The First Two Pages: “Limited Liability” by Sarah Weinman

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 can no longer remember when I first met Sarah Weinman—at some Bouchercon most likely—but I’d long been following her work and have continued not only to follow her career but to be a devoted fan of her writings, both her nonfiction and her fiction. In fact, I’ve regularly taught one of the collections she edited in my “Women of Mystery” course at George Mason University: Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives: Stories from the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense offers not only a terrific selection of stories but also an insightful introduction—both scholarly and entertaining—and Sarah graciously Skyped into class the first time I taught the collection, a highlight of that semester.

That book was just the first of Sarah’s successes. She also edited The Library of America’s two-volume collection Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s and 1950s. She wrote The Real Lolita, which examines the true crime that may have inspired Vladimir Nabokov’s masterpiece and which was named a Best Book of 2018 by NPR, BuzzFeed, The National Post, Literary Hub, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Vulture in addition to winning the Arthur Ellis Award for Excellence in Crime Writing and the Macavity Award for nonfiction. And her latest book is coming out in July: Unspeakable Acts: True Tales of Crime, Murder, Deceit, and Obsession, an anthology that Booklist has already declared as “Essential reading for all true crime fans.”

In addition to her work in nonfiction—and I haven’t even mentioned the many (many, many!) articles and essays she’s written, including this recent piece on mystery audiobooks in the New York Times—Sarah is also a fine fiction writer, whose work has appeared in many anthologies and in both Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.

Today at the First Two Pages, Sarah talks about “Limited Liability” from the current issue of AHMM. I hope you’ll enjoy this glimpse at the story and check out the new issue to read it in full. You can also find out more about Sarah and her work at her website and be sure to follow her on Twitter too.

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.


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