The First Two Pages: “Schemes in the Dark” by Jennifer Berg

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.

In a little more than a week, this year’s Bouchercon will be kicking off, with virtual events Friday, October 16, and Saturday, October 17. I’m pleased to be taking part in the event myself—as a panelist and as a finalist for both the Anthony and the Macavity Awards—and especially thrilled to be associated with Bouchercon in another way too: as editor of the 2020 Bouchercon Anthology, California Schemin’, available now from Wildside Press.

The anthology features stories by Bouchercon’s 2020 Guests of Honor—Cara Black, Anthony Horowitz, Catriona McPherson, Walter Mosley, Anne Perry, and Scott Turow, a killer lineup!—as well as 13 stories selected through a blind submission process. That baker’s dozen of tales comes from Jennifer Berg, David Boop, Chris Dreith, Dixon Hill, Kim Keeline, R.J. Koreto, Joyce Kreig, Ellen Clair Lamb, Eileen Rendahl, Christopher Ryan, Linda Townsdin, Gabriel Valjan, and Carrie Voorhis.

Throughout October, the First Two Pages will host essays by several of these contributors, beginning today with Jennifer Berg, whose novel The Charlatan Murders will be released in 2021 by Level Best Books as part of the 1950s Elliott Bay Mystery series; two more titles are on the further horizon—The Blue Pearl Murders and The Hatbox Murders—and Berg is working on the fourth in the series now.

In the meantime, it’s a personal honor to be presenting Jennifer’s first published short story, “Schemes in the Dark,” as part of California Schemin’. And I’ll admit I was surprised to learn that it was her first published short story, since the whole thing was written with such confidence and style.

Check out Jennifer’s essay below, read the full story in the collection itself, and stay tuned for more essays ahead by other California Schemin’ contributors: Chris Dreith, Dixon Hill, and R.J. Koreto. And don’t forget to tune in for this year’s Bouchercon itself—such a fun time ahead for all! (…but really wishing were were together in person rather than in spirit.)

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.


3 thoughts on “The First Two Pages: “Schemes in the Dark” by Jennifer Berg

  1. Pingback: The First Two Pages: “The Hollywood Gangster” by R.J. Koreto – Art Taylor

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  3. Vinnie

    Congratulations, Jennifer, on your first published short story! What a coup to have it published in a B-Con anthology. I enjoyed your essay, too. The close third-person narration works very well. I didn’t even notice the “camera” moving in and out from Alice. To me, that’s exactly the way this POV should work. Well done.

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