I’ve spent a lot of my youth browsing book shelves at various stores to find the best book I’d never heard about before. With all this practice I’ve developed something like a three step method to picking up the perfect read. Besides approaching the shelves blind folded, I am not sure there is a way to cold pick your next read with out some amount of bias. My tastes tend toward interesting and arresting titles. A good cover design will seal the deal but not break it. Then I move on to step one: the summary. I realize that most of these fantastic little blurbs are not written by the author, so it is really someone elses ability to sell that sells me, but the summary alone isn’t going to lose me my money. Step two is the first paragraph of the first chapter, or perhaps the whole first page. I have bought books based on one well written, sarcastic, cynical, pithy, witty, illustrative, bright, bleak sentence and I have not regretted it. I am not such a task master that I will most definitely rule out the book whose first page doesn’t delight me. Step three is random page reading. If I can get enough enjoyment from randomly sampled language, that book ‘s got a good chance of going home with me. And all of this is how I found Hang by Your Neck by Henry Kane.
Honestly I didn’t need to do any random sampling to adhere this book firmly to my hand while I walked to the check out. This book passed the first paragraph test with flying and flabbergasted colors.
Now, I thought about illustrating my first paragraph test with the first paragraph, but I really hate typing out dialog so yous lovely people will get a random sample:
“I put the phone down and I scrabbled a fingernail, silent, pensive, and nude. I scowled at the ignominious, erect, derisive, empty bottle of Scotch. I drew a long breath, sighing like a husband at the end of a marital fracas. I went back to the bedroom. I stood on the chair alongside of him and I kept him firm with one hand while I went through his pockets with the other. There was nothing in any of his pockets, except a jingling group of small metal instruments. I let go and he swung away from me and I got off the chair before he came back.”
Thrilling Detective has a pretty good history of character and writer with a list of titles for further exploration.
Over at the Internet Archive are single episodes of Crime and Peter Chambers (the player below will play all the episodes, but head on over to the archive if you want to view the play list).