Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Words of wisdom from history's greatest female crime writers

From the doyennes of classic detective fiction to the forgotten writers of female noir and contemporary best-selling authors, women have long brought a certain flair and originality to the genre of crime. 

The likes of Dorothy L Sayers and Margery Allingham were drawing in legions of fans with their compelling roll call of sleuths and murderers long before crime writing was considered a suitable career for the fairer sex, and Agatha Christie's skilfully executed plot twists made her the best-selling novelist of all time.

Crime writing pioneers such as Dorothy B. Hughes and Vera Caspary excelled in the art of "domestic suspense" and the psyche of crime, while authors PD James and Patricia Cornwell pushed the boundaries forward with their grisly and forensic depictions of the nature of violence.

Today female writers saturate the thriller market, with JK Rowling joining Sophie Hannah, Megan Abbott and Laura Lippman and others to send the book charts spinning via a series of darkly imagined plot lines and chilling protagonists. And their crime-writing ancestors paved the way for their success. 

"When I first read Megan Abbott I thought immediately of Dorothy Hughes’ In A Lonely Place," notes crime fiction expert Sarah Weinman. "The DNA of so many of these earlier writers inserted themselves into those writing today, whether they realize it consciously." 

Yet still, the path is not always easy. "There is still a funny notion that women should not write violent fiction," says author Val McDermid. "And yet women more often than not are the victims of sexual violence. So what are we saying - that the ones most likely to experience it should not write about it?"

With Gillian Flynn's best-selling Gone Girl set to hit the big screen this week, we raise a toast to the femme fatales of crime fiction with a look at their advice and insight into the nature of crime and crime writing. 

Visit the Crime Fiction Lover website here

Photos: Rex Features and Getty Images

Related

hero-3.jpg

Celebrity's most spectacular and memorable city weddings

hero.jpg

Anne Hathaway on her struggle with fame “It f**ked me up for a really long time”

168351283.jpg

The apps the most productive and efficient people swear by

Comments

More

Judge orders sex offender to buy feminist literature for victim

Titles include The Diary of Anne Frank and works by Virginia Woolf by Harriet Hall

26 Sep 2016

Why India’s latest comic book heroine is a rape survivor

In Priya's Mirror, the resilient heroine teams up with acid attack survivors to defeat gender-based violence. by Moya Crockett

26 Sep 2016

Girl on the Train author on the moment that sparked her smash hit book

And it was all down to the commute... by Sarah Biddlecombe

22 Sep 2016

The cast for The Handmaid’s Tale is beyond incredible

Yet another talented star has been added to the Margaret Atwood adaptation... by Kayleigh Dray

22 Sep 2016

This bestselling author is offering her cottage as a free writing spot

"Are you a writer, and wish you had some peace in which to write?" by Sarah Biddlecombe

20 Sep 2016

You can now buy one of the most famous houses in children’s literature

Magical news for muggles everywhere by Kayleigh Dray

19 Sep 2016

Pooh’s forgotten friend finally makes it to the Hundred Acre Wood

Are you ready for a brand-new Winnie-the-Pooh book? by Kayleigh Dray

19 Sep 2016

Farewell poetry and readings to remember loved ones by

22 beautiful and meaningful pieces of poetry and prose to help you say goodbye by Kayleigh Dray

16 Sep 2016

Agatha Christie’s centenary celebrated with eerie noir postage stamps

And each contains a hidden clue… by Kayleigh Dray

15 Sep 2016

The cast for Agatha Christie’s Crooked House is beyond incredible

The stars of Mad Men and The Fall are gearing up for the Crooked House adaptation by Kayleigh Dray

14 Sep 2016