Are Women Mystery Writers Worthy of Awards?

Posted on April 28, 2005

The Book Standard presents a very interesting article which asks the question, "Are the Edgar Awards and the whole mystery community sexist?" Noted critic (and apparent misogynist) Otto Penzler puffs out his chest and declares:

"The women who write [cozies] stop the action to go shopping, create a recipe, or take care of cats," he says. "Cozies are not serious literature. They don't deserve to win. Men take [writing] more seriously as art. Men labor over a book to make it literature. There are wonderful exceptions, of course -- P.D. James, Ruth Rendell."
Of course, not everyone agrees with Mr. Penzler.
"It has been felt that there was a bias against not only cozies, but [also] women authors," says Rhys Bowen, a Best Novel nominee this year for Evan's Gate. The prejudice, if it can be called that, may affect Bowen's chances of winning tonight. "I am obviously the coziest on the list, because I have a small-town setting, touches of humor at times," she says. "Evan's Gate isn't about mean streets or violence."

Bowen takes issue with Penzler's denunciation of female mystery-writing. "Some say the cozy is not worthy of the title of literature," she says. "There are powerful books that can be dubbed as cozy. Quite frankly, no mystery book is realistic. Real [private investigators] sit around in cars for days and spend most of their time filling out paperwork. And to me, murder is more horrifying if it occurs in a setting where it would not be expected. Ordinary people being forced to kill is somehow worse than a gang member mowing down a rival."

First of all, to say that women only write cozies is absurd. When Robert Ludlum wanted a writing partner to work on his famously hardboiled spy novels who did he choose? A woman author named Gayle Lynds, who is now a bestselling (extremely un-cozy) author in her own right. And on the subject of cozies, who says you need to have buckets of blood and disembowelments every chapter to have an excellently-written mystery anyway? We certainly don't.

Note: The Book Standard is no longer available.



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