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New Book Prize Announced For Thrillers In Which No Woman Is Violently Exploited

By Rowan Jones January 28, 2018

The Staunch Book Prize has been announced for 2018, for a very specific type of novel.

Author and screenwriter Bridget Lawless created the Staunch book prize which will open to entries on February 22nd until April 15th 2018. Her wish is to change the overused trope of using violence against women as a plot device. The prize will be given to the best thriller novel in which no woman is raped, murdered, or beaten. Asking for something refreshing in the world of thriller fiction, her website states:

As violence against women in fiction reaches a ridiculous high, the Staunch Book Prize invites thriller writers to keep us on the edge of our seats without resorting to the same old clichés – particularly female characters who are sexually assaulted (however ‘necessary to the plot’), or done away with (however ingeniously).”

The winner will be announced on the 25th of November to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Writing in The Guardian, the creator of the book prize said: “I thought, I can do one small thing. I thought I’d start with books. They are a source for so much material, and if I can have a tiny bit of influence there, it will help. There are so many books in which women are raped or murdered for an investigator or hero to show off his skills … This is about writers coming up with stories that don’t need to rely on sexual violence … Is there no other story?”

“I’m certainly not alone in getting increasingly fed up and disgusted with fictional depictions of violence happening to women in books, films and television. It echoes, exaggerates, fetishises and normalises what happens to women in the real world. But I know there are writers creating thrilling and complex work without going there.”

Lawless is, of course, aware that not all thrillers depicting crimes against women are exploitative. “Of course, there are [good thrillers dealing with this issue] but they are not for this prize. How we see women depicted and treated in fiction does spread out to the wider world and how women are treated there. That battle is far from won, but there is definitely a climate change. People are fed up with it. Here’s my alternative.”

The entries will be judged by Lawless herself with writer and comedian Doon MacKichan. Doon wrote and presented the 2016 BBC Radio 4 documentary, Body Count Rising in which she discussed violence towards women on screen, and what it’s like to be the female actor playing the on-screen victim. As a woman, writer, and actor, Doon will be an excellent choice to help judge the winner for this new, and positive, book prize.