The Falcon’s Malteser is a send up of detective stories such as The Maltese Falcon (see what they did there?) and plays with all the tropes of the genre. It has a shabby detective down on their luck, a low rent location, a strange client (with a stranger job), crime, mystery, intrigue… the whole nine yards. 

Let’s see how the story starts.

There’s not much call for private detectives in Fulham.

The day it all started was a bad one. Business was so slack it was falling down all around us. The gas had been disconnected that morning, one of the coldest mornings for twenty years, and it could only be a matter of time before the electricity followed. We’d run out of food and the people in the supermarket downstairs had all fallen down laughing when I suggested credit. We had just $2.37 and about three teaspoons of instant coffee to last us the weekend. The wallpaper was peeling, the carpets were fraying, and the curtains… well, whichever way you looked at it, it was curtains for us. Even the cockroaches were walking out.

Sounds grim, doesn’t it? 

Well… almost grim, anyway. We’re dealing with two genre types here: detective stories and comedy. The humour of this passage comes by exaggerating the detective’s situation.

Which parts of the passage seem over the top to you?

Let’s look at how The Falcon’s Malteser jokes with the tropes of detective fiction to create a fun tale. 

detective comedy

If you’re not used to either genre, don’t worry—we’ll talk a little about both.

In this lesson (and the others in this Falcon’s Malteser course) we are going to write a series of snippets that, taken together, create the outline of a whole chapter. It’s impossible to get everything to line up when you’re just working on one lesson at a time, so don’t worry if your story or characters are inconsistent. But if you want to make it easy on yourself, here’s a heads up about things you’ll need to make your story work.

  • You ‘ll need a detective who is down on their luck.
  • Optional: You can give the detective an assistant.
    • In The Falcon’s Malteser, the assistant is smart and the detective is clueless.
    • The assistant is the one telling the story, and the comedy comes from the assistant’s point of view.
    • You need to decide whether or not you want an assistant. If you do, then who will tell the story, and what is the difference between the two characters?
    • It’s possible to write this scene with only the detective. (We’ve written one example each way.)
  • You’ll need a location, ideally one where you wouldn’t expect to find a detective. Detectives are found in gritty, crime and corruption-infested cities. Choosing an unconventional setting can be funny, and explain why the detective is down on their luck.
  • Alternatively,  you could choose an unconventional specialisation for the detective (one not likely to make money).
  • In the next lesson you’re going to need a client, with a job for the detective, but there’ll need to be a sense that there is more to the client than they are letting on.
  • And later on, something harmless is going to scare the client.