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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

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