Amelia Hill recently caused a stir with her decisive article on critic/author Jessica Mann’s comments about the “sadistic misogyny” in contemporary crime fiction. Jessie Keane, whose fictional novels depict the gritty goings-on of East London (run by Bad-Girl-with-a-Good-Heart, Annie Carter), shares her thoughts.
Ever since Agatha Christie first put pen to paper, female authors have been writing gruesome (and sometimes gratuitous) murders, but no worse than their male counterparts and hopefully with more empathy for the victims of the fictional crimes committed.
I agree wholeheartedly that the best crime writing can be viewed as female wish fulfilment; the heroine (or hero) is there to sort out problems, right wrongs. Evil is there in abundance too, but personally I always come at a new plot with the strong desire for good to overcome evil, for the heroine (or hero) to win the day. In my books, the innocent do tend to win through, and the guilty wrongdoer is punished. I like that. Of course, real life is never that straightforward; fiction is different. It gives us control. Come to think of it, I like that too.
It’s true that some of us like to be scared when we read – we curl up by the fire, open a book and get propelled into a dangerous, exciting world that takes us far away from mundane reality, and it gives us a safe, vicarious thrill – but what we also like is for the final scene to come around and give us the satisfaction of seeing the bad guy (or girl) get it in the neck. We put the book aside with the feeling of completion, of a job well done, and hopefully with some regret that the thing’s finished.
So there you have it. Some violent works are tacky and sensationalist: some are well-written and gripping from the first to the last. You pays your money, as the saying goes, and you takes your choice.