Bloody Women

I should point out that this isn't some sort of misogynistic rant, but the title of the panel I'm moderating at this year's Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, or 'Harrogate' as it is more colloquially known. According to the programme it's about:

Saturday 19 July
3.30 - 4.30pm

Is it true that women writers can get away with writing more explicitly about violence, particularly of a sexual nature, than their male counterparts? If so, why is this? Simon Beckett and Mark Billingham argue the case against Val McDermid and Chelsea Cain, whilst one of the wittiest Aberdonians of them all, Stuart MacBride, keeps order.


Ah yes, a contentious can of worms that wriggle in a contentious manner of wriggliness. Of course as moderator I'm going to have to be gender-neutral -- not easy when you're as manly and virile as I obviously am, you know ... with the beard and everything -- and try to keep the fisticuffs to a bare minimum. Which is going to be interesting given that none of the participants are exactly shrinking violets. Well, I've never met Chelsea Cain, or Simon Beckett, but I'm assuming they'll give Val and Mark a run for their money in the boisterous department.

I should point out, by the way, that I'm not responsible for that 'while one of the wittiest Aberdonians of them all, keeps order' line in the blurb. I tried to get them to change it to something less cringeworthy, but they refused to follow my suggestion of 'while world-renowned, bearded SEX-GOD: Stuart MacBride (blessed be his saintly man bits), keeps order.' Some people, eh?

Anyway, as I am a conscientious moderator, and couldn't think of a reasonable excuse at short notice that would get me out of having to be the responsible adult for sixty minutes, I've asked Mark, Val, Simon, and Chelsea to tell me what's the most violent thing they've ever written and what's the most violent thing they've ever read.

For me, the most explicitly violent thing I've written has to be the 'tin bath' sequence in FLESH HOUSE, though a scene I did in an earlier, unpublished* book where someone is forced to eat a human eyeball comes pretty close. As to the most violent thing I've ever read... Hmm... I think you'd have to go a long way to beat Val's 'Judas Chair' scene from THE MERMAIDS SINGING, though Simon Kernick has made several valiant stabs at it. At least as far as crime fiction goes.

I can't decide if James Herbert's THE RATS counts or not, after all it's not people doing the extreme violence in this one, it's ... well, rats. Clue's in the title of the book. I remember reading THE RATS on a school trip to see Roman stuff in Chester**, I was about 11 at the time*** and loved that kind of stuff. Maybe that's why FLESH HOUSE ended up the way it did, a sort of homage to the James Herbert and Stephen King books I used to read as a wee lad?

Anyway, reminiscences aside, I'm interested to see what other people think -- anyone out there want to share their most violent booky moments?

* And pretty much unpublishable
** At least I think it was Chester, my memory is not the most shiny spoon in the cutlery drawer.
*** Actually that's just a random guess, due to the aforementioned crapulant nature of my memory.

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