Hooker Headers and Thrush Pipes

Okay, so this post isn’t going to be about muscle cars, other than metaphorically. Sorry, car folk.

When I was in high school, getting a muscle car and fixing it up was something a lot of guys aspired to. Motorhead girls weren’t quite as common. But that’s not the point of today’s post. The point is that these hot-rod guys were fixing up their cars to go faster, sound louder, and catch people’s attention.

So, it is with hookers in stories. I just finished reading Stephen King’s Secret Windows last night, and one of my favorite essays was his conversation with his son, Joe, about writing good first lines for stories or novels (known as hookers in the trade), lines that grab the interest of the reader right off the bat. He listed a lot of his favorites, and that got me thinking about some of mine.

I’m actually quite fond of the sentence that opens my novel in progress: Blood filled the man’s mouth as his head hit the wall again. Not perfect–it’s more sturdy than poetic, as is the case with most of my writing–but it seems like a pretty good attention-catcher.

Here are a few that I like even better. I’d love to know what your favorite hookers are.

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed. 
The Gunslinger by Stephen King

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

On those cloudy days, Robert Neville was never sure when sunset came, and sometimes they were in the streets before he could get back.
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

1801 – I have just returned from a visit to my landlord – the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman.
–“A Scandal in Bohemia” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys.
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on earth has ever produced the expression “As pretty as an airport.”
The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

It was a diamond all right, shining in the grass half a dozen feet from the blue brick wall.
–“The Dain Curse” by Dashiell Hammett

It was a dark and stormy night.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (no really, that is the first line)

So, do tell. What are some of your favorite opening lines?

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Categories: Books/Authors, Works in Progress, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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11 thoughts on “Hooker Headers and Thrush Pipes

  1. Oh, this is a fantastic post! The Gunslinger one, of course, is one of my favourites. I also like
    “What I warn you to remember is that I am a detective” from Into the Woods by Tana French.

    There’s also this, from a book I don’t mention often: “Watch your step. Keep your wits about you; you will need them.” which is from The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber.

  2. Let’s add one more. R emailed me with this one this afternoon.

    “The thousand injuries of Fortunado I had borne as best I could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge.”
    —”The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe

  3. Pingback: Weekend Reads « Visible and Real

  4. And I was finally able to look through my books at home….

    My coming to faith did not start with a leap but rather a series of staggers from what seemed like one safe place to another. – Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies

    Imagine a ruin so strange it must never have happened. – Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood BIble

    I was never so frightened as I am now. – Sarah Waters, Affinity

    What about a teakettle? What if the spout opened and closed when the steam came out, so it would become a mouth, and it could whistle pretty melodies, or do Shakespeare, or just crack up with me? – Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

    Pirates have always been elusive figures. – David Cordingly, Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates (not finished, but intriguing)

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