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Ignore at Your (Possible) Peril — Women Crime Writers and Readers

Carmel Shute Diversity Women Crime Writers

"The last time I looked over 90% of book club members were women," said Carmel Shute in a talk last December.

Shute, co-convenor of Sisters in Crime, went on share a few other stats: "Women comprise around two-thirds of published authors and buy around three-quarters of the books sold.Carmel Shute, Co-Convenor Sisters in Crime

"In preparing this talk, I naturally consulted the [Sisters in Crime] and had a big response. Sulari Gentill, the author of 10 Roland Sinclair historical mysteries amongst other things, was born in Sri Lanka, learned to speak English in Zambia, grew up in Brisbane and now lives in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains of NSW, and says:

"'I’d talk about the greater diversity that exists in women’s crime writing – not only in terms of authors but what they write about. Correct me if I’m wrong but I can’t think of a single male crime writer who isn’t both white and straight. Women’s crime writing is not especially diverse either but we are better than the men in that respect. There are crime writers of colour among us, and many more coming up through the ranks. And there are many gay women crime writers.'"

Murder on Their Minds: Prejudice Persists for Women Crime Writers

Carmel Shute sums up her talk on crime, women, and writing with this murderous aside:

"Despite the evident success of women’s crime writing and the new audiences it is grabbing on screen, a surprising number of women crime writers still chose to use initials rather than first names: J M Green, J M Peace, L J M Owen, L A Larkin, to name just a few. L A Larkin told me that she writes thrillers and a lot of men won’t read thrillers by women writers.

"I leave you with the challenge posed by true crime writer, Vikki Petraitis – look at the gender spread, not the one with 'yucky wide man legs,' but the one where you look at a gender balance in authors you read.

"Even if they don’t read women’s crime, your wives and girlfriends might. It might be good to stay ahead of the plots in case these women have murder on their minds."

Stay ignorant at your (possible) peril!

This is an excerpt from a speech given by Carmel Shute 11 December 2019 at The Boys' Book Club dinner; find the full speech on the Sisters in Crime website.

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