In thriller writing, violence against women manages to be both disturbing and boring at the same time. But a new prize promises to reward authors who do things differentlyby Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett / January 24, 2018 / Leave a comment
I mostly stopped reading thrillers about four years ago. It was Becky Masterman’s Rage Against the Dying that did it. It got under my skin to such an extent that I began to have nightmares filled with graphic images of rape, torture and mutilation. Psychologically, the prospect of it happening to me became a case not of if, but when. As I wrote in the Guardian at the time: “My reaction was certainly symptomatic of the kind of paranoid, hyper-aware symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (I was violently attacked in 2010).”
In other words, perhaps I was the problem. I understood that millions of readers, mostly women, read and enjoy these books, and speculated a little as to why that might be. To my mind, it was partly a case of acquainting oneself with a very real threat. A survival impulse. A case of “show me what I’m dealing with, here, so it doesn’t happen to me.” Furthermore, we are used to seeing women cast as victims of sexual crimes; it happens to us in real life, after all, disproportionately so. So arguably these books reflect the world we live in.
But personally, I’d had just about a bellyful. I found the violence in thrillers disturbing, but it was also lurid and repetitive—rather boring in other words. So I put this genre to one side, mostly, though I was not immune to the hype regarding the conditions of various “girls” (The Girl on the Train, The Girl Before, etc).
It was with an amused smile, then, that I noted the launch of the Staunch Book Prize, to be awarded to the author of a novel in the thriller genre in which no woman is beaten, stalked…