The inaugural £2,000 (about $2,815) Staunch Book Prize, founded by author and screenwriter Bridget Lawless, has been launched to honor the author of a thriller novel "in which no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered.... As violence against women in fiction reaches a ridiculous high, the Staunch Book Prize invites thriller writers to keep us on the edge of our seats without resorting to the same old clichés--particularly female characters who are sexually assaulted (however 'necessary to the plot'), or done away with (however ingeniously)."
The competition opens February 22 and closes on July 15. A shortlist will be announced in September, with the winner named November 25, coinciding with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Lawless said she was compelled to create and fund the Staunch Book Prize "after seeing the number of films featuring rape as a plot device at last year's BAFTAs. She is entitled to vote in the awards, but this year abstained, writing in the Guardian that it was not clear if the films in the running were free from the accusations of sexual abuse that have swept Hollywood in the wake of claims made against the film producer Harvey Weinstein."
"I thought, I can do one small thing. I thought I'd start with books. They are a source for so much material, and if I can have a tiny bit of influence there, it will help," she said. "There are so many books in which women are raped or murdered for an investigator or hero to show off his skills... This is about writers coming up with stories that don't need to rely on sexual violence... Is there no other story?"