A Queer Beat

police line jpgWhen I put pen to paper at the start of No Good Reason, I didn’t really consider my motives. Crime has long been a favourite genre of mine, and I had thoroughly enjoyed getting my teeth stuck into the police procedural aspects of my third novel Tumbledown, so it seemed like a natural step to try my hand at writing a fully fledged crime novel. I also craved the opportunity to write a series, and a format where a fresh case could be investigated by recurring protagonists fitted that bill nicely.

With the release of Cold to the Touch – the second in the Dark Peak series – fast approaching, I’ve been giving more thought to the question: why crime? And why, in particular, lesbian crime? Why do I write it, and perhaps more to the point, why should anyone read it when there are countless crime novels already crammed into bookshops and libraries?

And so, as befits a felony-focused blog, I present Exhibit A:

This video was recorded in my home city of Manchester at the 2015 Pride. Every year, hundreds of public sector and emergency workers – police, fire, paramedics, NHS staff – take part in a parade through the city, cheered on by crowds in their thousands. This dancing police officer is an Inspector, highly ranked in a supervisory role, and yet, when I look at my bookshelves and think back over the many mainstream crime novels that I’ve read over the years, queer characters are all but invisible within their pages.

In terms of media representation – particularly on the small screen – things are looking up, with openly queer and bisexual characters forming part of many ensemble casts. They’re no longer restricted to providing “issue of the week” fodder, and their lives are plotted alongside those of their straight counterparts. For publicly funded broadcasters such as the BBC or those with a more liberal remit (the UK’s Channel 4, for example), or subscription services like Netflix or HBO, there is less risk involved in the inclusion of queer characters. The BBC has no advertisers to answer to, and the other three channels have built their reputations on breaking the mould. Meanwhile the huge costs involved in producing a Hollywood film may go some way towards explaining the enduring absence of queer characters on the silver screen (a Studio Responsibility Index undertaken by GLADD found that more than 80% of the 102 major studio releases in 2013 featured no gay characters whatsoever), or the continued tendency towards a negative portrayal of homosexuality in mainstream films, where box office receipts are the be all and end all, and the lowest common denominator rules.

Publishing a novel doesn’t involve millions being spent on special effects, ego-fuelled A-listers and exotic locations, though, so you might think that authors would be free to take more risks, yet that doesn’t seem to be the case in the vast majority of mainstream crime novels, most of which tread a very familiar, very straight path.

Which brings me full circle to my initial question: Why write or read lesbian crime? In short: because we exist.

Cold to the Touch smallerIn real life, there are thousands of us working in the emergency services. We sign onto our shifts, we walk our beats, and we take the risks, and that was exactly what I wanted to show in the Dark Peak series. In Detective Sanne Jensen, I intentionally created a character who isn’t defined by her sexuality. Her best mate at work is a straight bloke, her colleagues know that she’s gay but don’t bat an eyelid about it, and her relationship with Meg, her lifelong friend and occasional lover, is kept strictly to the B plot. Sanne is bright and tenacious, but she’s not perfect; she worries, hates being in trouble and has a tendency to over-think stuff. In other words, she’s a regular person who keeps her head down and grafts like the rest of us. I would dearly love to see more characters like her in crime fiction, but the authors who have cut their teeth writing lesfic crime and then made the leap into the mainstream have had to sideline their queer leads in order to make a living.

When all else fails (and nothing looks to be changing any time soon), DIY is the simplest solution. So I’m writing the crime series I most want to read, with my queer characters exactly where they should be: right in the thick of things, doing their job. Because there are loads of us out there, wearing the uniform and dancing in the streets.

~ ~ ~

Cold to the Touch is now available in paperback and e-book from the Bold Strokes website, and will be on wide release from December 15th.

About Cari Hunter

Cari Hunter is the author of "Snowbound", "Desolation Point" and "Tumbledown", "Alias", "Breathe", and the Dark Peak series of crime thrillers - "No Good Reason", "Cold to the Touch", and "A Quiet Death" - all published by Bold Strokes Books. Her new novel "Unbreakable" is now available to buy.
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17 Responses to A Queer Beat

  1. Julia says:

    Oh I absolutely love the video. How awesome. Thanks for sharing that.
    And I totally agree. You really have to write stories about yourself. I really love the fact that FINALLY TV shows feature more and more diverse female lead roles. Especially strong women in drama shows like The Fall, Happy Valley, Wentworth or even brand new shows like Jessica Jones. Okay, lets not forget Scully ;-). But it’s still impossible to find a female character with a LGBT background that lasts longer than a couple of episodes. And it’s a shame that a majority movies don’t pass the Bechdel test nowadays.
    Therefore I’m really grateful for the stories but most importantly for the characters you write. I was and will always be intrigued by woman working as a cop, firefighter or in the emergency department. Sometimes I regret not choosing this career part back in the day but I just wasn’t ready back then. But I miss not being able to wear those bad ass uniforms :-P. I’d totally danced in the streets, too.

