Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Charles Willleford "Citizen's Arrest"

From Gravetapping by Ben Boulden
Posted: 30 Jun 2015 06:31 AM PDT
Mr. Goranovsky, also known as “Mr. Do-Gooder,” is
 good citizen; honest, upstanding, with a certain 
civic-mindedness that compels
him to find a clerk when he sees a man 
hoplifting. The store is 
called Gwynn’s, and it has an 
odd shoplifting policy. Since an 
employee didn’t see the actual snatch, 
they are loath to stop t
he man for fear, if he didn’t steal 
anything, of alienating 
a customer. They ask Mr. Goranovsky 
to be a witness when 
the man is approached. 
He hesitantly agrees, but quickly 
regrets his decision.

“Citizen’s Arrest” is deceivingly simple 
and overtly ironic. It takes the expected
—crime, punishment, and possible retribution
—and twists it into something unexpected. 
It is humorous, charming
—in a hardboiled way—
nd exemplifies the idea that no good 
deed goes unpunished. The prose is simple—

“My fingers trembled as I lit a cigarette.”

—and, unusually, there are no first names.
 It is Mr. Goranovsky, 
Mr. Levine, Mr. Sileo, which gives the 
story an uptight formality. 
A formality that acts as a foil to the climactic twist. And the twist 
is what makes the story good. 

“Citizen’s Arrest” originally appeared in 
Alfred Hitchcock Mystery
Magazinein 1966. I read it in 
the anthology The New Mammoth 
Book of Pulp Fictionedited by Maxim
 Jakubowski, which I
 recommend wholeheartedly.

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