In a talk last December, Australian crime writer Carmel Shute, one of the powerhouses behind, and a co-convenor of Sisters in Crime, shared some thoughts about women in crime writing, crime fiction in general, and a subject she has not seen covered in crime fiction until recently.
Women domestic noir writers, she said, have started to talk about a condition that dare not speak its name? "Can you guess what it is?" Shute asks? "I’ll give you a clue – it’s the central theme of Worst Case Scenario by Australian-born Glasgow-based author, Helen Fitzgerald, whose book The Cry was made into an acclaimed TV series which screened earlier this year."
"A Triumphant #MeToo Parable"
The answer is: menopause.
"Speaking as a woman of a certain age, it’s surprising that menopause has never been factored into a crime story. I know I could easily have killed a few people, especially work colleagues, in my early 50s," says Shute.
"But then again, perhaps it’s not a surprise. As Helen Fitzgerald said in an interview (Crime Time) 'The only menopause jokes I found online are from the male point of view and – excuse me for sounding like an angry feminist – not funny. (Q: What’s the difference between a rottweiler and a menopausal woman? A: Lipstick).'
"Domestic noir has struck a chord. The acclaimed American author, Joyce Carol Oates, said in The New Yorker, 'In the chorus of best-selling contemporary domestic thrillers, a triumphant #MeToo parable has emerged: that of the flawed, scorned, disbelieved, misjudged, and underestimated female witness whose testimony is rejected—but turns out to be correct. Vindication, cruelly belated, is nonetheless sweet.'"
Women, all but invisible to those who should see and help them, is the theme of the TV series Unbelievable, Shute says, adding that "women know how to apply the blowtorch to society and write stories that thrill, entertain, subvert and inspire. Our stories, which often feature women kick-arse heroes, find a ready audience, particularly amongst women – and women, of course, make up the majority of book buyers and book club members."
What crime writing topics do you see coming? What do you want to see?
What stories is it time we tell?
Read the transcript of Carmel Shute's talk at Sisters in Crime, or keep an eye on Clan Destine Press' blog, which will see lots more posts in this new year.