    • Cari Hunter says:

      She’s ace, isn’t she? That video went viral after it was first posted, which is how I came by it, and it seemed to fit this piece perfectly.

      Sally Wainwright is my favourite TV writer – I love ‘Scott and Bailey’, it’s one of the few shows that seems to get police dialogue absolutely spot on – but even she couldn’t avoid tripping into the ‘Kill the Lesbian’ trap in ‘Last Tango…’. I never could get on with ‘The Fall’, even with Anderson as a lure, and I didn’t watch its second season. I keep trying with mainstream crime novels, but the machismo and uber violence is as off putting as some of the shitty writing. Plus, I’m tired of any gay characters that do feature being miserable as sin or closeted. It’s about time the genre grew a pair of balls and included a few characters who are out and just getting on with things.

      • Julia says:

        “but even she couldn’t avoid tripping into the ‘Kill the Lesbian’ trap in ‘Last Tango…’”

        Oh yes. This was a big WTF moment for me. It took a while to convince me of the chemestry between the two actresses and basically till the funeral I thought she’d made it. How naive of me :-D. So I was very disappointed with this end of the story arc. Especially coming from a writer like Sally Wainwright. I have to check out ‘Scott and Bailey’. Gosh. My watchlist gets longer and longer :-D.

        • Cari Hunter says:

          Oh do check out ‘S&B’, it’s very good and full of awesome female characters. It can be a little soapy at times but it’s well worth watching.

          We haven’t seen S3 of ‘Halifax’ yet but I read some of the furore when Wainwright offed Kate (it didn’t help that ‘Call the Midwife’ wrecked another lesbian couple within days of the ‘Halifax’ episode airing!) I don’t actually like Kate’s character so I won’t miss her, but still the principle of destroying your lesbian couple’s happiness is a trope that I hoped might have run out of steam, and one that seemed beneath a writer of Wainwright’s calibre.

  2. AnnieH says:

    Well said! Keep up the good work. I admire you taking a stand in continuing to write crime novels in which the lead character just happens to be lesbian & not pandering to the mainstream market. I wish there were more authors who felt like this. I’m looking forward to your new book and many more to come.

    • Cari Hunter says:

      I wish there were more authors in the crime mainstream who had the guts to write queer leads or even just queer supporting characters, without it being a big thing, but I’m guessing the publishing houses and the wider readership would have something to say about it – reading the Goodreads reviews of Laurie R. King’s first Kate Martinelli book is a singularly depressing experience. Society is moving on in leaps and bounds and yet mainstream crime and those who read it don’t seem inclined to acknowledge that.

  3. Margaret Flint Suter says:

    Very well done! I love your character development and as long as you keep writing these wonderful page turners, I will still be saying…TAKE MY MONEY!! Eagerly awaiting the drop day for ‘Cold To The Touch’, already pre-ordered!

  4. Franci McMahon says:

    I love the edge to your tories and what they can be for the genre as a whole. A true delight, the dancing bobby, the joy in her, and one could tell, pride of the other cops was sweet. Cold to touch is on my reading list. Thanks for the stories.

    • Cari Hunter says:

      You’re welcome, thanks for the enthusiasm 🙂 I love Manchester pride. I’ve marched with the ambulance service a few times and it’s a very heartening experience. Hope you enjoy ‘Cold.’

  5. So I’d read the sample chapters on BSB and I HATE it! Because…


    Why did u separate S & M?!? I know I said previously that i don’t mind them taking time to come together, but I totally did not expect one of them to hook up with someone else Argh! Ok rant over, back to living it again. Poor Sanne, I feel bad for it, seems like everything’s messed up, but I’m glad that she has good partners. Can’t wait to get home to buy the full book.. Now get your ass to work on the next book!

    • Cari Hunter says:

      LOL. Ah.

      **Mild spoilers**

      Remember that conversation San and Nelson had in ‘NGR’? The one where Nelson asks what would happen should San or Meg actually find someone else? What happens to the one left behind? Well, I wanted to see what happened.

