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Genre Writing

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Genre Writing


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Student Name:

Family Name Zizys

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Given Name Joseph

By Joseph Zizys


I walked down the stairs unhurriedly. The alarm was sounding but so far no one seemed interested.
By the time Taylor got back to his office the cops would probably already be there. I would not be.

Closing my front door I knew something wasnt right. I didnt switch on the lounge room light, but
waited in the doorway, cradling the thing in my hand, it would do some damage if I had to throw it.
Then she spoke from out of the dark: You have it then.

I didnt reply. I kept the place dark usually, heavy curtains. Jeez, I had developed film in this room,
but as my eyes adjusted I could make out her silhouette, on the long couch, to the left. I waited.

If you put it down Mr Maloney, just put it down there in the doorway, then you could head out to
that dive bar you practically live in and by the time you stagger back here Ill be gone. It was the

tone of her voice that told me she had a gun, it was still too dark to see more than her head, rising
above the line of the couch. She sounded blond. I have a weakness for blondes.

A thief is rarely, in my experience, in it merely for the money. I liked the money, and what money
could buy, but I liked the thrill even more, I guess I have a weakness for thrills, I guess I have a lot
of weaknesses.

I dont have it. I lied.

Yes you do Mr Maloney, I saw you clutching it when you came in the front door. If I shoot you no
one will call the police, no one will even find your body until the smell reaches the street. Dont fuck
this up Mr Maloney, you still have a fools chance of living through the night.

Life is a constant balancing act isn't it? I was pretty sure she hadnt seen me in the doorway, the
line of sight is poor, and I had the thing in brown paper. Besides, she was right, no one round here
would give two shits about a gun shot, so if she had seen that I was carrying it, why hadnt she shot
me already?

Several other questions lay out around my mental landscape, resonating with one another and with
the blond and the mildew smell of my carpets, and with the idle wish that the brown paper did hide
whiskey and not not this fucking thing that was already causing me more trouble than it was

Who was I kidding? I have a weakness for trouble. Trouble, Blondes, Whiskey, Thrills, Money, more
or less in that order come to think of it. Come to think of it, those questions; laid out there on the
carpet; How did she know abut the thing anyway? I trusted my buyer, as much as you can trust
anyone in this line of work, and pretty blondes with guns in the night didnt seem his style anyway, if
he thought my fee wasnt worth the trouble then Id be dead already. Why hadnt she shot me? If
she was wearing a skirt, pantyhose or stockings? Would I live through the night? Never an obvious
answer to that one. Did I have any weed in the house? Another weakness. I extemporised:

I had it. Now its somewhere safe. Now I have this. I scrunched the paper. Can I offer you a

Hesitation. at least one of my questions answered. She hadnt scoped me on the way in, not well
enough to tell the brown paper from liquor store fare. The thought occurred to me that this might
also be why I hadnt been shot yet, and with a certain satisfaction it occurred to me that if she
wanted to frog march me at gunpoint to my imaginary safe location, she would have to switch the
light on, and I might get to see if she was wearing stockings or pantyhose and if she was blonde.

As if reading my mind she sighed with an air of resignation, perhaps at the thought of the wild
goose chase, perhaps at the thought of my lecherous gaze, I couldnt tell, perhaps both.

The only problem: If she switches on the light, she can scope me for the thing, and Im fucked. I
have to make my move, now, while I still have my fools chance. I step forward:

Here.. I say, simultaneously lifting my arm with the brown paper and reaching for the tumblers on
the sideboard to my right. I make sure to clink the glasses as I am picking them off the shelf and
just as she is saying, or trying to say;

Dont move Mr Maloney

I stride my right foot into my left leg and crash to the floor, smashing one of the glasses and rolling
the other across the room. The thing I drop behind the books on the bottom shelf of the sideboard.
Acting the fool is often the best chance a fool gets to live through the night.

Fuck I exclaim simultaneously to her Jesus Christ you fucking drunk, I could have shot you!

I am flattered at the note of fear in her voice, and happy that my ruse appears to have worked. My
mind furiously races to think of where there is booze in brown paper in my house and how I can get
it before And then the light goes on.

Brunette. And in jeans. Good shape though, and I do like those Ruger LC9s, solid little gun.

Your bleeding. She says.

She had a beed on me, and her look was one of only mild concern. The shattered glass had cut my
hand, not too badly, but there was plenty of blood, and it seemed so far to be distracting her from
the fact that my liquor store purchase had disappeared.

let me get a dishcloth I say, motioning to the kitchen. She waves the gun at me and I rise and
stumble into my humble kitchen, feigning more pain and drunkenness than I feel. I have plenty of
experience in both, so it comes easy.


