First Two Pages: “Crawling Distance” by Laura Ellen Scott

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.

On Monday, June 13, Down & Out Books will publish the anthology Lawyers, Guns, and Money: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Music of Warren Zevon, which I co-edited with Libby Cudmore. I first came up with the idea for this anthology several years ago, only to learn that there had already been loose plans afoot in another direction for a collection like this—and even after a consolidation and streamlining of those efforts, Kevin Burton Smith suddenly tweeted asking about why wasn’t there an anthology of crime fiction inspired by Zevon’s work? We immediately recruited Kevin to contribute, of course, and many of the other contributors here arrived the same way—having revealed somehow their fandom for Zevon’s work, in interviews, blog posts, casual conversation, etc. Is there something about crime writers and Warren Zevon’s songwriting that inspires mutual respect? As I mention in my introduction to the new anthology, it was a revelation several years ago to discover that Zevon and Ross Macdonald were good friends—and Zevon even dedicated his 1980 album Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School to Macdonald (using Macdonald’s real name, Kenneth Millar).

Lawyers, Guns, and Money: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Music of Warren Zevon ended up with a great list of contributors: Gray Basnight, William Boyle, Dana Cameron, Libby Cudmore, Hilary Davidson, Steve Liskow, Nick Mamatas, Paul D. Marks, Matthew Quinn Martin, Josh Pachter, Charles Salzberg, Laura Ellen Scott, Alex Segura, Kevin Burton Smith, and Brian Thornton.

Throughout June, I’ll be hosting four of these contributors with First Two Pages essays on their stories for the collection—beginning today with Laura Ellen Scott, whose story “Crawling Distance” was inspired by the song “Lawyers, Guns, and Money.” We’ll also have essays ahead by William Boyle, Nick Mamatas, and Alex Segura.

Laura’s also celebrating another recent publication: her latest novel, Blue Billy, book three in the New Royal Mysteries from Pandamoon Publishing. Blue Billy released in late May, and you can see her launch event at One More Pages Books in Arlington, VA here—and get a signed copy of the book from OMP here. The first two books in the series are The Mean Bone in her Body and Crybaby Lane, and Laura is also the author of Death Wishing and The Juliet, and she’s one of my colleagues in the English Department at George Mason University—a friendship which is one of the ways I knew she was a Warren Zevon fan in the first place! Follow her on Twitter at @LauraEllenScott.

A quick extra note here. Some readers here may have previously seen a different cover for our anthology, but we did change the cover design within two weeks of the collection’s publication—a very last-minute decisions. Here’s the official statement on that change:

The last two weeks before a book’s release hardly seem the ideal time to radically change that book’s cover, but with the number of mass shootings in the news recently, we and several of our contributors have had mixed feelings about the original cover image for Lawyers, Guns, and Money. Clearly, these stories are crime fiction—violence regularly an integral part of the genre and gun violence specifically central to several plotlines within these very pages—but images often speak louder than words, louder and less clearly, and having a semi-automatic weapon as the key image associated with this anthology felt uncomfortable… but fortunately was not unavoidable. We’re grateful that our cover artist, Zach McCain, had designed two cover treatments for the book and that Down & Out has been able to make a swift change so close to our publication date. Thanks to them, to our contributors, and to our readers for understanding and support here.

Hope you enjoy the anthology—and stay tuned for more essays ahead!

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.