As we've discussed many times here at TKZ, our first job as writers is drawing the reader in. Today's first-page sample accomplished that goal for me. I'll let you read it, then finish with my thoughts.
THE SAHARA INTERCEPT
El Al has this silly rule requiring passengers to travel unarmed. I always thought the best way to stop a hijacker was to blow his head off. Thus, I arrived at Ben Gurion International Airport, the site of the nineteen seventy-three Lod massacre, disarmed, without my little Walthers PPK pistol, like the one Double-O Seven carries. He would have found a way, but I'm no James Bond.
I didn't anticipate any danger in Israel, but it never hurts to practice situational awareness. Not paranoia, just attention to details, in other words — watch my back — a good way to stay alive. For the last two years, it's worked. I'm still breathing.
Counter surveillance is an art. The most important thing is to be able to blend in, keep a low profile. Don't project an image someone will remember. I dressed as an ordinary tourist: tan pants, light blue polo shirt, and clean socks.
The key is to appear confident and natural, like you belong. I cleared customs and immigration and strode into the hustle and bustle of the main lobby, resolute in my ability to spot any imminent threat.
"Mister Ross Brannan?"
A slim well-groomed young woman with raven hair and deep penetrating green eyes stood before me: hand on hip, dressed in a neat crisp-pressed olive-green army uniform, her black beret worn at a jaunty angle, her self-assured smile and attitude enhanced by the nine-millimeter Uzi automatic carbine slung over her shoulder.
"That's me." How did she pick me out? Expectations can blind you if you simply concentrate on preconceived notions. You may miss a threat that may be real and near. I should have spotted her first.
"Shalom, welcome to Israel. My name is Tamara Alon. I am your escort." The way she said escort, was both sexy and suggestive."
"Thanks." Tamara seemed pleasant enough and not bad looking, not bad at all — matter of fact she was hot. "Say how did you know who I was?"
"I was shown your picture." Her eyes sparkled. "So I looked for a cowboy from the movies."
* * *
The humor here works well for me. First-person narrators are tricky to handle, but I like the way this page quickly establishes the main character as an Inspector Clouseau-type. He sees himself as James Bond, but in reality he's a bit of a bumbler.
I do have a small nit is with the first paragraph. The lengthy sentence with its many commas was a bit of a stumbling block for this reader; I think it would help to use numeric 1973 instead of spelling out the year. I also tripped over the first Double-O Seven reference, and had to reread the sentence that starts "He would have found a way" for clarity.)
I was a bit thrown by the use of italics. The italics, used to show internal thoughts, are interspersed with non-italicized, omniscient pronouncements ("Expectations can blind you if you simply concentrate on preconceived notions. You may miss a threat that may be real and near."). In this case, I would suggest removing these two non-italicized sentences, leaving only the narrator's chagrined reaction.
I think it's unnecessary to italicize the word "escort," because you provide the inflection in the next sentence. If you both italicize and explain, it's overkill. (It also is humorous to imagine, as this reader was by now, that the woman's inflection was only in the narrator's mind, not intended by her.) Remove the end quote from the end of that paragraph.
This is a personal preference, but I always bridle at "raven" hair and "sparkling" eyes. They're a bit cliche. You've already established that she has penetrating green eyes, so you probably don't need the sparkle. Also, I'm no gun expert (paging Miller and Gilstrap here), but I would check to make sure exactly which weapon an IDF escort would carry. And I'd work in an IDF reference, for Israel Defense Forces, where you say "army." The more specific your references are in your manuscript, the more authentic it will seem to the reader.
In the second-to-last paragraph, your narrator's reaction between "Thanks" and "Say, how did you know..." is a bit distracting, and doesn't add anything new to Tamara's description. Right now your character is thinking about the fact that he's been ID'd, not whether Tamara is hot or not. As a general rule, try to keep every paragraph tightly focused on a single action or reaction.
Those are all minor nits, though. Overall, I'm drawn in by this page. It's refreshing to have a hard-boiled main character taken down a notch on the first page.
What do you all think?