Women in peril

Occasionally someone complains that young women are disproportionately the victims in crime fiction. I’ve never stopped to count, but it may well be so. In any event, it gave me pause to consider how I represent women in my books and do a quick body count.

It would obviously be unrealistic never to have young women as victims. At the time of writing one-third of my victims have been women. On the other hand, I hate the trope you see in movies which begins with the news that a violent stalker is in the neighbourhood, at which point one of the young women strips down to her underwear and walks past an uncurtained window.

This leads me to a couple of rules I have fashioned for myself. So far as possible, violence takes place off screen. It is discovered, rarely witnessed. And I try not to have the women do anything that contributes to what happens to them. They do not, for example, taunt men about their relationships or lack of them.

I think it’s also important that the police force contains some women detectives and that these women are clearly ordinary women with ordinary lives and dreams. Their male colleagues can be eccentric but I hope the women aren’t.

I can’t say that none of my female characters will ever decide to walk home drunk down a dark lane late at night, but I can promise that if it happens I will have thought long and hard about whether the story could develop in another way.

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