Lately I’ve been reading a lot of James Crumley. Great stuff. I’d never read Crumley before so I started at the beginning with One to Count Cadence and he was really good right out of the gate. The novel has a great voice.
The one that gets mentioned the most, of course, is The Last Good Kiss and people usually talk about its great opening line, "When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon," and the book is full of those kinds of lines.
This one stopped me:
“Stories are like snapshots, son, pictures snapped out of time,” he said, “with clean, hard edges. But this was life, and life always begins and ends in a bloody muddle, womb to tomb, just one big mess, a can of worms left to rot in the sun.”
Now that’s just a great definition of a story – a snapshot with clean, hard edges.
From now on when I think of where to start the story I’ll think about the snapshot with the clean, hard edges. I won’t start the story in the “bloody muddle” before and I won’t keep going out past the hard edge.
It’s a little trickier than just that, of course. The temptation in crime fiction would be to start with the crime and finish with the solution – those would be the easiest clean, hard edges. But most crime fiction, most literature, is trying to be more like life, so there’s probably going to be a little of the “bloody muddle,” a little of the, “big mess,” that is life.
But how much?
It’s always a personal choice, of course, so finding the right balance is part of finding your voice.
On an unrelated note; CBS announced its schedule until the summer and there was no sign of The Bridge.
A news report said:
CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler said the fact that "The Bridge" missed this latest chance to join her schedule is simply a factor of CBS having "more content then we had real estate for." She says CBS has 18 episodes of "Flashpoint" and 13 episodes of "The Bridge" to draw on when a time slot opens up.
The Bridge should air in Canada sometime after the Olympics. It may yet show up on CBS in the summer, or maybe even on a cable network, the way Southland is now on TNT.