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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Just weighing in on the whole hot issue -- and it does seem to be a hot issue, doesn't it? Let's forget about gender for a moment. Let's forget about whether a man wrote it or a woman, and whether the violence was directed at a man or a woman. We are crime writers. Therefore, our art circles around violence. The only question is one of degrees.

As an artist, I need to be free to write what moves me and what I think I can sell. I don't think my work is gratuitously violent, or that it targets women in particular, but hey, characters die. It's never good when good characters bite the bullet.

Kid-related exploitation -- unacceptable. As for anything else, write away. People who want to will read it. Others won't.

It's like the old joke with the punch line "We've already established what kind of girl you are. Now we're only concerned about price..." We've already established that our art dabbles in the darker side of the human element. Now it's all about the degrees we find acceptable, as readers, reviewers and writers.

That's my 2 cents, for what it's worth.
You guys are nuts! In the nicest possible way...
Hey, Steve! I suspect one has to be a little 'nuts' to call himself a writer! Ha. We can all be nuts together, at least. There are a lot of lonely nuts out there with no 'Space' to visit. ;=)
Ditto.
OK, Devil's advocate, here: if you want to be free to write whatever you want, what about writers who want to write about maiming and killing kids and animals? Where does the 'free speech' line end and the public indecency line begin? Why is it not OK to kill a kid but OK to cut off a woman's privates, rape her, mangle her, refer to her as sub-human, and throw her body in the garbage?

Yes, our work is about violence. And yes, people die, women as well as men. But there is a line where the violence becomes about something other than the story -- a pandering to the public's (or the writer's!) taste for 'violence porn.' For female characters, this line is crossed much more easily and acceptably than for male characters. The public will read about a female rape and not be much disturbed, but a child or male rape makes people shudder.

Gah. I'm turning into Susan B. Anthony over here. Enough.

MK
www.minervakoenig.com
For me, ' the 'free speech' line doesn't end anywhere in the vicinity of fictional work. And you're creating straw men here. It is okay to kill a fictional kid in a fictional work - obviously, surely? Because it's not a real child. Write whatever you want. There's no line here, and nor should there ever be. When you say it's not okay to kill a kid in a book, you're talking purely for yourself.

"For female characters, this line is crossed much more easily and acceptably than for male characters. The public will read about a female rape and not be much disturbed, but a child or male rape makes people shudder."

Speak for yourself. Really. And if male rape made you shudder more than female - for some bizarre reason - then you wouldn't be complaining about the prevalence of violence against women in fiction, would you? Why do you assume violence against women is enjoyable for readers other than you? Can't it be that violence against women is seen as more horrific than violence against men, especially sexually, and that that's why it forms the focus of so much crime fiction?
Ah, no. Women are more obvious targets. There may also be a perverse pleasure among female readers to fantasize about rapes.

But the most horrific scenes of violence I witnessed were what was done to men in Val McDermid's book.
Minerva said: "The public will read about a female rape and not be much disturbed, but a child or male rape makes people shudder."

Well, THIS bit of 'the public' is disturbed when I read about anyone being raped.

And yes, people should be free to write about whatever they want, just as we are free to read about anything we want. I personally choose not to read anything with sleuths who embroider or knit while soving a crime.

I enjoy good books - plain and simple.
Why is it not OK to kill a kid but OK to cut off a woman's privates, rape her, mangle her, refer to her as sub-human, and throw her body in the garbage?

A perfectly reasonable point. I actually think there are legitimate reasons for writers of fiction to fictionally kill off fictional kids, though as a parent I now find such scenes particularly disturbing (even though I've written them in flashbacks, to establish backstory). I also fictionally killed a woman character--a fairly despicable one--by fictionally nailing her to a fictional building with a fictional nail-gun. In my next book, should there be one, I plan to fictionally kill off several fictional harbor seals. I'm not interested in writing about rape or female mutilation, although I have considered doing a "cold case" story about the infamous Tony "chop-chop" Costa rape/dismemberment killings that happened in Truro, MA in the early '70s.

I've forgotten what my point is, except that in fiction, everything ought to be fair game. Everything. At the same time, much depends on the treatment, and the writer's motivations. You don't want to trade too much in clichés, and there's certainly nothing fresh or illuminating at this point in even the most luridly violent scenes (we're less shocked by stories of female rape, etc., because we're so inundated by them, I think). At the same time you don't want to be fettered by artificial Rules Of Niceness, or whatever: I'm okay with the idea that my books may offend certain people--but there's no excuse for cluelessness. One ought to be aware of what one's Id is doing on the page, at the same time that we're handing it the chainsaw and telling it to go have fun.
Jon, you're both funny & wise, as Dana says! Hee hee. Minerva's got a great point about where the lines of acceptability are or are not drawn in society. Just to clarify, of course I've read books where children are hurt or killed. It's perfectly acceptable to write them. But extreme violence against anyone of the human, dog or other variety goes against my own peace-loving, friendly ole nature, so it's difficult for me to read, that's all I meant.

That and exploitation of real children. I'll never accept child abuse or child porn on any level. Outside of that, I really don't want to encourage sensorship in our industry. I'd rather offer up some tasteful crimewriting alternatives and hope that public tastes change.
Good for you, Minerva. I'm with you.
Methinks that Jon Loomis is a very sensible and insightful man / writer / person.

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