The First Two Pages: “Mr. Tesla Likes to Watch” by Joseph D’Agnese

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 first met Joseph D’Agnese and his wife Denise Kiernan at the Bouchercon in Raleigh in 2015. Joe had won the Derringer Award in the Flash Fiction category that year for “How Lil’ Jimmie Beat the Big C” in Shotgun Honey, and it was a big year for him in other ways too: Another of his stories, “Harm and Hammer” from Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, had been selected for the Best American Mystery Stories 2015. I was fortunate to be presenting that year’s Derringer Awards at Bouchercon—and at Joe’s blog, you can read his fun account of the convention and the award ceremony. But as much as that ceremony, I remember chatting with Joe and Denise at the bar, how he was as lively and interesting in person as his fiction was on the page—and Denise too, I should add, a brilliant and bestselling writer!—and it’s been a pleasure to keep up with both of them in the years since, following their publications and successes but also counting them as friends.

All that in mind, it’s a real pleasure to host Joe’s essay today on his story in the new issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. I truly loved “Mr. Tesla Likes to Watch” when I read it, and I have even more respect and appreciation for the story now having read his essay on the story’s first two pages—which not only looks at craft choices but also discusses the genesis of the story, the challenges and pleasures of writing historical fiction, and some of the things he wishes he’d done differently. Step by step, we’re seeing a consummate craftsman at work, driven by a nice dose of curiosity.

Joseph D’Agnese (more formally again!) has published widely and in many directions, not only with stellar crime stories (in addition to his Derringer win, he’s been nominated two other times), but also as a science writer, whose work has appeared twice in Best American Science Writing. And we’re fans as well of his children’s book, Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci, which was named a Mathical Honor Book in 2015 (a big year in many ways, as we’ve already said). You can find more about his work at his website here.

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.