Sunday, February 13, 2011


Let’s play a game.

The arena is Twitter, and the time is every evenin’, or thereabouts, over the next month or so.

The name of the game is One True Sentence.

The phrase, “One true sentence,” was a goal and a kind of mantra for author Ernest Hemingway.

When faced with his own writing that seemed false, or prefatory, Hem claimed to dig down into the manuscript of a short story or novel until he arrived at his first “true sentence,” and then begin his tale with that “one true” line of prose.

My continuing character, crime novelist Hector Lassiter, first appeared in a short story called “The Last Interview,” published in the Mississippi Review what seems like a lifetime ago.

In the course of that story, a callow young interviewer sent to write an article on the aging Lassiter circa 1967 ends up engaging in a high-stakes game of One True Sentence with the author.

Hector, a Hemingway intimate for several tumultuous decades, used to play the writing game with Papa over the years and countless drinks, as he explains to his young interrogator.

The game went this way, according to Hector: One author would start a true sentence, and the other had to finish it, nice and pithy, and on the spot.

Something about that game I invented hung with me. When I decided to center a novel around Hector Lassiter — HEAD GAMES — I equipped Hector with a gift Zippo from Hemingway. The windproof lighter bore the following inscription:

To Hector Lassiter:
‘One true sentence.’
— E.H.
Key West,

Asked about the lighter in that novel, Hector says of it, “Something from an ex-friend you’ve been lately reading. A kind of shared credo. I remember it. Not sure he does anymore.”

In the second Lassiter novel, TOROS & TORSOS, Hector and Hemingway are actually seen playing their game. Some of their collaborative “One True Sentences” from that novel roll this way:

• “The old man died…” “illusioned and therefore disappointed.”

• “The drunken priest, awaiting execution..” “…wished that one of his fellow prisoners was a whore.”

• “Absinthe tastes…” “…like regret.”

• “A man truly alone…” “has no last words.”

• “A best friend…” “…one day stands alone.”

Okay. You get the hang of it.

So, to celebrate the Feb. 15, 2011 release of Hector Lassiter number four, ONE TRUE SENTENCE, over at Twitter, I’m going to be challenging all takers to a game of ONE TRUE SENTENCE every night through February and much of March. Our first round starts the evening of the novel’s release on February 15, probably about 7 p.m. eastern so intrepid types on the west coast can play, too.

Here’s how it goes:

Follow me @HECTORLASSITER. Every night starting this Tuesday, I’ll start One True Sentence.

Any takers can finish that sentence, rationing just enough of their 140 characters in order to add the hash tag #1TS.

Every Sunday morning at 8 a.m. eastern, I’ll review the One True Sentences on the #1TS page, and pick the week’s winner. The one who writes the truest One True Sentence will be awarded the ultra rare limited edition of TOROS & TORSOS with their own One True Sentence inscribed inside. Our One True Sentence.


Want to play a game?


  1. Spittin' on my hands and picking up my pen...

  2. Sure, why not? Now, I just have to remember to jump on Twitter.

  3. I've got to try and get in on this :)