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The world needs villains. Especially in Judeo-Christian America, we need villains in order to validate our own moral superiority; we need villains to be the living embodiment of Evil, to be out there committing the Big Crimes, so that the rest of us can shake our heads and keep right on cheating on our taxes and stealing our neighbor’s WIFI and parking in handicap spaces.
But philosophical and moral arguments aside, we need villains because well, they’re cool. And they have way more fun than most of us. They allow us to watch (from a safe distance) as they not only succumb to their base desires, but really revel in them. Personally, I enjoy them for their unapologetic nature, for thumbing their collective noses at the world and saying, “I do whatever I want, whenever I want, and stop me. . . if you can.” Really, how fun does that sound?
Now think about this. What would Superman be without Lex Luther? Answer: just an uptight guy with glasses and a strong chin. I mean, James Bond is just a womanizer without the likes of Auric Goldfinger and Dr. No; without the many foes Bond has battled and defeated in those books and movies, he would be a cliche, a very one-dimensional character, who would have to find a rich widower to pay for his first-class air travel, gadgets, and dry martinis. Hell, even my beloved Red Sox are much more fun to watch when they are pitted against the Evil Empire known as the New York Yankees.
Which brings me to an article on villains and villainy I found at a tumblr site called CleverGirlHelps. I linked to the entire article below, but I’ve excerpted some choice bits for those interested, as I am, in the dynamics of villains.
On the difference between a villain and an antagonist:
What makes a villain a villain is action. What makes an antagonist an antagonist is force against the protagonist. Again, these things can overlap, but do not always do so. I would like you to disregard the notion that villains and antagonists must be characters. They can be, but they do not always have to be.
On villainy as a reflection of the hero:
A villain can be a reflection or shadow of whatever the hero stands for and loves. A villain who is good at their job might be this because they represent whatever the hero fears, loathes, or is scared of. A reflective villain is more than not-the-hero, a villain is the essence of not-the-hero.
On villainy as conflict:
Conflict and villainy can easily coincide. Conflict is the basis of the story, the thing that drives the plot and spurs on the characters. Bear in mind, if your villain is a part of the conflict, I expect you to deal with the villain somehow before resolving the plot in its entirety.
Here’s the entire article, which is filled with smart observations on the subject as well as a variety of examples to back up her opinions. Check it out.
I am 33,000 words into my new crime novel A SUNDAY IN ALPHABET LAND, and I am sneaking up on what I think will make for a killer ending. Similar to my Eli Sharpe books, this one features a “problem-solver” (a.k.a. detective) named the Rook, who is trying very hard to clean up Alphabet Land, a neighborhood that has gone to the dogs since the nuclear plant was decommissioned nine years prior. Set in a fictitious town in South Carolina, Alphabet Land is blue-collar all the way, a neighborhood that has relied on the plant for employment for the past forty years, and when the novel begins, Alphabet Land is awash in drugs, violence, and crime, all of it controlled by a man named Luke Bump (a.k.a. villain).
This novel takes place during one Sunday, and it is action-packed, gritty, and totally noir. It has guns and fights and cool, but scary settings where all the action takes place. I’m hoping to have this book finished within the next couple of weeks, and then I plan to submit it to agents before the summer is out. Hopefully, someone will be interested in it.
In the meantime, be on the lookout for the first book in the Eli Sharpe series entitled GO GO GATO. It’ll be released on August 1st. Click on the link below to pre-order.
Or enter my Goodreads giveaway and win a signed copy.
Camel Press Announces the August Release of Go Go Gato, by Max Everhart: A Ballplayer Vanishes
Seattle, WA.—On August 1, 2014, Camel Press will release Go Go Gato ($14.95, 278 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-911-4), by Max Everhart, the first book in a new mystery/suspense series featuring Eli Sharpe, a former baseball player turned detective.
From its hero to its milieu to its eccentric, three-dimensional characters, Max Everhart’s GO GO GATO is a terrific read. The North Carolina minor-league baseball scene feels authentic and beloved, and I was always rooting for protagonist Eli Sharpe. The best news is that this excellent mystery is first in a series. Fans of Harlan Coben will want to check out Max Everhart, a major new talent!
–Steve Ulfelder, Edgar finalist author of WOLVERINE BROS. FREIGHT & STORAGE
Go Go Gato is the debut entry in a promising new series by Max Everhart, and it’s a fast-paced, entertaining tale. Eli Sharpe is a very appealing character who combines just the right amounts of wit, humor, intelligence and courage, and it will be fun to watch him in action as the series continues to grow and develop.
–James L. Thane, author of UNTIL DEATH and NO PLACE TO DIE
When Almario “Go Go” Gato, a handsome young Cuban baseball player, goes missing mid-season, his agent Veronica Craven hires a private investigator to track down her best client. No police. No press. Enter Eli Sharpe, an Asheville, North Carolina-based ex-ballplayer turned private detective who specializes in investigating professional athletes.
