By Amy Willis
Published: 2:59PM GMT 25 Oct 2009 in The Telegraph UK.

The author claims she is is fed up with increasing levels of "sadistic misogyny" in crime fiction and says authors are simply jumping on the bandwagon to get a bestseller.

"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, eaten, starved, suffocated, stabbed, boiled or burned alive," she told the Observer.

Authors must be free to write and publishers to publish. But critics must be free to say when they have had enough. So however many more outpourings of sadistic misogyny are crammed on to the bandwagon, no more will be reviewed by me," she added.

And the most disturbing plots are by female authors, she says.

"The trend cannot be attributed to an anti-feminist backlash because the most inventive fiction of this kind is written by women," she claims.

Natasha Cooper, former chair of the Crime Writer' Association, agrees with Ms Mann. She says women do this so they are taken seriously as authors.

"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.

The British market for crime fiction is worth more than £116m a year, with almost 21 million books sold.

Women account for more than 60 per cent of the readership with females over 55 the most avid readers.

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I doubt that excessive graphic violence involving women is sexist when produced by female authors. They may simply blame these acts on male perpetrators and the easy victimization of females. However, with such books comes a danger that they'll stir fantasizing among certain of their readers. There is a clear link between homicidal behavior and the preference for graphic violence of certain types. So the end result may be sexist in targeting females.

If the violence is excessive it is gratuitous. Makes no difference if it's male or female victims. And let's face it, some quite respectable (I mean reviewed and talked about) novels have contained torture/snuff porn.

The only serial killer novel I liked (admired would be a better world, because you cannot like that sort of thing) was Val McDermid's Sirens Singing (not sure the title is correct). It was early and it was well-written and very clever in the way she handled the situation. It contained torture and the victims were men. I have never since seen a good serial killer novel.
There is a clear link between homicidal behavior and the preference for graphic violence of certain types.

But there's no known causal link. For most of us, fantasy never takes the next step into action. If violent images/films/novels caused violent behavior, we'd all be out there committing mayhem.

If the violence is excessive it is gratuitous.

The other way around, for me. "Excessive" is a matter of taste: we can be a bit more objective, maybe, about whether issues of story or character demand more or less violence in a given situation.

I actually like The Silence of the Lambs quite a bit--Harris is a terrific writer, and Lecter is obviously a seminal invention.
For most of us, fantasy never takes the next step into action. If violent images/films/novels caused violent behavior, we'd all be out there committing mayhem.

I wonder if that's changing, if there may be a few smaller steps from fantay to action. I see a lot of people more deeply involved in their fantasy worlds these days. Remember that woman who wore her Star Trek uniform to court?

I also feel there is a lot less consensus on what is "real" these days. Many people believe very different things. 9/11 conspiracies are probably the best examples here of people living in their own realities quite distinct from one another.

It may early days yet, though.
There are a lot more ready-made fantasy worlds in which to be involved, but probably about the same percentage of true psychotics as ever (roughly 1-2% of the general population, which is a hell of a lot of people, it turns out). The fact that thousands of people in this country firmly believe they've been abducted by aliens ought to tell us something.

There's no evidence that violent films, books or games cause otherwise normal people to commit violent acts, though. If anything, the opposite may be true: just look at the violent crime stats over the past thirty years--way down from their highs in the 1970s; meanwhile all of our major forms of entertainment have grown ever more violent. Maybe there's something to be said for letting people live out their violent impulses vicariously.
Let's be clear about this. The link has been shown to exist for the criminal after the fact. In other words the murder (or whatever) was preceded by systematic reading or watching of violent materials. That only suggests that some people may be influenced by this, not that all are.
It makes sense that people who are disposed to commit violent acts would seek out violent entertainment; that doesn't imply a causal relationship. If there was one, as I say, we'd see violent crime rates going up, not down.
Violent crime rates have nothing to do with the scenario we're talking about. Most violent crime is gang-related or involves robbery, or domestic violence. We may very well be seeing more torture killings, abductions of women, and serial crimes by psychopaths since the advent of violent movies and books.
The causal relationship has been put forward by behavioral scientists and criminologists. I didn't dream this up.
We may very well be seeing more torture killings, abductions of women, and serial crimes by psychopaths since the advent of violent movies and books.

We may--but are we? I'd be happy to have a look at these studies you're talking about that demonstrate a causal relationship between violence in media and violent crime.
I don't know if they're influenced by it as much as they're revved up. Nut job decides to do something violent and uses the fictional violence to get his adrenaline up, get his mad on, whatever he needs. Like a pep talk when there's no one there.

That being said, there are examples of criminals acting out crimes they saw in a movie, but billions of people have seen movies, and only a handful have followed up on it.
The only serial killer novel I liked (admired would be a better world, because you cannot like that sort of thing) was Val McDermid's Sirens Singing (not sure the title is correct). It was early and it was well-written and very clever in the way she handled the situation. It contained torture and the victims were men. I have never since seen a good serial killer novel.

It's The Mermaids Singing in the UK. And I suppose that goes to show how subjective a lot of this is, because I liked the book - and very much like Val as a writer - but I thought the Judas Cradle scene in that book was excessively violent. There's no need to include it on a 'social commentary' or 'duty to the victims' level, because serial killers just aren't going round impaling men on elaborate medieval torture devices.

It's a great scene, nevertheless - full of tension. Makes you cringe. And surely that's the reason the scene is there - to entertain you on a visceral level and generate suspense, because you now know a) the hero has a particularly nasty dragon to face off against at the end of the book, and b) the author won't shy away when it happens.
Yes. But I doubt this is likely to be done again. In fact, I don't find that Val McDermid manages it in her other serial killer books. And quite right about the title.
As a subgenre, this is very hard to pull off.
I also agree about the scene. It is definitely sickening, and it is also utterly fascinating. We are a savages at heart.
Not if you like good, hard-boiled writing. It seems like most 'hard' writers feel they have to 'qualify' by slapping a dame around, doing something perversely sexual to a woman, or talking about my species as if we're some kind of weird animal.

Here are some of my favorites:

-- Referring constantly (even women do this) to female characters as 'the girl'
-- Giving detailed descriptions of women's bodies, what they're wearing, how good-looking they are, etc., while giving us full psychological portraits of male characters
-- Publishers turning down books with too many female characters ('they don't sell')
-- The obligatory 'dress up' scene, in which the formerly homely female character becomes worthy of attention by putting on a fancy dress and some makeup
-- Men always pursue women in books. Always. If women pursue men, they're comic characters, or it's used as a way to show how desperate/ugly/messed-up the female character is.
-- Female characters are always beautiful. If they aren't beautiful, they're secondary characters.
-- The ass-kicking gal whose description is that of someone who probably couldn't pick up a bale of hay (i.e., supermodel)
-- (insert your favorite here)

And yes, sexist violence is specifically violence against women. It's the 'damsel in distress' meme turned on it's head. People eat it up with a spoon, for some reason. Me, I'm sick of it.

MK
www.minervakoenig.com

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