How to kick-start a novel, how to hook a reader, and how to party-crash a genre.
For me, the all-time king of this is Charles Portis. Levi Stahl posted all of his page ones (there's only five novels, so easy) on twitter: https://twitter.com/levistahl/status/1229556525661859841
I can't help myself. The first one that came to mind was Don Winslow's infamous opening line to his short story "The San Diego Zoo" from his collection "Broken":
No one knows how the chimp got the revolver.
"When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon."
James Crumley, The Last Good Kiss
Related, but tangential:
Neil Gaiman’s introduction to the 2016 Penguin edition of Frank Herbert’s Dune writes about the opening line of William Gibson’s 'Neuromancer': “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.” He points out that because this was written in 1983, it invokes a very different image than it would today. In his 1997 novel 'Nowhere', Gaiman tipped his hat to Gibson with the following line: “The sky was the perfect untroubled blue of a television screen, tuned to a dead channel.” As you point out, with physical character descriptions in pre-cinema literature that now seem antiquated, I cannot read a book without first knowing when it was published. Without that context, things might not make sense, or in Gibson’s case, make a different sense without proper historical context. Simpletons always fixate on how accurately science fiction has predicted the future which is nonsense. Intelligent sci-fi is reflecting on the present by projecting a future, and one can literally get lost without knowing when the present is.
What's the first opening from?