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.
As our 2018 SHORTLIST proved, there are so many other stories to tell.
Any genre of thriller is welcome – crime, mystery, historical, sci-fi, cyber, comedy, psychological, spy, suspense, political, satirical, disaster, and ones we haven’t even thought of! We are not at this time looking for horror or fantasy novels. 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.
How we started
The Staunch Book Prize was launched to draw attention to the plethora 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 of rape is rife, partly because victims fear being torn apart in court, and prosecutions continually fail. 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 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. There is indeed a healthy audience for thrillers without violence towards women.
“The Staunch Prize tapped into a debate in crime fiction that’s bigger than just authors and their readership.”
Jock Serong, winner 2018
There’s another reason why the proliferation of fictional sexual violence and rape matters. A growing body of research (including the groundbreaking work by Staunch judge Dominic Willmott) finds that ‘rape myth’ beliefs feed into bias which results in jurors being reluctant to convict ‘ordinary’ men accused of rape as they don’t fit the idea of a rapist they’ve internalised. News stories focus on serial offenders and extreme cases of attacks by strangers, whereas most rapists are known to their victim – the boyfriend or ex. 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. These images overwhelm and drown out the real facts, and received misinformation from news media and popular culture become the accepted ‘truth’. Jurors have been demonstrated to hold these misbeliefs and that this affects whether they will or will not bring a guilty verdict against the ‘ordinary’ guy in the dock. 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 unhelpful clichés. Staunch is here to celebrate the thrilling alternatives!
“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.
Check out our 2018 shortlist to see the different ways our authors prove this, and lets make room for more original thrillers!