Today I am very excited to be taking part in the murderonthebeach blog tour for Juno Dawson’s new book Cruel Summer and Kate Harrison’s conclusion to the Soul Beach trilogy, Soul Storm. Both Juno and Kate are sharing their top five villains in fiction so I’ll hand you over to them.
Juno’ Top Five
A good villain is so hard to get right. They’re the most fun to write, too. It’s with some regret that I killed off Laura Rigg in Hollow Pike as I see now she was the best character! I have a soft spot for villains you love to hate and hate to love. Here are five of my literary faves.
Mrs Coulter from His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
File under ‘misguided genius’. Marissa Coulter, mother of heroic Lyra, is on a righteous mission against sin whilst struggling with her own desire for sexyfuntime with Lord Asriel. Highlights the need for your villain to be as flawed and complex as your hero.
Bellatrix LeStrange from Harry Potter by JK Rowling
File under ‘full-tilt psycho’. To be honest, other than ‘crappy childhood’ I was never convinced of Voldemort’s motivation. Bellatrix however, is just a well-bred nutter and her status in society has kept her out of the looney bin (if not Azkaban).
Count Dracula and Hannibal Lecter from Dracula / Thomas Harris novels
File under ‘charming psychopath’. Essentially the same character (Eastern European aristocrats turn master manipulators), both have a taste for humans, but a strangely sexual appeal. It’s very much about power and control – both of which these men have in abundance.
Dark Willow from Buffy The Vampire Slayer
File under ‘spirit of righteous vengeance’. Every once in a while is so justified in their rampage you can’t help but get behind their evil. Willow’s murderous rampage after the death of her girlfriend is gory but totally understandable. Even her mocking of goody-goody Buffy sort of has a point.
Pennywise the Clown from IT by Stephen King
File under ‘evil personified’. I really don’t need to elaborate on this one. Pennywise is your childhood nightmares made flesh and yet you can’t help but admire King’s ability to terrify.
Kate’s Top Five
I <3 a great villain! But there are two types – the ones you love to hate, and the ones you secretly admire for breaking the rules and getting away with it…
As a writer, I feel I can also confide in you about the serious thrill I get when writing as a serial killer – a thrill that I can’t really mention in polite company. But you can keep a secret, can’t you?
President Coriolanus Snow from The Hunger Games
Well, this is definitely a love-to-hate character, from my favourite YA trilogy of recent years. He’s vindictive and political and deadly with breath smelling of blood and roses – but he is also the most brilliant antagonist to Katniss, challenging and testing her to be braver and smarter. In the movie, his elder statesman looks contrast so well with his evil acts: and, without adding too much of a spoiler, Katniss and Snow are both being manipulated, so have more in common than they might think.
The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
Not all my choices are YA books, but Ripley deserves his place because he is gloriously amoral. If you could live without consequences, you might do as he does. Plus, many of the characters he despatches are highly irritating and no great loss to the world, so the author really helps us to identify with Tom. Both the book and the movie are recommended.
Boggis, Bunce, and Bean in Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl
More love to hate here, and though Dahl’s books are for children, I still love them, and his villains are always fantastic. This trio is great because the three farmers are gloriously horrible and stupid, and it’s such fun to see them outwitted at every turn by the animals. I recently read this out loud to my nephews and couldn’t put it down…
Archie Costello in The Chocolate Wars by Robert Cormier
Cormier is one of the first young adult writers I read (though the genre didn’t have a name then) and these are seriously dark. Archie is the master manipulator behind The Vigils, a secret society set up to organise ‘pranks’ in an exclusive Catholic high school. But these pranks are far from innocent, as the hero, Jerry, discovers. The two are a great match, and this is a really clever, gripping look at peer pressure and power play.
Tracy Flick in Election by Tom Perrotta (played by Reese Witherspoon in the movie version)
This is a bit of a cheat as I haven’t actually read the book – though I’ve really enjoyed Perrotta’s other novels so must get hold of it – but Witherspoon’s Tracy Flick is a brilliant, memorable character. She’s standing for election in a high school presidency race, even though she’s not at all popular. The relationship between her and the teacher who doesn’t want her elected is dark, fascinating and near the knuckle. You can’t 100% hate the girl, because she knows what she wants and how to get it. Apparently the novel ends much more darkly than the film… Now, where’s my Kindle?
Some great choices here. I completely agree with Hannibal, especially after watching the latest TV adaption of Hannibal, and Pennywise (never ever trust a clown). Dark Willow was a really compelling villain as well. The Talented Mr Ripley is a great choice too, so calculating and manipulative. Thank you both Juno and Kate for writing these posts and sharing your villains with us. Soul Storm and Cruel Summer are available now, I’ve read both and highly recommend them! Reviews of both to follow shortly.