Cop Town by Karin Slaughter

Cop Town Karin SlaughterSince her first novel, Blindsighted, made the CWA’s Dagger Award shortlist for “Best Thriller Debut” of 2001, US author Karin Slaughter has sold more than 30 million copies of her books and been published in 32 languages. Most of her novels are detective thrillers, set in present day Georgia. Her latest release, Cop Town, is a departure, a crossover between detective and general fiction.

Set in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1974, Cop Town portrays a hell-hole of bigotry, racism, misogyny, homophobia, religious sectarianism and class suspicion. The story follows a rookie police officer as she starts her career in a newly gender-conscious department. From a privileged background, newly widowed Kate Murphy is partnered with working class Maggie Lawson, the first female police officer from a cop family. Class isn’t the only barrier which divides these woman as they set about trying to find the culprit of a recent spate of cop killing. Each has to work hard to earn her place in the male-dominated force, and there’s little female solidarity shown – at least, initially.

Throughout the novel, Slaughter challenges stereotypes of women as “naturally” collaborative and supportive, peacemakers and homemakers. Rather, she shows her female characters actively resisting the expectations of such roles, their struggles typical of the era before “women’s lib” took hold.

Australian crime authors P M Newton and Angela Savage have discussed how violence against women is used as entertainment in much recent crime fiction. For this reason, I found Slaughter’s portrayal of women not just as victims of violence, but also as perpetrators, particularly interesting – and problematic. In our current age of the “war against terror” and extraordinary renditions, Slaughter’s seemingly unselfconscious reversal of gender stereotypes runs the risk of reinforcing yet another female stereotype, that of the ball-breaker.

The portrayal of women isn’t the only problematic element of the book. For me, the serial cop killer motif lacks sufficient motivation to be really convincing, although the ending is thrilling and rewards the reader’s persistence.

The strength of the novel lies in its sociological portrayal of a white, male power structure on the wane. As Maggie Lawson says to her abusive cop uncle Terry:

I think the whole world is gonna change. For me. For Kate. For the blacks. For the browns, yellows, greens. For you. Especially for you.

In this light, Cop Town gives an insight into the beginnings of a revolution in cultural values that is still being played out today.

Karin Slaughter will be touring Australia in August (details here).

~

An ebook copy of Cop Town was kindly provided to me by the publishers through Netgalley.

Title: Cop Town
Author: Karin Slaughter
ISBN: 9781473507913
Published: 19 June 2014
Publisher: Random House Australia

ISBN: 978147350791

ISBN: 9781473507913
Published: 19/06/2014
Imprint: Cornerstone Digital

– See more at: http://www.randomhouse.com.au/books/karin-slaughter/cop-town-9781473507913.aspx#sthash.DaYsqYLu.dpuf

ISBN: 9781473507913
Published: 19/06/2014
Imprint: Cornerstone Digital

– See more at: http://www.randomhouse.com.au/books/karin-slaughter/cop-town-9781473507913.aspx#sthash.DaYsqYLu.dpuf

ISBN: 9781473507913
Published: 19/06/2014
Imprint: Cornerstone Digital

– See more at: http://www.randomhouse.com.au/books/karin-slaughter/cop-town-9781473507913.aspx#sthash.DaYsqYLu.dpuf

Suspense and thriller readers – where are you?

Hades Candice FoxOn Tuesday book bloggers from around Australia attended a “National Book Bloggers Forum” at the offices of Random House Australia (RHA) in North Sydney.

Digital gurus, editors and the RHA publicity team all pitched in. We were given insights about Search Engine Optimisation and how to use Google Analytics to drive relevant traffic to our blogs. We were told about up-and-coming titles and given a goodie bag full of books. Authors including Judy Nunn, Sneh Roy and Bruce McCabe spoke about their books and writing process. Throughout the day, Twitter was awash with the hashtag #NBBF14. In the breaks, and over a generous lunch, names, cards, twitter handles and blog URLs were swapped among participants.

I was especially interested in the pitches for thrillers, including Bruce McCabe’s debut Skinjob (in the goodie bag, so more of that another time) and Candice Fox’s forthcoming follow up to Hades, Eden.

Eden – no cover available – was introduced by publisher Beverley Cousins. Cousins pitched Fox as an “Australian Gillian Flynn”. I’m not convinced of that. Cousins was once editor for the Nicci French writing duo – from memory, she worked on Secret Smile, one of the creepiest of the NF books. To me, that’s a closer fit with Fox and Hades. (If you’ve read my reviews of Hades, Flynn’s Gone Girl, and my discussion of Nicci French’s writing,  you’ll know what I mean.) Maybe Eden will be different.

In the open forum at the end, I asked whether there were any other bloggers who review crime and suspense novels. Only one person put up her hand, Debbish from Debbishdotcom. Most of the others, I think, specialise in YA and teen fiction, although I did come across a “vlogger” who reads classics, and there were at least two who specialise in nonfiction.

So where are all the crime fiction readers/bloggers? Maybe they all live in Melbourne?

And, while we’re at it, where were all the men? There were only two men among 35+ bloggers, a gender imbalance that caused Bruce McCabe to comment, “Who are the real readers out there? Spend one minute in this room and you’ll know.”

Do you read crime, thrillers and/or suspense fiction?

Bruce McCabe addresses National Book Bloggers Forum 2014

Bruce McCabe addresses National Book Bloggers Forum 2014 – photo courtesy of Dymmocks Books

 

National Book Bloggers Forum tomorrow

The Penguin Random House RHA_Bloggers2014_Badge2National Book Bloggers Forum will be held tomorrow to coincide with the opening of the Sydney Writers Festival.

I’ll be attending, along with other Australian Women Writers Challenge participants including Shelleyrae of Book’d Out, Yvonne Perkins of Stumbling Through the Past and Paula Grunseit from Wordsville. There’ll also be a contingent I’ve ‘met’ through Twitter and the Aussie Book Bloggers Facebook page.

I’m looking forward to the program, which includes a “Behind the Scenes” look at what goes into publishing a book, and “insider secrets and tricks to improving your SEO and promoting your blog” by Random House Australia’s digital gurus. (SEO stands for “search engine optimisation”, handy for bloggers wanting to boost relevant traffic to their blogs.)

I’m also keen to hear how Random House’s crime page is going. Together, Penguin and Random House have published some extraordinarily talented Aussie women writers of crime, thrillers and suspense. These include P M Newton, Honey Brown, Jaye Ford, Wendy James, as well as Caroline Overington, Sara Foster, Y A Erskine and debut authors Candice Fox and Dianne Hester. I’m hoping to discover some more. I’d love to talk RHA into putting “Australian author” into their tags for search engines, or creating teacher resources for Aussie crime novels, now HSC English includes “Crime” as one of its specialty subject areas.

Other bloggers planning to attend the forum include:

Suzy has started a public list of Twitter NBBF participants, and people can follow the day’s events on Twitter via the #NBBF14 hashtag.

I’m looking forward to meeting everyone.

Do you know anyone not on this list who will be attending the Forum? Are there any questions you’d like us to ask?

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