by J.D. Rhoades
As you no doubt are aware, legendary science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke died
on March 18 at the age of 90. This post won’t be another Clarke eulogy; there’s
no way, after all, that I could do
better than Patrick Nielsen Hayden’s tribute here. But in reminiscing about the things I loved in Clarke’s
work, I started thinking about one of the things he did better than almost
anyone else: Arthur C. Clarke could write a killer last line.
- The Ramans do everything in threes.
- Though he was master of the world, he was unsure what to do
But he would think of something.
- Overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out.
Mickey Spillane was once quoted as saying that “The first
line sells that book. The last line sells your next one.” And the Mick had some
“How c-could you?’ she gasped. I only had a moment before
talking to a corpse, but I got it in.
“It was easy," I said.
And who could forget: Juno was a man!
We’ve talked here about great first lines in crime fiction, including the one
that opens James Crumley’s THE LAST GOOD KISS. But the brutal kiss-off in the last few lines of that
one are pretty stunning, too:
“You’re dead,” I said. “Go home before you start to stink.”
I guess he did. The last I saw of him, he was stumbling out
of Rosie’s place, stumbling over Fireball’s grave.
And there’s’ a certain perfectly noir hopelessness in the last lines of THE MALTESE FALCON:
“Iva is here.”
Spade, looking down at his desk, nodded almost
imperceptibly. “Yes,” he said, and shivered. “Well, send her in.”
And outside of the genre, there are these classics:
- He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.
- And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
"Well, I’m back," he said.
So what are YOUR favorite last lines? (Oh, and if they’re from something recent, rather than classics like the ones above, and the last line telegraphs the ending, have a heart and put the word SPOILER FOR____ in the first part of your answer.)
And as an extra special bonus, a contest. But this one’s a little different because it may take a while to resolve. This next last line is from a book being released in the next three months. When you figure out what it is, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you’ll get one of the first promo copies of BREAKING COVER.
The line is:
We’d already waited long enough.