Culture Street

By Sophia Whitfield

It is no surprise that crime fiction continues to gather momentum. Forbes has just released details of the top 15 highest earning authors. Sitting in the number one spot is crime writer James Patterson followed by horror novelist Stephen King.

At a time when the world is in recession and under threat from terrorist attacks, readers are not looking for escape from their surroundings, but an assurance of stark reality in 2012. It seems the more twisted and disturbed the better. Both female and male readers are flocking to it.

Crime writing has long been the domain of male writers, but things are changing. Women are proving that they can create a vicious murder just as sadistically as their male counterparts.

A brief glance at the female crime writers of today reveals just how well women write psychological drama. Val McDermid’s dark crime series will at times repulse even the most hardened crime reader. Dr Tony Hill, the psychologist at the heart of McDermid’s novels gets into the heads of serial killers to discover their misdeeds. The books were adapted for screen in the popular TV series, Wire in the Blood. It is a toxic mix of disturbed relationships and horrific violence.

So what is it that makes a female writer so good at writing crime fiction? Perhaps it is that women know fear more than men. They have been taught it from an early age and spend their lives trying to avoid it. Female writers can build on the scenario they have always dreaded. As crime writer Val McDermid explains, ‘ … from childhood we are taught if you walk down a dark street you risk being raped or worse. We fear the sound of footsteps, men don’t.’

The best crime/psychological thriller of this year is undoubtedly the New York Times bestseller, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. It is a tour de force of psychological drama and is our Book of the Week. This dark twisted tale will grip you from start to finish.

While crime writing in America is still dominated by men, in Britain women have been writing in the crime genre for some time. Agatha Christie proved a point with her bestselling novels and Ruth Rendell and PD James followed in her wake. Perhaps Gillian Flynn will lead the way in America for other female crime writers to flourish.

One thing is for sure; crime pays in the publishing industry. It seems in times of recession readers want to read about the dark underbelly of life. While Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl sits on top of the tree for now, the imminent release of another crime fiction book threatens to knock it down. The savvy JK Rowling will release her crime fiction novel The Casual Vacancy in just seven weeks.

Perhaps one of these women will soon take pole position on the Forbes highest earning author list.

 

 

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