A COLD and dreary Saturday provided the ideal gloomy settings for crime writers' festival, Death in July on Saturday.
More than 100 crime reading enthusiasts from Ballarat and renowned female crime writers from across Australia and abroad flocked to the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka to kick off the festival.
Award-winning crime writer Angela Savage lead the ‘Gum Shoes or High Heels panel’ of female authors including Annie Hauxwell, Leigh Redhead and Maurilia Meehan who discussed the role of women in contemporary and historic crime writing.
The women discussed how the trend in using female protagonists in leading roles as crime fighting detectives, which had been historically male dominated, could be seen as a social comment on feminism and empowerment in the modern day.
“The sensibility of women depicted in these stories has always been a reflection of the time in which the story had been written,” Ms Savage said.
She added that since the 1970s, lead female characters in crimes had evolved from the “sexless, elderly, spinster” to flawed, beautiful and powerful women.
Ms Savage said there had also been a trend in contemporary female writers using black humour entwined with the violence and gore of crime stories, to convey a deeper meaning.
“Using dark humour is like a fist in the face of violence and oppression,” she said. “It shows the lead female taking control despite the challenges she faces. Books with dark settings need these lighter moments to bring the book to life.”
The event was organised by Ballarat Writers and Sisters in Crime Australia.
Festival organiser Jill Blee said the festival was about showcasing the works of the best contemporary crime writers and creating a forum for budding crime writers to learn the tricks of the trade.
“Ballarat people love to read about crime,” Ms Blee said. “We have a very vibrant and dynamic group of female writers in Ballarat who wanted to bring this festival to life and who wanted to come together and celebrate their love of reading and writing.”
The festival finished with the gender reversal debate between Ms Redhead, Ms Savage and true crime writer Vikki Petraitis against crime writers Andrew Grimes, Jarad Henry and Robert Gott.
“We reversed it so women debated why men were better at crime writing while the men argued about why women wrote better stories,” Ms Blee said.