My latest book – The One Who Got Away – features a number of truly awful characters, and I’m really happy about that.
I love getting messages from readers, telling me they kept reading it, because they wanted to see so-and-so to get their comeuppance.
I believe that everyone loves a good villain, especially when they get what’s coming, in the end.
With that in mind, my ten favourite villains from literature:
1. Voldemort from the Harry Potter books by JK Rowling is the stuff of nightmares – literally in my case! And yet Harry stands firm in the face of his evil every single time. There’s a lesson for life, right there.
2. All children should also be introduced to the White Witch from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis because she’s the best example of how evil can look lovely, and even taste sweet, but she turns her enemies into stone and – worse – cancelled Christmas.
3. Bill Sikes from Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. He’s a thief, and a killer, which makes him very much worse than miserly Fagin, who is merely cheap. But Sikes also beats dogs, and nobody who beats dogs can possibly have a shred of good in them.
4. She’s wicked, she’s malicious, she’s the bitter Mrs Danvers, the housekeeper in floor-length black from Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Live long enough, ladies, and you’ll meet somebody like this, pretending to have your best interests at heart, but whose instincts are for you to hurt yourself. Cut them loose.
5. Count Dracula from Dracula by Bram Stoker. He’s a character, but he’s also the personification of evil, in a novel that does all it can to keep women in a tight-laced, 19th century corset. A stake through his heart, and here’s to suffrage.
6. I’m a little reluctant to include Kevin, from the unsettlingly true-to-life We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver because he’s a child, but he murders many people (after taking out his sister’s eye, probably) and he’s a terrific examination of the eternal question: are killers born or made?
7. Is there anyone worse in literature than Bob Ewell from To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee? He’s the head of the shambolic family that lives in a rundown shack on the edge of Maycomb, who accused the black Tom Robinson of the rape of his daughter and is happy to see an innocent man hang from a lamp-post. Thank God for Atticus Finch, for at least bringing the matter to trial, even if the result was less than readers wanted.
8. Napoleon from Animal Farm by George Orwell. The nasty pig, also known as Joseph Stalin, who ousts Snowball, and turns the farm into a dictatorship where animals die at his command. If all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others, he’s a villain more villainous than any other in this political masterpiece.
9. Annie Wilkes, from Stephen King’s Misery. This is the villain that no real-life writer wants to meet. Annie takes her favourite author, Paul Sheldon, into her home after he breaks both legs. She hobbles and tortures him as she forces him to write his next book the way she’d like it to be. A fan from hell.
10. Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey. I was re-reading this just last week (and I watched the film, with Jack Nicholson proving once and for all that sometimes the book is as good as the movie) because the kids had studied it at school, and one of them left a copy laying around. What a beautifully drawn bitch she was.