Friday, August 12, 2011

You know how to whistle, don't ya?

Have you ever read "The Last Good Kiss" by a guy named James Crumley? There's nothing like a good detective novel and although I don't remember much about this particular book, I remember enjoying it quite a bit.

Were I writing a detective novel, I would open with something like this:
He took a long look at her long legs, one draped demurely over the other as she sat neatly on the corner of his exceedingly messy desk, and resisted the urge to scratch behind his ear with his foot and howl at the moon. Besides, she was pissing him off.

"You know how to whistle, don't ya?" he asked, channeling the Master. "Well try doing it with a couple of holes in you."

Then he pulled out his roscoe and plugged her. Twice. Later, after a cigarette and a snuggle, he shot her a couple of times too.
Which I know is more than one line, but I wanted to give you a feel for the thing. And besides, that's just me.

Crumley opens his book with this:
"When I finally caught up with Abraham Traherne, 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."
Great opening line. Right up there with "So." (Beowulf, as translated by Seamus Heaney). Which has the power of brevity. Or "Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing--absolute nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." (Rat to Mole, Wind in the Willows). Although I think that one came somewhere in the middle, not right at the top.

Anyway, funny how these things stick with you years later. I was thinking of Crumley's line, even though I could barely remember it, when I uncorked this piece of work in a recent post:
When the shit hit the fan late last week, and the Tao plunged 500 points and the specter of a long, hauntingly ugly, double-dip recession sucked all the breath out of a lovely summer afternoon, I thought I'd spend the weekend painting an updated version of The American Investor.
Which is a pretty strong collection of exactly 50 words, if I do say so myself.

I share this, dear reader, to show you that sometimes we don't even know we're stealing other people's shit. And sometimes we do. And it's all okay.


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