What are we looking for?
Well-written, exciting thrillers that offer an alternative narrative to stories based around violence to women. That doesn’t mean we’re just looking for thrillers that feature men in jeopardy instead, but stories in which female characters don’t have to be raped before they can be empowered, or become casual collateral to pump up the plot.
Any genre of thriller is welcome – crime, mystery, historical, sci-fi, cyber, comedy, psychological, spy, suspense, environmental, political, satirical, disaster, and ones we haven’t even thought of! We are not at this time looking for pure horror or fantasy novels. Stories that feature women in strong leading roles are even more welcome. But as long as the main criteria are followed, any thriller novel is eligible for entry.
“The Staunch Prize tapped into a debate in crime fiction that’s bigger than just authors and their readership.” Jock Serong, winner, 2018
How we started
The Staunch Book Prize was launched to draw attention to the plethora of violence towards women in fiction and to make space for exciting alternatives. While women in the real world are fighting sexual abuse and violence, being harassed, assaulted and raped, or being murdered BECAUSE THEY’RE WOMEN, the casual and endless depiction of females as victims or prey sits uneasily alongside their fight.
As we can see from the high-profile cases that kick off 2020, real rape survivors struggle to be heard, counted and believed. Under-reporting of rape is rife, partly because victims fear being torn apart in court. Prosecutions continually fail to deliver justice to survivors. Meanwhile, in popular culture, women are endlessly cast as victims of stalking, abduction, rape and murder, for entertainment.
Not everyone feels the same about depictions of violence, of course, but we’re now firmly in the #MeToo and Time’s Up era, and since this prize launched, people from all over the world have continued to contact us to say that a prize like this is long overdue – and that they’d given up on thrillers altogether – until now. Their feedback on our shortlisted and winning novels has been tremendous. There is indeed a healthy audience for thrillers without violence towards women.
Fictional stories – books, TV and film – tend to focus on the most exaggerated and heinous forms of violence meted out to women. Evil geniuses, psychopaths and ‘sexy’ serial killers abound as society’s bogey-men again and again. The facts are very different. Most women who are raped or murdered are victims of a man they know or knew. But those don’t make for such ‘exciting’ stories…
“What Staunch uncovered was a trove of thrillers that turn on complex social and political issues and make us feel their human urgency. This is not censorship, but permission to create intelligent entertainment.” Joyce Thompson, shortlisted author 2018
We focus on thrillers because they’re a huge and important genre in their own right – and frequently also source material for film and television. We want to show not only readers, but producers, directors and actors that there are amazing, complex stories perfect for screen adaptation being written today by authors with fresh ideas, great imagination, brilliant plotting skills and truly original stories to tell.
Join us in making room for more original thrillers!