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.
What an honor to host Doug Allyn, a two-time Edgar Award winner for Best Short Story, for the first First Two Pages essay of 2023. And what a thrill to celebrate the anthology where Doug’s story appears: Edgar and Shamus Go Golden: Twelve Tales of Murder, Mystery, and Master Detection From the Golden Age of Mystery and Beyond, co-edited by Gay Toltl Kinman and Andrew McAleer and released last month by Down & Out Books. Doug’s story is one of twelve Golden Age detective stories featured in the collection—all of them penned by winners of either the Edgar or the Shamus Award and…
Wait. That’s not quite right. Doug’s story is one of eleven inspired by and emulating the Golden Age detective story, but only one of the dozen tales is actually from the Golden Age, and that fact is indeed part of the thrill here.
Here’s the backstory:
John McAleer—Andrew’s father, a distinguished professor at Boston College for more than fifty years—was himself an Edgar Award winner. He earned the 1978 award in the Best Critical/Biographical category for his book Rex Stout: A Biography. Fifty years earlier, back in 1937, John tried his hand at writing a mystery story and the handwritten manuscript of “The Case of the Illustrious Banker” was only recently discovered—a story that’s now the centerpiece of the new collection and the occasion which brought together those other eleven award-winning writers: Doug Allyn, Lori Armstrong, O’Neil De Noux, Brendan DuBois, Martin Edwards, John Floyd, Carolina Garcia-Aguilera, Kristen Lepionka, Lia Matera, and P.J. Parrish—and I’m pleased to have my own story, “The Invisible Band,” alongside those as well.
An excerpt of Doug Allyn’s story, “The Dead Snitch,” is included in his First Two Pages essay below, but the essay itself ranges more widely, sampling three additional stories as Doug explores the need to capture the reader’s attention quickly—and argues that two pages is far too long to make a reader wait to be hooked.
We’ll be hosting other contributors to Edgar and Shamus Go Golden throughout January, including Brendan DuBois next week—stay tuned! And thanks again to Doug—praised by Ellery Queen as “one of the best short story writers of his generation—and probably of all time”—for sharing his insights as we start the new year.
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.Allyn-Dead-Snitch