The First Line is a recurring column by J.B. Stevens. Mystery Tribune readers (you) get an inside look at what goes through the author’s mind as they craft their opening.
For the column, an author presents the initial sentence of their story. Then J.B. writes his impression of the passage. Next, the author discusses what their intent was with the line. To keep it interesting, J.B. writes his section before looking at the author’s description. Finally, you decide: Did the author achieve their goal?
For this edition of The First Line, we are looking at The Promise of Plague Wolves by Coy Hall a September 2023 release from Nosetouch Press.
The Promise of Plague Wolves, the first line:
A halo of light cut the fog, bringing the watchman to alert.
I’m getting a bit of a historic-fiction vibe with the foggy light and the watchman. The choice of watchman, instead of security guard or policeman, is telling. I’m also picking up a sprinkle of horror. The vibe of this line, combined with the book’s title, gave me a werewolf/nighttime at the docks/darkness feel.
…Coy was spot on with his goal.
I’m interested in reading more (and I’m shopping Amazon for a copy right after this).
Coy’s goal with the line:
The Promise of Plague Wolves is a horror-mystery novel set in 1686, featuring my occult detective Dorin Toth. I wanted to open with a line of action that injects atmosphere, places the story in the past, and creates a beat of tension. It’s night. The fog is thick. An approaching cart and its jangling lantern disturb the solitude of a watchman’s job. The guard stands. His night is about to change.
Coy was spot on with his goal—I got his exact intent. Our author did a great job and I look forward to reading the rest of the book.
AUSTRIA. 1686. Two plagues rage in the countryside. One plague is smallpox, a torturous disease that ravages the body, turning homes into tombs. The other ailment is more mysterious, a scourge of occult origin, a plague that ravages the mind and consumes the soul. Here the deepest horrors are made manifest.
Here the dead walk the shadowed wood. Here a spirit and its brood of changelings emerge from the earth to feed. Into this malefic maelstrom enters Dorin Toth, famed occultist and investigator. Accompanied by his faithful greyhound, Vinegar Tom, Toth must find the source of the eldritch epidemic. Will Toth and Tom prevail against the blights that they uncover? Or will the dark storm of ghosts consume them?