues, just released from Down & Out Books’ Shotgun Honey label. But instead, he’s focusing today on an older story, “A Nice Pair of Guns,” originally published in ThugLit.

His reasons for the choice are good ones—and give their own behind-the-scenes glance at how writers think about craft. As he told me in our email chat about this: “I tried to do Slaughterhouse Blues, but it opens with a very straightforward (and gruesome) WWII flashback. Although I love it, and I’m happy with it, it didn’t provide as much material for dissection as I initially thought; so after a couple of attempts, I shifted to a noir story whose opening gave me some real trouble.”

I appreciate so much how Nick’s essay addresses that trouble and how he overcame those challenges by bucking some traditional writing advice. But I also want to add how much I appreciated our conversation about another aspect of the story—that “nice pair of guns” themselves, two AR-15s, a type of firearm which have been very much in the news given their continuing role in too many mass shootings. Nick offered these comments as a preface to his essay:

Following the Parkland school shootings, America is in the midst of an intense discussion about gun control. The short story discussed below, “A Nice Pair of Guns,” features a character hunting for his lost AR-15 rifles; he wasn’t the most responsible gun owner, and he pays for that fact. However you feel about firearms, it’s important that gun safety remains a paramount consideration. If you’re interested in exploring this issue further, the Council on Foreign Relations has a great primer on gun policy in the United States and its influence on the homicide rate; the Giffords Law Center also analyzes the nation’s rates of gun violence.  

In addition to his essay and the story here, do check out Nick’s other work, including the first book in the series that Slaughterhouse Blues continues, A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps, also published by Down & Out. Nick’s crime fiction has appeared in Thuglit, Shotgun Honey, Crime Syndicate Magazine, Mystery Tribune, and various anthologies, and he tweets at @nkolakowski.

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.

Kolakowski Nice Pair of Guns