I Wanna Be Bad: An Obscure Mystery Novelist Talks Bad Guys

max picOn a villain’s true worth: villains serve an important function in society: they allow us to play out our deepest, darkest fantasies without suffering the moral and/or legal and/or spiritual consequences.

By Max Everhart

I wanna be bad.

Really bad.

Come on, it’s fun to be naughty, but what’s even more fun (and safer) is reading about other people misbehaving. Ah, literary villains. How I envy you all. From contract assassins to femme fatales to serial killers who hunt serial killers (shout out to Dexter!), villains just have more fun than the rest of us so-called civilized folk. What’s more, villains serve an important function in society: they allow us to play out our deepest, darkest fantasies without suffering the moral and/or legal and/or spiritual consequences. If only I could be a walking ID for just one day. . . but, alas, I must reluctantly abide by our government’s laws and my own conscience, a nuisance though they both may be.

But the question I want to ponder today is not why do we dig villains, but how are they created? How do writers draw us deeper into the story using bad guys and gals? To answer that question, I wanted to provide an excerpt from The Short Drop by Matthew Fitzsimmons. Apart from being a suspenseful and well-paced book incorporating politics, cyber-hacking, kidnapping, murder, and incest, it has an eerie and alluring bad guy.

the short dropTinsley had made a life-time study of the way time affected people. The way it toyed with their good judgment and perspective. Made them impatient or rash. Made them take irrational risks. Time was the great leveler, and neither money nor power held sway over its relentless march. That was precisely what made Tinsley so good at his work. . .Most people were overawed by time. They allowed time to bully them, fearing that it was passing too fast or too slowly, sometimes both simultaneously. But not Tinsley. He was indifferent to the passage of time, and it flowed around him effortlessly. . .When he was a young man and still plied his trade with a rifle, Tinsley once spent twenty-six days in a sewer drain in Sarajevo. . .Tinsley lay in burbling stream of human waste, waiting for a shot. . .

Fine, okay, maybe this Tinsley character didn’t have so much fun while sitting for a month in human feces waiting to kill a guy, but it’s pretty cool to read about it. As are the philosophical bits about time.

And that’s how you hook a reader: reveal unique aspects about a character. That’s what I did in my latest work Ed, Not Eddie, which has a suspect that, aside from being named after a piece of famous American junk food, sells pot out of the back of a 1957 Chevy. (Buy the book for more).

The best villains enthrall us in a variety of ways. Some use humor, others terror. Some, like Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, entice us with their words, and others, like Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old men, are more taciturn. Whatever the method, villains have the capacity to be hilarious and revolting in equal measure. . .and that’s why we love to hate them.

My Desert Island Top 5 Literary Villains. Leave a comment, and tell me yours.

 Kathy Bates - 1 - Miserynurse ratchet



5 thoughts on “I Wanna Be Bad: An Obscure Mystery Novelist Talks Bad Guys

  1. Max, I’m worried about you! You want to be bad…my stars. My interest in villains is unravelling their psyche. Figuring out what makes them tick often exposes the motive for the crime. And as we all know, once you have motive, if there are also means and opportunity, then fry the sucker! Ok, so I have a bit of a vigilante problem. It doesn’t make me a bad person.

    When it comes to writing, you hit the nail on the head. The writer has to draw the reader in and revealing the unique and exotic about character is the way to do it. Makes the character stand out in the reader’s mind. It’s all about the hook. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Max belts another one out of the park! You know, this blog is becoming downright educational. Hmm, my favorite villains . . . I like your choice of the Judge from Blood Meridian (it’s been several years; can’t remember his name or if it was simply the Judge); Nurse Ratched is cool; hey, remember Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes in MISERY? Now there’s a scary, unhinged villain if I ever saw one. And here’s one more I’m sort of fond of because I created him/her. He/she appears in the next Mac McClellan Mystery DEADLY SPIRITS. I’m right proud of that one. You’ll have to wait until January 2017 to read all about he/she, unless you’d like to be beta readers (not that I’m hinting or anything). Well done, Mr. Everhart!

    Liked by 1 person

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