Tag Archives: sexy-villains

Hope Road – a review

hope road smallI read somewhere recently that it takes about six or seven exposures to an author’s name for that name to register with readers. Well, I’m living proof that theory is correct!

John Barlow, the author of Hope Road, writes the odd post for Indies Unlimited, and I must have enjoyed those posts, because when I stumbled across his name in the Amazon ‘readers who bought X also bought Y‘ list, a little light bulb went off in my head.

Needless to say I bought Hope Road, and read it. What the theory did not predict, however, was that I would fall head over heels in love with the main character, John Ray!

Hope Road is a quasi police procedural, but told through the eyes of John Ray, a character who is definitely not a policeman. Hope Road is also a bit of a thriller,  a bit of a mystery, and a lovely character study of John Ray. In short, it is exactly the kind of book I love. And I did love it. 😀

The story is set in a seedy part of Leeds, [England] where John Ray, the prodigal son, has returned to take over the second-hand car business belonging to his family. But selling second-hand cars was only ever a front for the real family business, which was crime.

John’s father was a local crime-lord until his retirement due to ill-health, and John’s brother was murdered in an apparent gangland ‘hit’. But John has always been clean. He is the one who left, the one who went to university and became a solid citizen. So why has he returned? And why is he now selling used cars from the old showroom that used to be headquarters for his father’s criminal operations?

The natural suspicion surrounding John’s return is only exacerbated by the discovery of a dead girl in one of his cars, along with 50,000 pounds in counterfeit bills.

The police know the murderer could not have been John because he has a water-tight alibi – he was in bed with Detective Constable [DC] Denise Danson at the time. However the car was being driven by John’s protégé, and employee, Freddy, and the family business used to be in counterfeiting, so John is definitely a person-of-interest. But is he actually guilty of anything?

I was intrigued, to say the least, because right from the beginning, John Ray exudes the kind of charisma that is usually reserved for sexy villains, yet he also seems to be a genuinely caring person who puts himself at risk trying to prove that Freddy was not the murderer.

So how did Barlow create this charismatic character?

John Ray is not stereotypically handsome. He is described as a big man in his forties with a shock of black hair, and a physical ‘presence’, but he is not a James Bond, although it seems he is good in bed. Nor is he one of those angst-ridden types who introspects ad nauseum.

So what is it about John Ray that makes him so appealing?

I suspect the answer to that question lies in the character’s potential to be bad. In a sense, this potential is the mirror image of what makes a villain sexy – the potential to be good. A villain who is all bad generally comes across as boring. Most heroes suffer from the same 2D malaise. Sexy villains and heroes, however, have the potential to be both good and bad, or at least to swing between the two, so we are left wondering how they will end up.  That is my theory at any rate.

All theorizing aside, however, the one thing I am quite certain about is that I will be reading more about John Ray, and I hope you do too. Very highly recommended.



More sexy villains – the lure of redemption

A while ago I wrote a post about what it was that made villains so sexy. Ever since then I’ve been amazed at how often search engines have brought people to my blog based on searches for ‘sexy villains’. Clearly I am not the only one who finds them intriguing!

So, in a shameless bid for fame and fortune I’m baring my soul to reveal the book, movie and gaming villains who make my heart skip a beat. As I’m old and dignified I won’t mention any other parts of my anatomy that may be involved.

Movies and Series

The first entrant in this category is the Sherlock Holmes character played by Benedict Cumberbatch, an English actor who is not ‘pretty’ at all. Nonetheless the rare moments of softness in his otherwise prickly character make him utterly fascinating. Technically Sherlock Holmes is one of the ‘good guys’ but his personality places him squarely in the ‘here but for the grace of god be a villain’ category. And yes, the redemption of his personality is a major drawing card for me.

Another modern entrant is Loki, the arch villain from The Avengers blockbuster movie. Played by yet another English actor, Tom Hiddleston, Loki is cunning, powerful, gorgeous and ‘adopted’, with all that that implies. 😀 I rest my case.

Last but not least is John Cusack in the role of Martin Blank, a professional assassin in Grosse Point Blank. Cusack is gorgeous I have to admit but what makes the character of Martin Blank so appealing is the fact that he goes over to the ‘good’ side for the sake of love. This is redemption with a capital ‘R’!


