The inaugural prize in 2018 was met with excitement (and some criticism) from writers, readers and publishers around the world. From an extraordinary number of entries, the shortlist contained two titles from mainstream publishers, three from independent presses, and one unpublished novel. The winner was On The Java Ridge by Australian author Jock Serong. (See left).
How we started
The Staunch Book Prize was launched to draw attention to the overload of violence towards women in fiction, and 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. Real rape survivors struggle to be heard, counted and believed, under-reporting is rife, partly because victims fear being torn apart in court, and prosecutions continually fail. Meanwhile, fictional rape victims take the stage, often as two-dimensional characters, in stories that celebrate the cunning of serial rapists and the dogged brilliance of detectives who wrap up their cases with a laughably fictional rate of success.
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 contacted 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, and shows that there’s a healthy audience for thrillers without violence towards women.
There’s another reason why the proliferation of fictional sexual violence and rape matters. A growing body of research finds that ‘rape myth’ beliefs mean that jurors are reluctant to convict ‘ordinary’ men accused of rape as they don’t fit the idea of a rapist they’ve internalised through the stories and images they’ve received through popular culture. Fictional stereotypes of night stalkers, dark alley attackers, serial killers and menacing strangers are dangerously misleading when 90% of rapists are known to the victim and the majority of women murdered knew their killer. That this can so seriously affect justice for women is alarming to say the least and must be addressed.
For these reasons, and because we love great writing, we invite thriller writers to bring us strong stories that don’t resort to the same old clichés. As novels are often source material for film and TV, we’re also showing producers, directors, commissioners and actors that there is excellent material for adaptation out there. Check out our 2018 shortlist to see the different ways our authors prove this, and lets make room for more original thrillers!
What are we looking for?
Certainly not just thrillers that feature men in jeopardy instead of women, 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. Stories that feature a woman in a strong leading role are even more welcome. But as long as the main criteria are followed, any thriller novel is eligible for entry.
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 being written today by authors with fresh ideas, great imagination, brilliant plotting skills and truly original stories to tell.
Open for entries February 21st 2019
Our 2018 WINNER was selected from an extraordinary range of entries which demonstrated style, originality and some exceptional writing.
JOCK SERONG’S On The Java Ridge shows a writer with total mastery of the thriller form and impressive control of his material. This is a timely contemporary novel that brings into sharp focus the scandal of modern policy towards migrants and refugees. At times brutal, this novel reflects what can happen when greed, desperation and politics collide, and when lives are at stake at the mercy of the sea.
Minutely observed, raw and compassionate, Jock Serong’s writing holds the reader’s attention from the first word, and as the tension builds, the only way this novel differs from the real-life peril of migrants, is that it’s impossible to look away