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  • Writer's pictureMike O'Driscoll

Blood, Guns and Sex.

I've added a story to the fiction page. Originally written back in 1997, this is one I sold to Thomas Roche for an anthology series called Noirotica. This was to be a collection of noirish crime stories with a strong, erotic bent, and featured work by authors including Poppy Brite, Brian Hodge, Nancy A Collins, Caitlin R Kiernan, John Shirley, Maxim Jakubowski, M. Christian and others, many of them better known for their work in the horror field.

My story, 'Night of the Big Guns', featuring a gay hitman, was originally due to appear in the third volume, Stolen Kisses in 2000, but due to problems with the original publisher, Masquerade, Roche was forced to rejig the ToC and split the anthology in two. This meant my story would appear in volume 4, which was to be published by new imprint Black Books in 2001.

Sadly, the deal with Black Books never materialised and Noirotica volume 4 never saw the light of day. As far as I can remember, I tried to sell the story to a couple of other publications, but always knew--given the explicit nature of the material--that it was going to be a big ask. When the story failed to find a home I forgot about it until recently, when, in the midst of a clear out, I came across the original hard copy and notes, along with correspondence and my contract from Roche.

Rereading the story, I was surprised by how well it held up. It was meant as an affectionate pastiche of classic noir fiction, albeit with a gay protagonist and sexually explicit scenes. The notion of the transgressive and forbidden has always been central to pulp fiction and to film noir. The trope of the femme fatale, or of the world-weary protagonist unable to escape his fate, stand in contrast to the archetypes of more conventional genre fiction. It's hard to think of two more transgressive female characters than Kathie Moffat (Jane Greer) in Out of the Past, and Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) in Double Indemnity. I think many films noir have embedded within them a gay subtext. At the more overt end, think of the relationship Sydney Greenstreet and Elish Cook Jr in The Maltese Falcon, or Glenn Ford and George Macready in Gilda. But even in films where the nature of the relationship between its male character seems more platonic, its possible to detect an element of queerness in, for example, the complex dynamic between Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas in Out of the Past, or between Fred MacMurray and Edward G Robinson in Double Indemnity, especially given the latter's seeming willingness to elide the truth, and his sympathy for MacMurray at the climax.

Joe McClure is my attempt to realise how an overtly gay character would fit in to a gangster milieu. The narrative is coloured by McClure's way of seeing the world, but I've tried too to have him function in a recognisably noir context, bound by familiar masculine codes of behaviour and loyalty. 'Night of the Big Guns' can be found here.

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