So, are women better at writing thriller/crime novels than men?
The consensus on Saturday’s panel at the Clapham Book festival events at the Lambeth Country Show was that there isn’t a gender difference, both can be excellent, though there often is a gender difference reflected in the subject matter and style of thriller/crime writers. As Isabelle Grey said, women tend to be more attuned to the possibilities of violence and the telling details, because their life experience is such that the shadow at the end of the path might be a real threat to the lone woman walker, the knowledge that the initially friendly but somewhat too persistent ‘admirer’ could turn ugly. And, of course, the likelihood of being the victim of domestic violence is so much higher ( see the recent long term Lancaster University study which shows regular increases in domestic assaults on women during World Cup tournaments ).
Just one of the subjects raised in Thriller in the Park, a really excellent discussion and one which flowed because the participants were interested in it ( always the best kind for a moderator ). Then a fifteen minute break in which books were sold – one woman was so pleased to have a copy signed by its author that she took a selfie with her too. On to a reprise of Place & the Writer, a discussion at the 2016 Book Fest, this time without Matthew Beaumont, but covering the same ground. Militant pedestrianism was a popular discussion point in relation to Clapham Common, but then it was also topical – this was the first Lambeth Country Show in 43 years which was enclosed, with a strong security presence and bag checks on entry. Our security was provided by Jordan of whom I have already written (see Sunshine at Lambeth Country Show).
The Sunday session was similarly successful, when our audience was somewhat larger, mainly, we thought, because people knew we were there having seen us the day before. (The organisers really need to get their announcements system sorted.) In addition, the TV profile of Prof Kate Williams would have helped. So we had a reasonably full tent when we began by asking our audience which were their favourite historical novelists. Georgette Heyer, Lady Antonia Fraser, Hilary Mantel… all women.
The discussion ranged over why we write historical fiction, the differences between writing history and historical fiction and the seductive power of research. There was a super question from an enthusiastic ten year old, asking us if we sided with any of our characters against the others and lots of good chat with the audience. Books were signed and sold and folk asked about the Festival (almost no one we met knew it existed, testament to the insularity of the little communities which are scattered across south London ). Its profile was definitely raised and we gathered more followers on social media. The official photographs and video aren’t yet available, but they will be posted on the Book Fest site and that of Clapham Writers when they are.
Then we packed up to the strains of reggae – the next speaker was Dennis Bovell, legendary reggae musician and film maker. Sunday in the Park with Books was coming to an end. And the next outing for Clapham Book Festival, well it could be Clapham Village Fete on 1st September or a visit to gaol.