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message 1: by Enio (new)

Enio My favorite aspect of the espionage genre is how the "Hero" is often the least interesting character in the story.

From Frederick Forsyth's "Jackal" to Ken Follett's "Needle" it's always the Villains who steal the show. To be honest, I can't remember a thing about the Heroes in either of these incredible books. (Unless you argue that Lucy was the real hero in "Eye of the Needle" rather than the detective.)

Even Jason Bourne had to start out as a bad guy who then finds himself seeking redemption. Making him both Hero and Villain of his own story. (Although, to be honest, Bourne is the rare case where I prefer the movies to the books.)

So who are some of your favorite Villains in this greatest of genres?

message 2: by Russell (new)

Russell Brooks (russellbrooks) I read Goldfinger a long time ago. Goldfinger was an excellent villain in this James Bond classic, and the book was essentially a page-turner.

message 3: by Helen (new)

Helen Hanson (helenhanson) John le Carré's Karla. Le Carré painted a man of humanity, ruthless brutality, and political excess. His weaknesses defined him as much as his strengths.

message 4: by Jake (new)

Jake (likelyverdict) | 2 comments I agree with Enio that The Needle was much more interesting than Lucy. Actually, Eye of the Needle had a trio of protagonists, all of whom were a bit under-welming. I haven't read Le Carre, but based on Helen's post, I think I will. Ironically, the spy / thriller genre as a whole tends to be protagonist centric to a fault. Most of the villains are "puppeteers" controlling a cadre of thugs or terrorists without any particular depth. The haunting demons are inside the protagonists heads more than anything else. Outside of the thriller and spy genre, you can find some intriguing and chilling villains. Ted Dekker (serial killer author) and Orson Scott Card (science fiction) have written some wicked villains.

message 5: by Roger (last edited Nov 26, 2011 09:17AM) (new)

Roger Weston | 27 comments Although the Needle was a truly despicable villain, I also thought that Lucy was a memorable character and I'd say she was the hero. The detective was not memorable, and it was Lucy who had to face the villain.

Another outstanding villain is Wolf Larsen from Jack London's The Sea Wolf, an adventure story. Cookie from The Sea Wolf is just as despicable as the Needle; however, they have little in common.

message 6: by Scott (new)

Scott Smith (mr_bookman) | 4 comments My new favorite villain is The Troll in the Brad Thor novels.

message 7: by Marty (new)

Marty | 2 comments The Troll is pretty badass! Great backstory, I love the interaction and quasi-friendship between him and Scott Harvath. For sheer comedy value, I love 'Johnny Three Fingers' in Devin Kerins's Aim High and Patriot Plan

message 8: by Paul (new)

Paul Giandalia | 2 comments The Villian in the first two Andrew Britton novels (The American, The Assassin) is great. The two books flow together as if they are one story. I found myself more intrested in the villian than any other supporting cast.

message 9: by Beth (last edited Jul 18, 2012 02:38PM) (new)

Beth (drewby267) | 14 comments Just downloaded " Takedown" by Brad Thor. Can't wait to meet the Troll!

message 10: by Samuel (last edited Feb 16, 2015 11:55PM) (new)

Samuel  | 647 comments From Alex Berson's second book "The Ghost Agent", the antagonist is the Defense Minister of the People's Republic Of China, General Li. He's my favorite spy fiction antagonist by far. Berenson avoided all the usual stereotypes and tropes with his type of character, the Chinese militarist, and ruthlessly turned them upside down. He's an incredibly sympathetic villain, with motivations that carry much more weight with a slowing Chinese economy. Li isn't a smug jerk, nor is is particularly anti-Western or a cruel madman. He's not corrupt, sincerely wants the best for his countrymen who have been left behind and wishes to improve their lot before the calamity which he believes his Standing Committee colleagues are blind to hits his country. But as we all know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions and his methods in achieving what any other day would be laudable goals would also spin out of control and lead to the death of millions in Asia.

message 11: by Dax (new)

Dax | 4 comments John Rain by Barry Eisler.

message 12: by Feliks, Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1098 comments Mod
you guys are killing me when you talk of 'downloading' a book...


message 13: by Dax (last edited Apr 08, 2015 08:16PM) (new)

Dax | 4 comments Ben Adnam, HMS Unseen by Patrick Robinson. His escape from Baghdad to Iran, clandestine entry and hiding in the UK are interesting parts.

message 14: by Samuel (new)

Samuel  | 647 comments Dax wrote: "John Rain by Barry Eisler."

John Rain isn't a villain! He's an anti-hero.

message 15: by Feliks, Moderator (last edited Apr 08, 2015 11:54PM) (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1098 comments Mod
Enio wrote: "My favorite aspect of the espionage genre is how the "Hero" is often the least interesting character in the story.

From Frederick Forsyth's "Jackal" to Ken Follett's "Needle" it's always the Villains who steal the show. To be honest, I can't remember a thing about the Heroes in either of these incredible books. (Unless you argue that Lucy was the real hero in "Eye of the Needle"..."

Back to the interesting points raised by the OP. I'm sure I could name some interesting heroes if I gave it some thought ('Shibumi', 'Black Sunday', etc). And for example, do you remember any of the villains in Dashiell Hammett's 'Red Harvest'? No, right? Not for the least of which reason is that the narrative is told from the hero's POV and the hero blows-everyone-else-away. Readers are likely to better-remember whoever's POV dominates the story.

The 'pizazz' of villains in thriller fiction (I might also argue) stems from the nature of the genre itself. These books are about a 'temporary savoring of chaos', as it were. If one character in a story is committing audacious, astounding, grisly slayings--certainly we're going to remember that more than the detective who goes about life in the same dull way as the rest of us, even as he is trailing a culprit.

Agree with you though that I certainly can not recall who the detectives in 'Eye of the Needle' were either; but I have to suggest that this is because they hardly figured in the tale. Certainly Lucy was the protagonist there, and a great one, too (What an amazing story that was).

message 16: by Feliks, Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1098 comments Mod
We strenuously need another 'villains' chat thread...they've been unsung for a rather long interval hereabouts in this group...Ah'm a get right on this..

message 17: by M.L. (new)

M.L. I added the villain to the newer thread, but (I can't call him favorite because I detest him too much so...) worst villain, Dudley Smith in James Elroy's L. A. Confidential series.

I do remember the 'good' guys, although they are all rogue cops, so could be some question about that, but Buzz Meeks, Bud White, Ed Exley, Jack Vincennes.

message 18: by Feliks, Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1098 comments Mod
^^^I don't know any of these, ha

too recent for me :p

message 19: by M.L. (new)

M.L. Ok, how's this, and maybe a question too, Crime and Punishment, is Raskolnikov a villain? I think he did something pretty terrible.

message 20: by Feliks, Moderator (last edited Aug 22, 2016 08:57AM) (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 1098 comments Mod
Yes, as I recall, he murders an old woman. But he's an anti-hero. We root for him. The story is about how he deals with his guilt. He's not unremittingly evil. His internal remorse is severe and astounding; one might say he more than atones for his deed by the demons his conscience wreaks on him.

message 21: by M.L. (new)

M.L. Ok, well, call me merciless, but I don't root for him, I don't care about his remorse after the fact. Nor did I ever root for Ripley. I guess he would be worst villain, Ripley.

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