Crime fiction reviewer refusing to review any more books because of misogynist violence
Jess McCabe // 27 October 2009
Crime fiction writer and reviewer for the Literary Review is refusing to review any more crime novels because of the high levels of misogynist violence, the Guardian reports.
Jessica Mann, an award-winning author who reviews crime fiction for the Literary Review, has said that an increasing proportion of the books she is sent to review feature male perpetrators and female victims in situations of “sadistic misogyny”. “Each psychopath is more sadistic than the last and his victims’ sufferings are described in detail that becomes ever more explicit, as young women are imprisoned, bound, gagged, strung up or tied down, raped, sliced, burned, blinded, beaten, eaten, starved, suffocated, stabbed, boiled or buried alive,” she said.
“Authors must be free to write and publishers to publish. But critics must be free to say they have had enough. So however many more outpourings of sadistic misogyny are crammed on to the bandwagon, no more of them will be reviewed by me,” said Mann, who has written her own bestselling series of crime novels and a non-fiction book about female crime writers.
She said that when a female corpse recently appeared on the jacket of a crime-writing colleague’s new book, the author pointed out to her publisher that the victim in the story was actually a man. Mann said the publisher replied: “Never mind that. Dead, brutalised women sell books, dead men don’t. Nor do dead children or geriatrics.”
Some of these books (although not all) are written by women, the Guardian reports. But while Mann suggests this means there is no anti-feminist backlash involved, it doesn’t seem so clear cut.
Natasha Cooper, former chair of the Crime Writers’ Association, agreed with Mann. “There is a general feeling that women writers are less important than male writers and what can save and propel them on to the bestseller list is if they produce at least one novel with very graphic violence in it to establish their credibility and prove they are not girly,” she said.
So one theory is it’s a reaction to … surprise, surprise… sexism directed at female writers.
While another theory is it’s about commerical pressure:
Val McDermid, author of the books adapted for the television series Wire in the Blood starring Robson Green, whose novel The Mermaids Singing won the association’s Gold Dagger for best crime novel of the year, said that crime writing was increasingly “sensationalist and gratuitous” because of the demands of the market.
“There has been a general desensitisation among readers, who are upping the ante by demanding ever more sensationalist and gratuitous plotlines,” she said. “But when women write about violence against women, it will almost inevitably be more terrifying because women grow up knowing that to be female is to be at risk of attack. We write about violence from the inside. Men, on the other hand, write about it from the outside.”