The First Two Pages: “Numbers Don’t Lie” by James McCrone

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.

Over the past two weeks, the First Two Pages has hosted essays by contributors to the anthology Low Down Dirty Vote, Volume 2: Jackie Ross Flaum on her story “Two Dead, Two Wounded” and David Hagerty on “An ERA of Inequality.” The full collections features a great line-up of additional writers, including Faye Snowden, Stephen Buehler, Tim O’Mara, Stormy White, M. J. Holt, Frank Rankin, Bev Vincent, Puja Guha, Gary Phillips, James McCrone, Madeline McEwen, Robert Lopresti, Camille Minichino, Jim Doherty, Terry Sanville, Ben Harshman, Sarah M. Chen, Gabriel Valjan, and Travis Richardson—and I’m especially pleased to welcome James McCrone, a good friend and a writer I’ve long admired, to talk today about his story, “Numbers Don’t Lie.”

McCrone is a novelist first and foremost, as he points out in the essay below—and a fine novelist too. I’ve recently finished reading (and blurbing!) McCrone’s forthcoming book, Emergency Powers, the finale to the “Faithless Elector” trilogy that also includes 2016’s Faithless Elector and 2017’s Dark Network, so I know how well he writes on that larger canvas—stories that are rich and complex and compelling. (You can find out more about McCrone’s novels at his website here, and check out his previous First Two Pages essay on Dark Network. ) But as he explains in the essay, “the short story form forced me to think and work differently.”

Find out more about McCrone’s new thinking, new working, and the new story below—and do check out his novels, terrific political thrillers often running neck and neck with the headlines!

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.