The First Two Pages: “Death Floor” by Martin Limón

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’ve long been a fan of Martin Limón‘s short stories featuring U.S. Army investigators George Sueño and Ernie Bascom—and I’m not alone here, of course. The first book featuring these characters, 1992’s Jade Lady Burning, was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and since then, they’ve appeared in fourteen more novels, plus a short story collection, Nightmare Range, published in 2014 and gathering all the tales up to that point. More recently, Robert Lopresti chose the latest Sueño and Bascom story, “Death Floor” from the March/April 2022 issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, as the Story of the Week at Little Big Crimes (the fifth time one of his stories as been selected by Lopresti as best of the week). I’m honored to welcome Martin here to share some reflections on the first two pages of that story.

While Martin had stressed that he did not serve as an intelligence officer himself in the service, the novels and stories do draw on other aspects of his twenty-year career in the Army, ten of them stationed in South Korea. Those experience help to inform what Martin describes in the essay below as the “tactile feel of the geographical and cultural setting” and “the details of the historical era.” To find out more about the author and his work, visit his website.

And in the meantime, enjoy this peek into the his latest tale—and be sure to pick up the full issue of AHMM before it leaves newsstands soon!

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.