…this ol’ Jurassic has many, many favourite novels from my early reading days… a time when as a twenty-sum’thing young man I was beginning to enjoy the glimpses into WURLDS created in the minds of scribbling geniuses’ of the thirties, forties, fifties and sixties… recently I’ve featured the names of some of those, and another wee elaboration here seems in order… particularly the strength of the ‘openers’ employed… the inaudible, but uber-persuasive ‘hooks’ that leaves yeez no choice as a reader but to plunge right in and immerse yerselves in their WURKS… John O’Hara’s first novel, Appointment in Samarra has a prologue lifted from a version of an old Arab tale recounted in W. Somerset Maughm’s 1932 play, Sheppey:
There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the market-place I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture; now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me. The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the market-place and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning? That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.’
…gripping stuff, innit?…
…jump to another, often less-trumpeted authorial giant, Robert Ruark, whose last novel, The Honey Badger, published after his death in the mid-sixties, opens with this cracker of a prologue:
‘There is a bloody brave little animal in Africa called the Honey Badger. It may be the meanest animal in the world. It kills for malice and for sport, and it does not go for the jugular – it goes straight for the groin. It has a lot in common with the modern American woman.’
…LUV ‘EM both… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!…
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