When this newspaper published The 50 Greatest Crime Writers in April, only 13 were women. (The half was part of the Sjöwal and Whalöö husband-and-wife team.) As one of the four-person panel involved, I had submitted my own top 50. More or less half were women, but many didn't make the final cut…. Someone said I should be grateful that the writer who came out as No 1 was a woman: Patricia Highsmith. Then I saw the accompanying photograph, in which she is naked to the waist. Why? None of the men was stripped of clothes and dignity.Are women crime writers being short changed? Are they not taken as seriously as men writers? Do women writers have to use a pseudonym or initials in order to get their books bought?
Consider that Sisters in Crime was started in 1986, 22 years ago. Its mission is:
To combat discrimination against women in the mystery field, educate publishers and the general public as to inequities in the treatment of female authors, raise the level of awareness of their contributions to the field, and promote the professional advancement of women who write mysteries.Things have gotten better, but not equal.
If books had no author listed anywhere inside or out, perhaps we’d judge the book by the story, the plot, the characters, the writing. But they do announce the author and thus that has an influence on us all. We naturally look for authors that we’ve read before and enjoyed. But when you’re hunting for something new, someone you’ve not read before, do you find yourself picking out primarily male or female authors? I know most of us would say, it doesn’t matter, the sex of the author is irrelevant.
But, in actuality, it’s not irrelevant.