In the midst of writing and editing Julia, I’m still working my way through Howdunit: How Crimes Are Committed and Solved edited by John Boertlein, one of the reference books I checked out from the library during Nano. I say working through, because I fly through carjacking, but slow way down during the difference between larceny and burglary.
Early in the book, there are some killer stats, er, stats about killers and their victims. According to Howdunit , 75% of murder victims are male and “more than half of all murder victims in large cities are young black males — who are killed by other young black males.”
I found that interesting since just about ever victim I see on TV is young, white and female. I know, I know, TV is not exactly the pinnacle of truth — shocking. However, if you see it enough, you start to believe it.
The idea of these young, white females almost always being killed by their boyfriends or husbands also rang true to me, but Howdunit says that only a third of women are killed by “romantic partners”… nowhere close to what I would have guessed thanks to Law & Order, CSI…and the myriad of other crime shows I watch.
Before discovering those statistic, I came across a The Outfit blog post by Sara Paretsky, author of the V. I. Warshawski series. She says: I’m reading short stories for the Edgars, and I confess that I’m dismayed by the amount of graphic and degrading sex contributors use.
Then, she links to Sarah Weinman’s Getting Re-sensitized to Violence (October 09), a post which discusses and links to Jessica Mann’s Crimes Against Fiction (September 09). The long and short of it is that crime writing is becoming more graphically violent, mostly for violence’s sake. And that graphic violence is, more often than not, aimed at female characters.
I know this isn’t exactly new news. Weinman links to the debate that raged back and forth, and I suggest reading it. Those discussions are more interesting than any sparkling insight I might add to the conversation. To me, the Howdunit murder statistics just point to a writer’s choice of victim to be particularly commercial.
As a writer, I wonder if Diane’s story (this year’s Nano) has any chance (after revisions, of course) since none of the victims are women and their murders are all rather mundane, comparatively speaking.
As a woman, I have to face my own contradictions. I’m tired of seeing myself cut up and killed all the time, but my heart tugs a little more for the female versus the male victim. Is it my psyche? Is it ground-in societal beliefs?
In other, not-so-shocking news: Damsels in distress: If you’re missing, it helps to be young, white and female.