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.
This week continues a series of First Two Pages essays by contributors to the anthology 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 in early December by Down & Out Books. Doug Allyn and Brendan DuBois have already offered thoughts on how to capture readers’ interest and focus the key elements of a story quickly and efficiently, along with samples for their own stories for Edgar and Shamus Go Golden—respectively “The Dead Snitch” and “Scars of Love.” And this week, Lia Matera analyzes specific paragraphs of her story “The Party” to explore how the specifics of an era can be worked effectively and productively into a story for fullest effect. As Lia writes in the essay below, “To my mind, it didn’t make sense to set ‘The Party’ in 1920 only to have an occasional character mention it in passing. I wanted it to be as much a part of the setting as the country house where the story takes place. I wanted to show the tensions of the era reaching into the genteel parlor to bedevil my protagonist…”
All of the contributors to the new anthology are winners of either the Edgar or the Shamus Awards—a table of contents also including Lori Armstrong, O’Neil De Noux, Martin Edwards, John Floyd, Carolina Garcia-Aguilera, Kristen Lepionka, and P.J. Parrish, plus John McAleer, whose story “The Case of the Illustrious Banker” by John McAleer—first written in 1937, only recently rediscovered, and now being published for the first time—really served as the genesis of the collection.
While Lia is here officially as a Shamus Award winner for her short story “Dead Drunk” from Scott Turow’s Guilty as Charged, she’s also earned Edgar Award attention as well, with two of her novels having earned Edgar nominations: A Radical Departure and Prior Convictions. You can find more about Lia’s work at her website.
Enjoy Lia’s’s essay below, check out Doug’s and Brendan’s from the couple of weeks, and stay tuned for more contributors still 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.Matera-Edgar-Shamus-2