What’s in a thriller?

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News just in, more or less, that crime writers are complaining about an award for crime novels that don’t involve violence against women. The Staunch prize was created to challenge the gainsay beating and raping of women in fiction, which the organisers claims has the knock-on effect of building certain expectations in jurors about what counts as an ordinary rapist.

Layers of meaning in that one. The writers who have expressed disquiet over the issue, include female novelists, claim the prize represents a gagging order on their desire to represent the world through fiction. While women are brutalised in the world then writers should be setting stories which incorporate that truth about women’s lives.

I can’t pretend to be a neutral bystander on this. Some of my female characters do get assaulted by male characters, but I must admit I do treat my male characters with a similar disinterest in their physical and mental wellbeing. I have written about two rapes (so far) and I thought long and hard as to whether I should put those characters through that experience and how I would describe it.

My conclusion was that I should proceed but I made a conscious decision as to how I represented them – with respect, without sensationalism and not gratuitously, unlike some of my violent scenes.

Let me know what you think. Should we stop writing about violence aimed at women or is it an essential trope of the crime/thriller genre?

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