Last week, Shovel Ready, the crime novel about a garbage-man turned hit-man in a near-future dystopian New York, written by Vulture contributing editor Adam Sternbergh, was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel. Here, we asked Sternbergh to annotate a short excerpt from the sequel, Near Enemy, which was published earlier this month — including thoughts on history's first murder, the dubious appeal of Pepé Le Pew, and just how crazy New York apartment locks used to be.
This used to be a city of locksOriginally, this line, which is now the first line of Chapter 2, was the very first line in the novel. I still like it as a potential opening line — and I have a real fetish for great opening lines — but I eventually decided to start the novel with an extremely short Chapter 1. (It’s eight lines and 54 words long.) I really enjoy when books throw you directly into the action with a punchy opening. The punchiest opening ever, in all likelihood, is the one for Don Winslow’s Savages, which notoriously starts with a first chapter that reads, in its entirety: “Fuck you.” Depending on your temperament, that’s either grating or exhilarating (I lean toward the latter), but it definitely gets your attention..
Every home, at least five, down the door, like a vault.
Fox lockThese are all real kinds of locks. The Fox Lock, also known as a Police Lock (or the Fox Police Lock), was designed by a German immigrant and Staten Island resident, Emiel Fox, at the turn of the 19th century. In the most popular iteration of the Fox Lock, when you turn a key, two horizontal bars bolted to the middle of the door extend out into the door’s frame. (There’s another variation of Fox’s Police Lock that involves a metal bar that’s propped on an angle against the door itself.) The Fox is a serious, badass lock, and a fixture of movies and TV shows about New York in the 1970s — the kinds of shows where New Yorkers would come home, then ritually twist and secure multiple locks as if they lived inside Fort Knox. (At this lock-selling site, the Fox Lock is introduced with the line, “This lock has to be the ultimate prop if you are making a movie about NY City,” which is true.) As a kid growing up far away from New York City, that ritual — the Locking of the Locks — seemed emblematic to me of what life in chaotic, lawless, crime-ridden New York must be like..
Funny name, that last one.
Neither word exactly conjures security.