Are women hardwired to love thrillers?

A report in the Telegraph newspaper last week,written by thriller author Rebecca Whitney,highlights how it is women who predominantly read this genre of crime novels.


As Mark Twain observed – ‘There are three kinds of lies : lies,damned lies and statistics’ Some of the research findings quoted in this report,such as 68% of readers of thrillers are women,need to be taken with a pinch of salt. Any survey is dependent for its accuracy on many different factors. What’s produced from a poll taken at a conference of fans of crime fiction would produce different results to a street survey of passing shoppers.

This newspaper report makes a number of sweeping generalisations about how the sexes are hardwired differently,that had they been aimed at proving differences between the races,would have caused outrage. Nevertheless,the writer’s thoughts on how women relate to working out how to resolve an unhappy situation to restore order,is a precise way of summing up what happens in the story arc of a thriller.

Crime stories are one of the best selling genres of fiction,with the figure of 25% commonly bandied about for online sales. This partly influenced me,when I was thinking what to write about for my first novel as 2014 began. I’d already written fourteen short stories and novellas,as well as several hundred poems in the previous eighteen months. These tackled love and romance,science-fiction,the paranormal,self-identity and thrillers with a twist to them.

I had a number of concerns that I wanted to address about the state of modern society. These included CCTV,the dehumanising effects of video-gaming,exposure to violent images and how demobbed soldiers remain traumatised by what they’ve seen and done in combat zones. Such themes suggested a psychological thriller to me,and as part of the overall atmosphere of paranoia that I intended to create,I would emphasize how the system,the establishment,protects itself with cover-ups when it makes mistakes.

I worked long and hard on ‘The Perfect Murderer’,which took some 4,000 hours to produce. I was pleased with the result,while being unsure if it worked as a story that would grab a reader. Fortunately,a good and trusted friend volunteered to be my first reader. She has a fine mind and keen eyes,so is good at pointing out semantic mistakes and dodgy grammar. I was interested to know what she would make of the plot,as she doesn’t normally read thrillers.

The Perfect Murderer - a novel about a serial killer who makes no mistakes.

The Perfect Murderer – a novel about a serial killer who makes no mistakes.

I was pleased at recent feedback that I got from her,as she said something about smiling at the thought processes of a psychopathic murderer. This man is completely repellent in the way that he considers people,and in what he’s done by murdering a victim a year for forty years,but he’s superficially charming – to get what he wants from people,as psychopaths do. He also has his own physical frailties and eccentric preoccupations,so I tried to make him human through these – wrong-footing the reader,who suddenly realises that they’re feeling sympathy for a serial killer ! It looks like I pulled that trick off,from my friend’s reaction.
Writing is a bit like being a magician,in that you know how the trick is done,but you’re not sure if your sleight of hand and misdirection has worked on the audience.
Whether ‘The Perfect Murderer’ will sell is another matter. Its success may be assisted by my bumbling attempts at self-promotion through the social media,and also by my free book giveaway on Smashwords.
I hope that what Rebecca Whitney says about women being the main readers of thrillers is true,if the downloads of my erotic verse collection is any indicator of my potential reading public. 500 have taken ‘What Do You Like ?’,and I suspect that they are mainly female. I pray that they also like psychological thrillers,and that they remember my name when I publish the novel.
As a marketing strategy,giving away sexually suggestive poetry as a way of selling a novel featuring two sociopathic killers,sounds unlikely to me. But then who knows ? As the old saying goes – ‘You have to go fishing where the fish are’,which is what I’m trying to do.
I wonder if my bait will work.

Are You A Psycho ?

The term ‘psycho’ is often used to describe murders who behave in an irrational and bloodthirsty way. Alfred Hitchcock’s film helped the word to enter the public consciousness. People use the term when someone loses their temper,but true psychopathy isn’t widely understood.

I wrote a novel called ‘The Perfect Murderer’ in 2014,in which one of the lead characters is a psychopath. He’s a respected member of the establishment,but has killed a victim a year for four decades. I toyed with the sympathies of the reader,as he killed only villains,usually really nasty criminals who society was better off without. Most people would secretly approve of his activities.

The genesis for the novel was partly inspired by reading Jon Ronson’s ‘The Psychopath Test’,a couple of years ago. He’s best known as the author of ‘Men Who Stare At Goats’,that was made into a movie.

Much of his book on psychopaths deals with the invidious DSM manual put together by the American Psychiatric Association,and which is used to ‘diagnose’ a bewildering range of mental disorders – most of them are phoney. For instance,anyone who spends more than a few hours a day online could be labelled as having Internet Addiction Disorder. The whole enterprise is tied to the activities of drug companies,who market medication to treat the ‘condition’,adding to their vast profits.

Ronson also writes about the Hare test for psychopathy,a well-respected diagnostic check-list which is much-used to identify those with this disorder.

A simple version of the test is here :

It’s worth doing,though as with any questionnaire there’s always a certain amount of ambiguity when it comes to interpreting what the question actually means. I scored 4 when I last did it.

In fact,psychopaths only make up 1% of the general population. They are often very successful,at least in terms of money,fame and power,becoming film stars,singers,captains of industry,politicians,bankers,lawyers,doctors and sportsmen. But when things go wrong,look at the disaster that befalls the rest of us !

Just think of the collapse of the world economy,the recent sex scandals in the U.K. and such stories as cyclist Lance Armstrong cheating by using performance-enhancing drugs. He still doesn’t see that he did anything wrong,lacking the empathy to appreciate the damage that he did to people’s faith in who they thought he was. His latest lies about drink-driving only confirm his lack of character. He has no shame,because he can’t understand the concept.

The recently convicted paedophiles are apparently the same way,with Rolf Harris trying to get the length of his sentence reduced. It’s a chilling thought to realise that many of the people we admire,who are seen as role models,praised for their achievements,focus and determination are actually rather repulsive as human-beings.

Although they walk among us largely without causing disruption,psychopaths represent about 20% of the population in prisons. They’re also responsible for causing more disruptive incidents while inside,and the likelihood of their re-offending is a depressing 85%.

I should point out that simply being a psychopath is not illegal,any more than being depressed,schizophrenic or bipolar is against the law. Mind you,the old expression ‘the lunatics are running the asylum’ might be more accurate than it first appears.