Lesbian detective fiction : the outsider within

Simpson, Inga Caroline (2008) Lesbian detective fiction : the outsider within. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Lesbian Detective Fiction: the outsider within is a creative writing thesis in two parts: a draft lesbian detective novel, titled Fatal Development (75%) and an exegesis containing a critical appraisal of the sub-genre of lesbian detective fiction, and of my own writing process (25%). Creative work: Fatal Development -- It wasn’t the first time I’d seen a dead body, but it didn’t seem to get any easier. -- When Dirk and Stacey discover a body in the courtyard of their Brisbane woolstore apartment, it is close friend and neighbour, Kersten Heller, they turn to for support. The police assume Stuart’s death was an accident, but when it emerges that he was about to take legal action against the woolstore’s developers, Bovine, Kersten decides there must be more to it. Her own apartment has flooded twice in a month and the builders are still in and out repairing defects. She discovers Stuart was not alone on the roof when he fell to his death and the evidence he had collected for his case against Bovine has gone missing. Armed with this knowledge, and fed up with the developer’s ongoing resistance to addressing the building’s structural issues, Kersten organises a class action against Bovine. Kersten draws on her past training as a spy to investigate Stuart’s death, hiding her activities, and details of her past, from her partner, Toni. Her actions bring her under increasing threat as her apartment is defaced, searched and bugged, and she is involved in a car chase across New Farm. Forced to fall back on old skills, old habits and memories return to the surface. When Toni discovers that Kersten has broken her promise to leave the investigation to the police, she walks out. The neighbouring – and heritage-listed – Riverside Coal development site burns to the ground, and Kersten and Dirk uncover evidence of a network of corruption involving developers and local government officials. After she is kidnapped in broad daylight, narrowly escaping from the boot of a moving car, Kersten is confident she is right, but with Toni not returning her calls, and many of the other residents selling up, including Dirk and Stacey, Kersten begins to question her judgment. In a desperate attempt to turn things around, Kersten calls on an old Agency contact to help prove Bovine was involved in Stuart’s death, her kidnapping, and ongoing corruption. To get the evidence she needs, Kersten plays a dangerous game: letting Bovine know she has uncovered their illegal operations in order to draw them into revealing themselves on tape. Hiding alone in a hotel room, Kersten is finally forced to confront her past: When Mirin didn’t come home that night, I was ready to go out and find her myself, disappear, and start a new life together somewhere far away. Instead they pulled me in before I could finish making arrangements, questioned me for hours, turned everything around. It was golden child to problem child in the space of a day. This time, she’s determined, things will turn out differently. Exegesis: The exegesis traces the development of lesbian detective fiction, including its dual origins in detective and lesbian fiction, to compare the current state of the sub-genre with the early texts and to establish the dominant themes and tropes. I focus particularly on Australian examples of the sub-genre, examining in detail Claire McNab’s Denise Cleever series and Jan McKemmish’s A Gap in the Records, in order to position my own lesbian detective novel between these two works. In drafting Fatal Development, I have attempted to include some of the political content and complexity of McKemmish’s work, but with a plot-driven narrative. I examine the dominant tropes and conventions of the sub-genre, such as: lesbian politics; the nature of the crime; method of investigation; sex and romance; and setting. In the final section, I explain the ways in which I have worked within and against the subgenre’s conventions in drafting a contemporary lesbian detective novel: drawing on tradition and subverting reader expectations. Throughout the thesis, I explore in detail the tradition of the fictional lesbian detective as an outsider on the margins of society, disrupting notions of power and gender. While the lesbian detective’s outsider status grants her moral agency and the capacity to achieve justice and generate change, she is never fully accepted. The lesbian detective remains an outsider within. For the lesbian detective, working within a system that ultimately discriminates against her involves conflict and compromise, and a sense of double-play in being part of two worlds but belonging to neither. I explore how this double-consciousness can be applied to the lesbian writer in choosing whether to write for a mainstream or lesbian audience.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 20120
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Bourke, Nicole & Neilsen, Philip
Keywords: lesbian detective fiction, crime fiction, detective fiction, mystery, lesbian fiction, feminist detective fiction, Australian detective fiction, hard-boiled, spy fiction, gay detective fiction, pulp fiction, Jan McKemmish, Claire McNab, Dorothy Porter, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, John Le Carré, creative writing, practice-led research
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 27 Apr 2009 02:57
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2017 14:41

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