Guest Post by Mark Chisnell
New York, New York, so great they… well, you know the rest. Whatever might have been said about the place in the 1970s and 80s, the Big Apple is back and close to its pumping, vibrant peak. So I took the opportunity on a research trip to spend a couple of days in New York, which meant arriving from England into New York’s JFK airport.
Arriving in America is a haphazard affair when you’re not a US citizen, you never know quite what to expect. The first time I ever flew internationally it was to Los Angeles, notorious for the queues at immigration, but on that occasion I was out on the streets in under an hour. And within an hour, someone had tried to sell me a car, buy me a beer, and mug me after I’d been thrown out of a closing bus station. Oh, the joys of the big city…
Returning to New York, we had just reached the front of the queue when the immigration computers packed up. And so we stood and waited for them to reboot America, or something. The indifference to our plight (it was 5am on Saturday morning where we’d come from) by one particular immigration agent had to be seen to be believed – but then, he was reading Nietzsche.
It started me thinking about first impressions though — at one point during that wait, if someone had offered me a return ride straight back home I’d probably have taken it. The same thing can be said about books; how often does your gaze flick across the first lines of a novel and you think…. nah.
First impressions are really important for books, those crucial first sentences will either draw the reader in, or spit them out. The American Book Review did a great survey to come up with the best 100 First Lines from Novels.
A more contemporary version was done by Stylist magazine, but there’s a fair bit of overlap
If you’re short of time, the Guardian chose to focus on just the top ten, but did it with pictures and some explanations.
The only consistent theme is that they all make you want to read on. If I had to choose just one, it would probably be Douglas Adam’s opener for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. “Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.”
It makes me smile, and it makes me want to read on, I’m immediately transported to a place where the earth finds itself in an unfashionable and unregarded neighborhood – and I want to know more about that place.
A second and more serious choice would be, ‘You better not never tell nobody but God.” from Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. Again, it makes me read on, because I have to know what’s so awful that it must never be spoken of again.
I thought I’d close with my own most recent opening sentence, from the action/adventure thriller, Powder Burn:
“Seven and a half thousand miles from home, still unpublished, slightly hung-over and almost certainly broke, Sam didn’t see him at first.”
First lines, first impressions – they all count, so what’s your favorite?
Powder Burn by Mark Chisnell
If Dragon Tattoo’s Mikael Blomkvist and the Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen could have a love-child, she’d probably be a lot like Sam Blackett…
Sam had given up her Manhattan job, and her cute apartment in Brooklyn. She’d abandoned her astonished boyfriend to the charms of ESPN, and flown off into a new dawn to chase her dream of becoming an investigative journalist.
Three months later, alone in a soulless internet café, she’s facing some cold, hard facts; she’s unpublished, unhappy and broke. And right then, the gorgeous Pete Halland blows into her life – headed for the mythical Powder Burn mountain to write history and blast into legend.
If she throws in her lot with Pete and reports the story for National Geographic magazine it could rescue her ambitions, but he’s holding back some crucial information – the question for Sam is… what?
Soon, Sam is up to her neck in snow and the weather is the least of her problems; lost in a secretive Himalayan kingdom with – what could be – a magic sword and a simmering and potentially bloody revolution.
But the father she lost to the war in Iraq was a marine, and he taught her a few tricks in the Vermont backcountry that might just get her out alive – and with a story to tell that could make the front page of the New York Times.
Powder Burn is the first of a new series featuring Sam Blackett from the author of the best-selling Janac’s Games books.
Here are the first 4 pages from Mark’s newest novel Powder Burn. To continue reading a longer sample, visit his website HERE!