The First Two Pages: “No Postman, No Doorbell” by Dixon Hill

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 few weeks, the First Two Pages has hosted contributors to this year’s Bouchercon anthology, California Schemin’, which I was fortunate to edit and which is available now from Wildside Press. Jennifer Berg kicked things off with her essay on “Schemes in the Dark.” R.J. Koreto reflected on “The Hollywood Gangster.” And Chris Dreith wrote about “Old Soles.” Now this week, I’m pleased to welcome Dixon Hill whose story “No Postman, No Doorbell” tips its hat at James M. Cain from the start, even as it makes its own mark on the California landscape.

Or wait… was that the Texas landscape?

To understand that question, you’ll need to read the essay below, a fascinating look not only at the creative process but also at influences and inspirations, at the necessity of research, and at the power of perseverance, sometimes against all odds.

It’s a testament to Dixon Hill’s skill as a writer that his essay is nearly as entertaining—and nearly as full of plot twists!—as the story itself.

Do check out “No Postman, No Doorbell” in California Schemin’. The anthology also features stories by the conference’s 2020 Guests of Honor: Cara Black, Anthony Horowitz, Catriona McPherson, Walter Mosley, Anne Perry, and Scott Turow. And thirteen more tales round out the collection, by 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.

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.