The first session of the afternoon (well, at least for me… I missed the Ann Cleeves, Ragnar Jónasson AND the one featuring AK Benedict and Grant Nicol et al, sadly) was titled ‘Dangerous Nordic Women’, which gathered together a brilliant panel comprising Denmark’s Sara Blædel, Jónína Leósdóttir, Finland’s excellent Kati Hiekkapelto and Iceland’s Sólveig Pálsdóttir. Hosted by Jacky Collins, it was a discussion about women in crime fiction and, more specifically, the Nordic region.
The panel pretty much agreed that even though all of their main characters are women, gender wasn’t something they thought about while writing their books. But Kati did say that even though sexism and misogyny weren’t necessarily things they encountered on an everyday basis there were shocking statistics that proved that sexism and misogyny certainly existed. Kati quoted the stat that since 1985 Finland’s top writing prize had only been won by four women. Other figures showed that the majority of reviews in newspapers and magazines showed that mostly books by male writers got the coverage. Jónína Leósdóttir said that women preferred not to have to fight against these things, but these statistics mean that women’s writing prizes – referring to one in Iceland – were crucial. While most people, she said, had a devil and an angel on their shoulders competing for attention, she had a feminist on hers.
Sara Blædel – often referred to as the Queen Of Danish Crime fiction – said that gender wasn’t something she thought too much about while writing, but she did have some correspondence from readers who were negative to her main character – Louise Rick – living the life she wanted to lead. Louise enjoyed an active sex life, for instance, which was something some of her readers weren’t too happy about. Kati’s character Anna Fekete does the same – she didn’t want a husband, she even want a boyfriend; she just wanted some fun from time to time. And this is something, I think, many people (mostly men) can’t get their heads around – women, so often controlled by patriarchal preconception, and are often told what they can and can’t do; women are judged for being, well, human beings.
Anyway, it was another fascinating discussion featuring a great panel. Another great panel assembled for the Skeletons In The Closet discussion. Moderated by Jake Kerridge, the panel comprised Susan Moody, Amanda Jennings, Scotland’s Alex Gray and Sarah Ward. The theme was secrets and how they featured in crime fiction.
Susan said that yes, of course, secrets feature in crime fiction because crime fiction is based on deceit and obfuscation. “I tell lies for a living,” she chuckled.
After Sarah explained that she had researched her family tree – discovering some pretty major secrets along the way – said that it was difficult to define what a secret was. To some people a secret is still a secret; to others they already know about the thing the other person is trying to hide. I guess this type of relationship with the truth is what the idea – in fiction, at least – suspense is based on; that idea that someone knows something before another person does, and the exploitation of that.
I’ll finish with something Amanda said: all secrets don’t have to be bad. Some deserve never to see the light of day. Indeed, some are best left unsaid.