Monday, January 6, 2014

Favorite Bad Guys in Fiction

Everyone probably has a favorite detective, but who is your favorite fictional murderer?

by Meredith Cole

First of all I would like it to be known for the record that murderers are not my favorite people. They're often creepy or have bad moral compasses--and are certainly not the type of people I'd like to invite to a party at my house. That's why I write books where someone spends 300 pages trying to catch murderers--and does. And even when the murderer is creepily charming, I still can't help thinking that they've done "it" once, and could probably do "it" again.

I know that some people murder to stop a larger evil or to stop someone who is dangerous. Many murderers could be put in this category (Dexter is a prime example), but they still give me the heebie-jeebies. What if they're wrong? What if they grab the wrong person? And where does their brand of frontier justice end?

I'm also not sure how to answer this question without revealing the ending of most books. I mean, if I reveal that so-and-so is the murderer (and my favorite) in a mystery, I've basically spoiled the experience of reading it for you. Which would be a big bummer. So I won't.

There are some books where you know the identity of the murderer from the beginning. Ruth Rendell has written some amazing books in this style. I enjoy the books, but rarely "like" the murderer (even if I spend the book in his or her head). Again, there's that creepiness factor.

Bad guys aside, if you're in the Richmond area, be sure to come by the Library of Virginia on January 9th for the launch of the book VIRGINIA IS FOR MYSTERIES. Two Sisters in Crime chapters worked together to create an anthology of short mystery stories set in Virginia. I have a short story called MURDER AT MONTICELLO which involves an heirloom tomato and a historic Virginia mansion--and I really hope doesn't get me sued by either tomato growers or any Thomas Jefferson historians. I'll also be signing books at the Edgar Allan Poe museum in Richmond on January 18th to celebrate the 205th birthday of Poe.

Happy New Year!


Barry Knister said...

Well, Meredith, there's no way to say this without sounding--and being--self-serving, but I will anyway: my favorite murderer is my own invention. He figures prominently in my mystery, The Anything Goes Girl, and he has an odd name: Charles Lindbergh. But the reason I like him is this: murderer or not, he shares several values with the novel's hero, Brenda Contay. Lindbergh is definitely bad news, but he has standards, and a certain sense of honor. This doesn't redeem him, but it does (I hope) make it hard to dismiss him as just another heavy.

Meredith Cole said...

I think I've heard that name somewhere before, Barry... :)

I have had a certain fondness for villains that I've invented, too--but I still draw the line at inviting them to a party at my house...

Barry Knister said...

Meredith--about sitting next to Mr. Lindbergh at a dinner party: If you knew who he was, definitely you'd stay home and order carry-out. If you didn't know, and you played golf, you actually might enjoy his company.