Eli begins by questioning Maria Gato, Almario’s roommate and fraternal twin. Maria watched while both her parents drowned on the boat ride from Cuba to America, so she is naturally desperate to get her only brother back. She tells Eli a secret: Almario may have a problem with drugs and alcohol.
Eli tracks down Almario’s supposed girlfriend, a rich sorority girl, but is soon led to another woman in his life, Sheri Stuckey, his cocaine supplier and fiancée who works in tandem with a gay bartender named Dantonio Rushing. Stuckey, a drug abuser and single mother, claims Almario split because she wanted the two of them to check into rehab. But Rushing, dazzled by Almario’s boyish good looks, tells a different tale: Almario has taken out a $500,000 life insurance policy on himself and named Stuckey as the primary beneficiary.
With the help of his a mentor—a former homicide detective—and five ex fiancées who still care about him, Eli follows Go Go’s trail, determined to locate the elusive ballplayer before one of the nasty people in his life—or his own bad habits—do him in. Max Everhart had this to say about his protagonist:
Eli Sharpe is an amalgamation, a Frankenstein I cobbled together out of spare parts just lying around the junkyard in my brain. From television, I constructed my detective from Atlanta Braves games circa mid-1980s, reruns of The Rockford Files, the first season of The Wire, and the Fletch movies. From hard-boiled PI books, I borrowed elements from Lew Archer, Philip Marlowe, C.W. Sughrue, Archy McNally, and dozens of other fictional detectives. From my own life, I drew on half-remembered conversations between my father and me, fragmented images from my time in Asheville, and god-only-knows what else. But in the end, Go Go Gato is the kind of story I like to read, and Eli Sharpe is the type of detective that I, as a reader, would become obsessed with. Hopefully, other readers will share my obsession.”
Go Go Gato is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.com. After August 1st, it will be also for sale in eBook and print editions on BN.com, the European Amazons, and Amazon Japan. Bookstores and libraries can order by contacting email@example.com or through Ingram, Baker & Taylor, or Partners West. Libraries can also order through Follett Library Resources or Midwest Library Service. Other electronic versions can be purchased on Smashwords or at any of the major online ebook stores.
I’m a pre-maturely middle-aged curmudgeon, who no longer enjoys reading coming-of-age stories. There, I said it.
Now let me say something else: The Year of the Storm, a crime/horror/literary coming-of-age novel, is a fantastic book. Told through two perspectives, one a fourteen year old boy named Danny, the other an old man named Walter, the story revolves around two missing people: Danny’s mother and sister, who are presumed by many to be dead. When the novel begins, Danny is desperate to know what happened, and then Walter, a chain-smoking wreck-of-a-man, appears on Danny’s doorstep in the middle of the night. Turns out, Walter may know something about Danny’s mother and sister, but in order to find them, Danny will have to engage in “slipping,” which, essentially means using the power of imagination to slip from the real world to another one. Entered into via a hidden storm shelter, this other world is guarded by a purely evil man who is holding Danny’s mother and sister as well as two other innocent young girls. In the end, Danny faces his fears and goes into this other world, so you could also call this a quest tale. As for plot, I don’t want to say much more.
There is much to praise in this jewel of a book, but I’ll start with the prose. Reminiscent of Ron Rash, the writing is elegantly spare with a depth of insight and heart not often seen in novels, let alone debut efforts. Throughout the narrative, I felt as if I were sitting on a back porch somewhere, cold beer in hand listening to these two men tell me a very personal, very engaging story. It is a testament to the strength of voice in this novel that early on in the story I no longer thought of Danny and Walter as characters, but as two men, flawed and conflicted, yes, but fundamentally decent human beings, ones I could relate to and root for. Great care was put into every sentence in this novel, and it is worth reading for the prose alone, but I also appreciate–on many levels–the use of the storm shelter and the storms themselves as literary devices. Granted, bad weather–tornadoes and lightning storms, in particular–are overused tropes in literature, and in the hands of a lesser author, they might have come across as passe or trite. But in this book, they fit perfectly and add layer upon layer of meaning. Danny is fourteen, which, as many of us know, means he is not a boy anymore, but he is not a man either, and the storms mirror that chaotic swirl of emotions that occur during that time in adolescence. Too, the storms make for a useful metaphor for fear, or, more specifically, facing down our deepest fears. A final element I enjoyed: this book is thematically dense while being extremely enjoyable. Weaved near-flawlessly into the fabric of the narrative are half a dozen themes: good versus evil; belief in magic; human sympathy; conquering deeply-held fears; friendship; and many more besides. And what’s particularly impressive about this is the author manages to nail pretty much of all of them. Readers of all ages could pick up this book and find something profound about human experience, something worth reflecting on.
In the end, The Year of the Storm manages to walk confidently on that tissue-thin line between a horror/crime novel and what is known as a literary book. It manages to make a reader turn pages AND think AND feel. That, I think, is a feat in and of itself . . .and a fairly stunning one at that. Read this book immediately.