Anyone who has ever played video games will recognize the next uber villain – Sephiroth! Final Fantasy 7 by Square-Enix [Squaresoft back then] created a number of very memorable characters including  Cloud the uber angster and Vincent the revenant, however all of them paled beside the arch villain, Sephiroth. Beautiful, powerful, broken. The following video clip is not from Final Fantasy 7 but it does show Sephiroth rather well and, well I just love the graphics! What more can I say?

Actually there is quite a bit more that I can say.

Square Enix is my favourite game developer and one of the reasons for that is that they have had an uncanny knack of creating villains and heroes who all struggle towards redemption.

My second favourite gaming ‘villain’ is Sydney Losstarot of Vagrant Story fame [see concept art on the left].

Although Vagrant Story never achieved the commercial success of the Final Fantasy series, it remains my favourite game of all time, along side Final Fantasy Tactics and Sydney remains one of the very best villains ever to be redeemed. That may be a bit of a spoiler but so be it.


And now to books. Back when I was a great deal younger I became obsessed with one particular character created by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. That character was Raistlin Majere. He was a mage, self-obsessed, cold and seemingly without too many redeeming traits and yet… I loved him. I think I was attracted to the element of power teamed with a certain pathos. Or perhaps it was the hint that redemption was at least possible. I make no apologies although I do cringe just a teeny weeny bit.

In the Death Gate Cyle, Weis and Hickman create a far more rounded character called Haplo who starts out as a bit of a bad guy and ends up as a hero. I loved him as well. Again the redemption theme.

Moving into the present day I have found myself becoming very fond of a character in the Norothian cycle [by M.Edward McNally]. The name of this character is John Deskata and he is both hero and villain. This duality in his nature becomes apparent in book 3, The Wind from Miilark. I hardly need to say that the possibility of redemption is a huge part of John Deskata’s allure.

So there you have it. I’m sure you will have your own favourites but I wonder if you find the redemption theme as intriguing as I do? I’d love to know what you think so please tell me who you find irresistible… and why. 😀

Villains – what is it that makes them so sexy?

I was reading an excellent post by Alex Laybourne today in which he asked who we [writers] preferred to write about – heroes or villains.

My immediate response was ‘villains of course!” And then I started wondering why that reaction had been so instant. That lead to thoughts about villains in books that I had read or in movies I had seen. Almost without fail the most interesting characters were always the villains. Why?

In movies, villains are often portrayed as hunky guys oozing danger and sex appeal in equal measure so the attraction is not hard to understand but why does the same thing happen in so many books as well? After all, the author may describe a villain as ‘handsome’ but handsome is just a word and does not have the impact of a three-quarter profile in a close-up. Besides, in books it’s usually the personality that I find myself attracted to anyway.

I’ll admit that for quite a long time I thought there was something a little bit wrong with me until I started talking to other women about this bad-boy phenomenon and discovered that I was not alone. And it’s not something restricted to my generation either –  no.1 daughter is the same and when we first started playing rpg’s together guess who got our attention? Was it Cloud from Final Fantasy 7? Hah! Of course not. How could that angsty namby pamby compete with Sephiroth? I mean come on… even as a pixelated animation that long silver hair was just….

Ahem. I think I’ve made my point. There is something about a good villain that is exciting and yes, sexy and has as much to do with how quickly we turn the pages as any empathy we may feel for the hero of the piece.

Now I need to make a very important point here. When I talk about sexy villains I am NOT talking about romance novel villains. Or heroes.  I am talking about characters in science fiction novels and fantasies and thrillers and, of course, who dunnits. These villains are not out to seduce anyone yet so often they end up being seductive anyway. Why is that?

The only answer I can think of is that the author subconsciously projected that element of seductiveness without knowing that he/she was doing so. Furthermore I think that this element of seductiveness has something to do with the cold, calculating exercise of power. And success. No matter how cold or calculating a villain may be if he is an incompetent bungler then sex appeal goes flying out the window.  And he can’t whinge or whine either – that’s another huge turn-off.

So what the hell is it about villains?  I do have some suspicions but rather than launching into some long analysis that will probably end up being painfully boring I’m going to end this post with a book, a villain, a question and a challenge.

The book : Otherland

The villain : Dread

The question : Did you find Dread as compelling as I did?

The challenge : Name your favourite villain [and the book he/she appeared in] and say why in 500 words or less [preferably less!]

May the power of the pen be with us 🙂


%d bloggers like this: