[Reading Room] Golf Etiquette by Jim Davis

image: woman golfing

I’m thinking a lot about mysteries these days. I love them, so I’m trying my hand at writing them.

There is no better way I know to get myself writing, than to sit down and read, preferably in the genre I’m tackling.

This week I read Golf Etiquette by Jim Davis, found in the Feb 2011 issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

Though I had some quibbles with the style until I managed to turn off my inner critique-group-reader, I couldn’t argue with the power of the first line:

“Parker Goodman was the chicken king of northwest Arkansas.”

Isn’t that a great opening line? It sets the tone (slightly light-hearted), intrigues the reader (“chicken king? Really?”), and sets us firmly in a geographical locale.

The first third of the story pays off that first line, explaining who Parker Goodman is and what he wants from our private eye: to find his wife who has, in his words, ‘wandered off’.

After that, we’re off on the trail of Mrs Goodman. We get to know the detective and watch him word the country club matrons and patrons, painting a picture of his world without the author having to tell us too much backstory.

Then, following a lead, the detective does a little traveling, giving us a new location and a chance to intrigue us with more questions and keep us engaged in trying to figure out the mystery.

The answer to the central mystery comes relatively easily, but the writer still has one little twist up his sleeve, that is perfectly paced. We realize what’s going on at the same moment the detective does, which allows him to look smart and us to feel smart along with him.

The story is a sweet, feel-good, entertaining yarn, and that was exactly what I needed this morning.

It was a good reminder that you don’t have to be brilliant, innovative, or a flawless writer to make someone’s day better with your story.

That’s a very encouraging lesson to keep in mind at the start of a writing day.