A list of 50 great thrillers by women chosen by authors such as Sophie Hannah and Val McDermid has been published by the Guardian following criticism of a Sunday Times feature which only included 28 books by female authors as debate over the issue rumbles on.
The Sunday Times’ list was criticised by a number of authors including Irish novelist Marian Keyes for only listing 28 books by women, as reported by The Bookseller on Wednesday (15th April). There were a number of comments on Twitter about the list entitled 'The 100 Best Crime Novels and Thrillers since 1945' which was published on 12th May and compiled by 15 contributors, including seven women.
The Guardian called on a number of authors such as Hannah, McDermid, Ann Cleeves, Erin Kelly and Dreda Say Mitchell to nominate their favourite crime reads by female writers.
“Keyes got the ball rolling with some suggestions of books that could have been included,” Alison Flood of the Guardian wrote. “So we asked some of the UK’s best female crime writers for further suggestions, just to get us up to 50 and even the scales.”
Keyes led a rallying cry against the original Sunday Times list on Twitter—with many other writers also criticised the list. “Seeing the chronic conscious and unconscious bias against work by women is enraging,” the Irish novelist wrote.
Angela Clarke, author of On My Life (Hodder), told The Bookseller that the original list suffered from a lack of diversity in various ways.
“It's a great list—with some amazing writers on it,” she said of the Sunday Times feature. “But it has some glaring omissions, yes there’s a huge chunk of female writers missing from it (I believe estimates have us at making up 80% of published thriller writers, but you’d never know it from the mere 28 mentioned), but also where are the writers of colour? And those from the LGBTQ community? And those with disabilities?"
She added: "We have gaps in representation in our industry that need to be addressed, but there are brilliant published writers in our genre that are just not represented at all in this list. This list was a missed opportunity to open readers up to the wealth of talent that is out there, and to make people actively consider authors their own conscious or unconscious bias may have made them discount.”
However David Headley had told The Bookseller that he believed books had to be chosen on their own merit. The owner of Goldsboro Books and the DHH Agency said: "Of course when I choose books I don’t think about the gender of the author. If you started insisting that we have to choose books on that basis, I would worry about that. That would concern me. That is my view as a bookseller."
Sunday Times literary editor Andrew Holgate revealed earlier in the week that two of the three people “who did the bulk of the heavy lifting on” compiling the top 100 list were women.