#Me too reaches Crime Fiction

A new literary prize was launched in 2018 to honour crime writing where ‘no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered.’ Called the Staunch Prize, its been founded by author and screenwriter Bridget Lawless, who is providing the £2,000 award herself.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jan/26/staunch-prize-launched-for-thrillers-that-avoid-sexual-violence-against-women

The Prize website: http://staunchbookprize.com/about-2/

Overall, I’m glad that someone has stepped forward to highlight the way that violence against women is used as a form of entertainment. How long before similar attention is paid towards films, television dramas and music? However, there are a few contradictions raised by this prize, that no one is addressing, though Val McDermid makes some valid points in the article.

Before I write anything else, let me state that I’m against violence towards women. I’ve worked as a marriage guidance counsellor and rape crisis switchboard adviser, and at least half of my girlfriends suffered abuse that had long-term effects on them, so I know the consequences of violence better than most men.

There’s a problem in criticising anything that’s riding the bow wave of political correctness, in that if you say anything remotely disapproving of the flood of accusations, then its turned back on you as if you’re one of the abusers. Bizarrely, this happened recently to Margaret Atwood, who quite mildly (and correctly) pointed out that legal due process was being ignored, in how men were being accused and condemned.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jan/15/margaret-atwood-feminist-backlash-metoo

Curious about my own crime writing, in four novels and several short stories and novellas, I totted up how many victims of each gender were ‘beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered’, I found that 14 women were victims, while 15 men suffered. Two women were perpetrators of violence, including the murder of female victims. My WIP, The Dead Need Nobody, starts with a cold-hearted murder of a female painter, by defenestration

The killing is casually done and wasn’t really necessary, but my fictional male murderer has also disposed of two other victims in an equally uncaring way, as he simply throws away what he doesn’t need any more. The murders have no more meaning to him than switching off a light. My story’s theme is not really the murders, but more about how society values possessions, in this case, expensive paintings, more than it does the artists that created them, who often died as paupers.

One of the problems with the Staunch Prize is that while it’s taking the moral high ground in condemning crime stories that trade on women being victims, it ignores who the consumers of such lurid tales are—which is mainly women! I’ve seen various statistics bandied about, from 57%-70% female readership of all the different sub-genres of crime writing.

https://www.ranker.com/list/why-women-love-true-crime/katia-kleyman

Thus, we have the peculiar situation, where a female screenwriter of crime stories founds and funds* a writing prize for a crime story without violence against women, yet the biggest fans of violent stories are women themselves—who are, presumably, being given a smack on the wrist for liking what they do! I’m guessing, that under the rules of the contest, as many men can be slaughtered as possible.

*Except, that Bridget Lawless isn’t really funding it with her own money, for there’s a £20 entry fee. With £2000 going to the winner, I wonder how the rest of the entry money will be dispersed…I’d be more impressed if there was a statement on the Staunch Prize website, that surplus funds would be donated to a charity fighting violence against women.

It strikes me that Bridget Lawless is capitalising on the current debate, helping to raise her profile as a writer, while making some welcome money.

What’s your reaction to this new writing prize?

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ADDENDUM

I came across this interview with Bridget Lawless, founder of the Staunch Prize.

http://www.wordswithjam.co.uk/2018/02/violence-against-women-in-thrillers-in.html

It’s one of the most sycophantic interviews I’ve read—with an added pong of hypocrisy, for interviewer J.J. Marsh writes crime stories that feature sexual violence and the murder of female victims!

Again, there’s no mention of who actually reads gruesome thrillers and murder mysteries the most—women. Nor is anything said about who gets all of the loot generated by jumping on this bandwagon. If 1,000 writers enter at £20 a manuscript, with £2,000 paid to the winner, that leaves £18,000 minus whatever Bridget Lawless pays to the three judges (including herself).

I’d be more impressed if she announced that the remaining funds were to be donated to the End Violence Against Women Coalition or Refuge, but something tells me that won’t be happening.

There’s money in misery….

Author: Paul Whybrow

I am a self-employed writer, which means I’m working for an idiot who doesn’t pay me enough – but the holidays are great. Ex many occupations, from the respectable ‘career ladder’ to disreputable “somebody’s- got-to-do-it”. All a good way of seeing someone else’s point-of-view. Best job, apart from writing, was dispatch-riding on a motorcycle in the ’70s, though I’ve also enjoyed teaching, librarianship, counselling and helping to run a community centre. Worst job—you really don’t want to know, but it was in a processed food manufacturer’s factory—put me off bacon, sausages and quiches for a long time, and made me look at pet food in a new way. Sometimes I’ve looked respectable in a suit, other times a bit wild and woolly (though still stylish) as a biker. It’s strange how differently people treat you, depending on what you’re wearing. A suit means I’m sometimes addressed as ‘sir’, but in motorcycle leathers I’m always referred to as ‘mate.’ I’ve been writing since I was eight when I penned a story about a desert island and attempted to compile a dictionary—which made me realise quite how many words there are. I’ve written for magazines under a variety of pen names, ghostwritten a couple of biographies and had a column in a local newspaper. I used to concentrate on non-fiction of an informative, how-to instructional nature, as I’m a firm believer in the dissemination of knowledge to enable people to do things for themselves. Knowledge is power, and in these troubled times of economic downturn and increased intrusion into our lives by government agencies, it’s vital to know how to get through. My fictional stories also show people coping and finding ways to survive. In 2015, I began writing a series of crime novels featuring a Cornish CID officer, Detective Chief Inspector Neil Kettle. I completed the fifth story in 2018 and will be self-publishing Book 1, Who Kills A Nudist? in the summer of 2019. I’m based in a Celtic nation, the county of Cornwall or Kernow. I’ve been here for twenty-five years, and have lived all over the country, as well as abroad—in France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain and the USA.

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