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.
William Burton McCormick appeared here at the First Two Pages a few years ago, writing about his story “The Dunes of Saulkrasti” from Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. You can find that essay here, but at the time I called Bill one of my own favorite short story writers and I praised the first two pages of “The Dunes of Saulkrasti” as “among the most gripping I’ve hosted so far, most strategically plotted too!” As I welcome him back today, some of those words would surely remain the same. Not only is Bill still one of my favorite writers, but the first two pages of the story he’s discussing today, “Locked-In,” are equally gripping and strategic (as you’ll read below in his essay). And some of my introduction would stay the same too: his super-prolific output, his appearances in a wide variety of magazines and anthologies. But a few things have changed as well. For example, the story he’s discussing today was published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine instead of Ellery Queen’s, and he sent me a link to his Instagram page in addition to his website, Facebook, and Twitter page, and um… oh, yeah, BILL IS NOW AN EDGAR FINALIST FOR BEST SHORT STORY!
Seriously, when this year’s list of Edgar Award finalists came out, I was thrilled to see Bill’s name on the slate—an honor his short stories have long deserved. And I’m pleased to be welcoming some of the other finalists ahead in the next few weeks, sharing reflections on the first two pages of their own nominated stories. Stay tuned!
In the meantime, enjoy William Burton McCormick’s thoughtful and comprehensive essay on “Locked-In” below, and do check another essay, “Three Uses of Suspense in ‘Night Train for Berlin'” at Trace Evidence, the Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine blog.
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.McCormick-Locked-In