I have tried to write in the Crime fiction genre, specifically in the tradition of the hard boiled subgenre pioneered by Dashiell Hammett and broadened in mildly psychedelic and psychological
directions by Ross Macdonald in books like The Instant Enemy (Macdonald 1968). This hugely
influential sub-genre has influenced everything from film noir like The Maltese Falcon (based on
the Hammett novel) to films like The Big Lebowski and Thomas Pynchons Inherent Vice
(Pynchon 2009) now a film directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Hammetts protagonists tended to
be fairly straight laced, MacDonald added the element of the flawed protagonist which allows for a
kind of play between detective work proper and a kind of introspective detective work that
investigates the protagonists own internal moral landscape, the fusion of which, with the case at
hand, takes the protagonist on a kind of cynical journey of self discovery.

My protagonist is a professional thief employed to steal an object from an office who returns home
to find a mysterious women with a gun. His first person perspective is one of an alcoholic,

womanising, risk junkie who is, in fact, imagining their own life like something out of a hard boiled
detective story.

This involves a detective figure who identifies motive, asses probable cause, and sifts through a
mass of information to identify evidence following some method or course of action.
(Ludlum 1999 p2)

The above description of the form of the genre elegantly sums up what of course can actually be a
way of life, a simple method of approaching situations in ones romantic or career life, as if, as it
where, you where a private eye, trying to solve a mystery, or get away with the money, or get the
girl, or get out with your life.

Since books like Hammetts The Glass Key (Hammett 1959) came out in 1931, the allure of these
kind of protagonists has spellbound generations of readers, often young men. The idea, which I
think is not mine but a kind of well worn trope, is that the protagonist in the story is one such
young-ish man; someone who has grown up reading Hammett, Chandler, Macdonald, etc and now
reflexively views their life through that lens. This allows for a kind of meta-genre or meta
commentary within the written piece whereby the protagonist is free to affirm or deny their
commitment to any given trope or idea in the genre and by their actions navigate through the
mystery. In such a short piece I couldnt really explore much of that, electing to focus on following
genre conventions, evoking the misogyny, alcoholism, mysterious stranger and other motifs, while
modifying others in traditional ways; my detective is a thief, although he could well be performing
his heaving as a private eye for his employer, and he has drug problems, again, rare for

Hammetts protagonists in the 30s but becoming a convention of its own by the time of Pynchons
Inherent Vice.

The idea of the detective or protagonist in the hardboiled novel as heroic punching bag goes back
to at least the Glass Key.

This can be seen historically in the way the detective figure has been romanticised as a mental
giant, an athletic marvel or someone who can endure a remarkable amount of punishment.
(Ludlum 1999 p3)

And by the time Pynchon wrote Inherent Vice the idea that the protagonist could be inflicting that
remarkable amount of punishment on themselves with drug use and dodgy living, all the while
under the spell of the idea of the private eye or the hardboiled lifestyle, was well established.

A final word on genre; The post Hammett hardboiled story is a sub genre of detective or crime
fiction, which as Ludlum explains (Ludlum 1999 p4) emerges out of Romanticism and the Gothic
mystery. Elements of rationalism pave the way for the cynical detective to uncover nonsupernatural explanations for things ala Sherlock Holmes. Then Hammett takes an almost casenote approach to telling stories, deeply informed by how actual private investigators worked at the
time, and therefore subtly mocking the genius and brilliance of the Holmes style armchair
detective. This suspicion of rationality, already present in Hammett, signals a kind of return to
Romanticism, which blooms in Ross Macdonald thru to Thomas Pynchon in the genre of the
psychedelic hard-boiled sub-sub-genre.

The reason the psychedelic or drug-fuelled hardboiled novel exemplifies the concerns of
Romanticism is that by showing the protagonist investigating his own mental landscapes, his own
intuitions, suspicions, prejudices and the limits of his own rationality, in exactly the same way he
investigates the external world, seeking to solve the mystery both of himself and the situation at
hand, we see a world where rationality is always circumscribed by emotion, mystery, the unknown,
vice, intoxication and emergency.


Hammett, Dashiell. (1959) The Glass Key. Penguin Books.

Landrum, Larry. (1999) Historical outline" in American Mystery and Detective Novels: A Reference

Macdonald, Ross (1968) The Instant Enemy. Fontana/Collins

Pynchon, Thomas (2009) Inherent Vice. Penguin Press