A prologue sets the scene as an introduction of what is to follow in the book.

       Some purists feel it is cheating to write a prologue, because you have revealed, usually in a tight, well written few sentences or paragraphs, what is coming. It sets the tone. They feel that all of this should be revealed as the pages turn. I like it because it can be used as a teaser, a delicacy that precedes a great dinner to come.

I used it in two of my novels. Command Influence, a military courtroom drama, takes a page from the beginning of the crucial trial, and puts it in the prologue. The reader is introduced briefly to the two main characters, the tense courtroom scene, and it leaves a question that begs to be answered by reading the remainder of the book.

In Dawn’s Revenge, my New Orleans thriller, uses the prologu

e I called “A Prose Poem to New Orleans,” to paint a dark, mystic mood of New Orleans, to lure the reader into a novel that grabs you on the first page and drags you through to the last sentence.

Prologues are not always needed, for they should provide something that the book would otherwise feel incomplete. I always wrote my prologues after the book was written, for I felt they gave a hook.

Epilogues: This is the concluding or last part of the book.  It may or may not be needed.  My Dawn’s Revenge didn’t need one, as the last sentence gave the conclusion that the reader had been craving since the first chapter, which I kept holding out as a carrot for the duration of the whole book. But in Command Influence, an Epilogue was fitting, for it told what happened to all of the players in the book in their individual lives after the army. It also gave a surprising ending of the book.

Using either or both prologue and epilogue is a matter of choice. Can you use it as bait, to make the reader read on from the prologue?  Do you need it to explain something, such as a bit of history if it is a sequel to another related book in a sequence? And do you need an epilogue to draw all of the information in the book

to a tight little conclusion at the end?  If it makes the book better in any way, use it. I don’t believe in those hard and fast rules, just use your good sense. Modern readers aren’t bound by rules. They are concerned only if it is a good, fun, informative and understandable read. Then you have done your job as an author.