The Staunch Prize awards books that avoid violence against women
Shortlists. The Book Prize
industry’s way of letting readers know that some books are good enough to receive an award. Of course, like anything compiled by humans, shortlists can be imperfect in their considerations of what is laudable.
The Staunch Book Prize
, launched just this year, would appear to wear its intent on its sleeve. The best thriller that doesn’t depict violence against women. It’s difficult to imagine a book prize with a more specific intent, and yet, as Maya Oppenheim of The Independent notes
, the founder of the prize, Bridget Lawless
, did just that, saying:
“While real rape survivors struggle to be heard and counted, fictional rape victims take the stage – usually as two dimensional characters – in stories that celebrate the cunning (often, charming sexiness/astonishing brutality) of serial rapists and the dogged brilliance of detectives.We wanted to show not only readers but producers, directors and actors that there are amazing, complex stories being written today by authors with truly fresh ideas, great imagination and brilliant plotting skill.”
Cool. So what’s the problem?
Well for one, not every female crime thriller is on board with the idea. As Oppenheim notes, some writers have “criticized the accolade for excluding violence towards women overlooks what is a prevalent and ongoing issue and was accused of censorship and “missing the point” after it was launched in January, including writes such as as Sophie Hannah and Val McDermid. “As long as women are dying at the hands of violent men,” McDermid told The Guardian, “I am going to write about this. Because not to write about it is to pretend it’s not happening.”
Whatever happens with the prize, the day the winner is due to be revealed is on 26 November – a day after the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Michael Barron is an editor at Melville House.