      As it turns out, quite a lot happens! But you might need to strap on your Big Girl boots to get through those first rocky chapters. As my mum would say, though, “it’ll all come out in the wash” 🙂

      • Jac C says:

        I’d just noticed a few typos, no thanks to my fat fingers. Anyway, it should be ‘back to loving it again’ and ‘Poor Sanne, I feel bad for her’…

        As for the conversation, I have some vague impressions of it, but not much, and whose fault is it? You! Because this latest book took so long to come out! Lol. Anyway, so i think Sanne is in a mess now because of M + E, and while I feel sad for her, I’m pissed with both as well for not clarifying what’s going on between them. Ok so I’m gonna run home now to download the book. I can’t wait to give you my money!

        • Cari Hunter says:

          I can’t wait to take your money – or the small fraction of it that I will eventually receive 😉

          This book has come out pretty quickly compared to my others – there’s only been a 6 month gap between the release of ‘NGR’ and ‘Cold’, it’s usually upwards of a year. And yes, things are in a bit of a mess at first, an entertaining mess, but a mess all the same. I only remembered how upsetting the early chapters are when I came to edit it!

          I suggest reading it with a nice big bar of chocolate or your personal choice of comfort food 🙂

          • Jac C says:

            So, true to my word, I rushed home and purchased the book before settling down to read immediately, stopping for a short while for a super quick dinner (or tea to you?). Much as I’d love to savour the moment with a big bar of choc like you’d suggested, I couldn’t bear to waste a few minutes looking for the choc. So after 5 1/2 hrs, I finished this latest work, and I can tell you that I’m gonna spend more hours in the next few days re-reading the previous book.


            Again, I love that you’d added more depth to the characters. With the introduction of the main characters’ family members and their background stories, I feel more relatable to them, especially Meg.

            I can’t remember about the last book, but the descriptions in this seem more vivid.. the smell, the sounds, the sights, even the taste (of soup and cakes), I feel like I can visualize the various scenes… And weaving in little details, like those Sanne and Nelson moments, of snow landing on his face and hair etc.. I don’t know, although they may seem insignificant, I think these little details helped me to visualize better and also understand their care for each other even more.

            And to think I was upset about M + E at the beginning. Frankly, Emily seemed like a great person, and that’s why I thought M really loves her. I shouldn’t have been so worried, for along the way, she turned into such a female dog that it’s obvious they won’t last. I mean, who kicks out someone they love, especially when they’re injured?! She has a right to feel hurt and maybe betrayed, but at least M wasn’t unfaithful. She could have just let M stay the night and give her time to pack! Overall an unpleasant and fake character.

            On the other hand, I like the other minor characters such as Kathy, George, Sarge and even Zoe. I glad that while the Sarge seemed like a jerk, you made him out to be kinda heroic in the end, which is a pleasant surprise.

            Ok now that this is over, looks like I have to wait for another 6 more months for new materials?! 😦

            • Cari Hunter says:

              Hey, thanks for the feedback. I think you hit on a lot of things that I love about this book, and I did try to write it so the reader would be able to put themselves right on the page.

              I had an idea where this one was going while I was writing ‘No Good Reason’, which is the lovely thing about writing a series – it gives you a bit of breathing space, so you don’t have to include everything in a rush, you have the luxury of spacing the details out.

              I don’t think Emily is a bad person, I didn’t intend her to be the typical Evil other woman, she’s just very used to getting her own way and she’s definitely not right for Meg. Meg causes a lot of the trouble herself by not being entirely honest (she has her reasons, but if I were Emily, I’d be upset by the lack of confidence as well) but I did love twisting things around and making Meg into a bit of a romantic at heart.

              Speaking of twisting stuff, I’d always planned to have Carlyle as a hero in this one, and I’m pleased to hear that it came as a nice surprise for you. I know he’s an arse but he’s police, so that makes him family. I think that’s just the way it works in the emergency services – you’re allowed to dislike someone, but if they’re in trouble or hurt then they’re your family and you stick by them.

              And I hate to tell you this, but book 3 – ‘A Quiet Death’ – won’t be out till January, 2017. I’m still writing it! ‘Cold’ only got a quick release because BSB sat on ‘No Good Reason’ for about 14 months, which meant that I’d finished ‘Cold’ by then. If it’s any consolation, I really like what I’ve written so far 🙂

  6. Pingback: News Roundup: awards, events, new books, freebies and more! | UK Lesbian Fiction

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