The First Two Pages: “Better Days” by Art Taylor

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’m indulging myself a bit today by featuring a First Two Pages essay on one of my own stories, “Better Days,” in the new May/June 2019 issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. As I mentioned in my introduction to last week’s essay—by Mark Stevens on his story “A Bitter Thing” from the same issue—this EQMM features an extraordinary line-up, including David Dean, Brendan DuBois, Martin Edwards, Janice Law, William Burton McCormick, Josh Pachter, Mark Stevens, Marilyn Todd, and Dave Zeltserman, and I’m honored to have my own story featured alongside theirs.

“Better Days” is the follow-up to an earlier story that appeared in EQMM‘s pages: “A Drowning at Snow’s Cut,” from the May 2011 issue, which won the next year’s Derringer Award for Best Long story. Both stories focus on a journalist and his father—both on their investigative teamwork (the father leading the way ultimately!) and their relationship, sometimes prickly but equally warm when it counts the most. And both are set along the North Carolina coast, a place where my own family has visited, vacationed, and lived for much of my own life—and which I’m so thrilled to revisit in my fiction (feels like home).

I hope you enjoy the essay below and check out the full story in the new EQMM.

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