Deb Erika’s first time was with a fish

First things first:


Oh yes, it’s all about the love here at the Deb Ball this month, and this week we’re looking at the books that first started our writers’ hearts beating faster, our palms sweating, our toes curling.

In my case, my first love was a fish.








No, not that fish.*

This fish.

My grade-school best friend’s father had his own bathroom and when you hear someone heading to the bathroom say they’re “going to the library,” well, this one really was. You could sit on the mahogany-toned foam toilet seat and to the left, to the right, even behind you, were shelves of books. And not just any books, but the juicy, pulpy paperbacks with covers that made your ten year-old eyes pop out. Sidney Sheldon. Ira Levin. V.C. Andrews.  Robin Cook. Harold Robbins. But I only had eyes for one book. Peter Benchley’s JAWS.

Who doesn’t remember seeing that cover for the first time? Well, I couldn’t resist it. But when I got comfortable on Mr. Spinney’s Throne (not his real name, but his real name for his toilet) and I pulled that book down, I had no idea that what came after that cover would really send me over the moon.

The great fish moved silently through the night water, propelled by short sweeps of its crescent tail.

To this day, that is one of my favorite first lines in a novel. It’s clean, it’s crisp, it’s totally terrifying.

I will never forget the sensation of reading that first page and while I won’t stand—er, sit here and say the light bulb went off then and there, I can say that was one of the first times—if not the first—when I thought to myself: Whoa. I want to write a line like that someday.

It was indeed, love at first read.

*Technically, Moby was a mammal. But, you know, it didn’t sound as snappy.


What about you, friends? Do you have a game-changing line in your reading past?

8 Replies to “Deb Erika’s first time was with a fish”

  1. You know, I still haven’t read that book. Sharks terrify me. (Yes, I’m a shark wuss.) But I will concede that that’s a great opening line.

    And I love the sound of that “library”! Any room is improved by the presence of books. 🙂

    1. Oh, Linda, it was a trip. And as you can imagine, for a kid, seeing those spines and knowing of all the salacious material within, and having the perfect excuse to linger inside, undisturbed as you pore over the passages.

      Good times, as they say 😉

  2. Peter Benchley was my friend Sarah’s uncle – we were terrified of her too and none of us would swim with her. For me? Dickens’ “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times,” has always stuck with me as the equivalent of a violent vortex that pulled me into a Tale of Two Cities and did not release me – EVER. Simple. Striking. Classic. Happy Valentine’s Day. Kim

    1. Her uncle??!! That is so cool!! (And I love that you said you were terrified of her and wouldn’t swim with her–Shark bait!)

      Oh, Dickens…His language was/is so brilliant. Just the other night I was recalling my favorite passages in A CHRISTMAS CAROL for that very reason. They are like truffles, his sentences. I can savor one at a time, always finding some new taste. (Speaking of truffles, where did I put the rest of that TJ’s box o’ chocolates we very foolishly opened this morning for breakfast…?)

      Happy Valentine’s Day to you and your sweethearts, my dear!!

  3. I’ve never read JAWS, either, but that line is very chilling. Whenever I think about books in the bathroom, I can’t help but think of that episode of Seinfeld where George and Jerry are in the bookstore and George takes a book into the bathroom and then has to buy it because it’s been ‘flagged’. Heh. 😛

    1. Okay, I just spit up bagel at that reminder, Joanne. That was genius. And it’s funny how I have so much more of an appreciation of Seinfeld as an older person than I did in its heyday (sp?).

      I may have to go to youtube right now and try to dig up a clip of that. Just priceless.

  4. Oh I wish I could remember first lines…I do remember some of my early toe-curling influences though. So this pretty early, even before I discovered Stephen King (THE SHINING). THE EXORCIST and THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN. Frankly, I was too young to read such books; they warped me, for sure. Now I’ll forever have a fascination with Catholic-inspired scary stuff and scientifically inspired scary stuff.

    That JAWS first line is excellent, isn’t it? I haven’t thought about that novel in years. It’s a deceptively simple sentence. Makes me wonder how many versions Benchley came up with before he was satisfied. 🙂

    1. Hi Lisa! You’re so right to point that out–how easily we forget (and we should know as fellows writers!) how much work goes into making a line seem so effortless. Kind of makes you want to see earlier versions…or maybe not. Why spoil the magic, right? (Still, it would be fascinating to see…)

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