Only in March of this year a book shop in the US was turning books by men backwards to highlight the gender imbalance in the literary world. It seemed either everyone preferred male stuff, or there was still the old bias against female authors. Maybe men just wrote more. After all, if women speak 12000 words a day and men only 4,000, as claimed by Louann Brizendine in The Female Brain, what are they doing with all those thoughts?
The female thriller market has at least for a while turned this around. Books like Gone Girl and Girl On a Train led a surge in blockbuster psycho drama. Crime readers, who are statistically predominantly women, are now locked into the idea of a female author delivering the suspense package. So much so that male writers have been adopting gender neutral pen names to publish books and appeal to them The author of Final Girls Riley Sager is a male known as Todd Ritter. And Steve Watson goes under the initials of S.J. Watson. Daniel Mallory is A. J. Finn. Why the turnaround?
But there is nothing politically correct in this new literary drive – quite the opposite. The pro-feminist push was male delivered, surely. Hollywood’s foray into female led action movies with the female Rambo figure always seemed forced. Women punching men out in a single blow was ridiculous. But the new trend for noir has an altogether different feel. Plots today are not so much guns and espionage but more emotional blackmail and manipulation to murder. It’s for real.
The new wave of female led psychological thrillers is exposing the Machiavellian genius of dark femininity. It fascinates women and terrifies men. The bad girl next door is no longer taboo. If crime readers are women, then they want to immerse themselves in the type of corruption that is relatable to them. Maybe it’s about time.
When I set up Act Against Bullying in 2000 it was commonly believed that women didn’t bully. That was a boys thing. Research into the motivations of girl gangs and female criminology only began in the 1980s as women’s social behaviour changed. Chicken or egg? Who knows. Add to that the female fascination with the internet (women are the Facebook stalkers) and you are opening up a whole new world of intrigue.
Readers often say they can tell the difference between a male and a female writer. Narratives are different between the sexes. So despite feminism pushing for sameness with men in every way, maybe this proves not only that differences exist but also they can deliver in print.
Oh, did I say I was writing a thriller? Female led, of course. More details to come.