What Makes a Villain?

A few nights ago, business was slow and I ended up having a lengthy discussion with my store manager about villains.  Not simple bad guys or characters who are shades of gray–villains.  He and I discussed movies, but, being a writer, I thought it would be much more interesting to turn that question toward books.

So, I ask, Who are your top five villains from books?To play fair, here’s my list, in brief:

The Ortega Family (Various books in The Dresden Files).  This group of Red Court vampires get hit hard and just keep on coming.  They’re ruthless, immortal, and have a major bone to pick with Harry Dresden and his friends.  Check out Death Masks for a good example.

Craddock McDermott (Heart-Shaped Box).  You will fear him.  His rage starts in life and he uses that rage to plot becoming a malevolent ghost once he dies.  When the book starts, old Craddock is already dead.  Trust me, he’s terrifying.

Drama (Smoker).  The most fearsome assassin in the world.  She comes head to head with Greg Rucka’s personal security agent lead, Atticus Kodiak, clashing in the most epic duel of wits and murder in the entire series.  Then she comes back for more.

Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Dune).  The classic manipulative villain, the Baron is duplicitous to most people, spiteful to his enemies, and cares only for the advancement of his family.  In his down time, he practices his hobby–raping people, usually to death.

Mr. Croup & Mr. Vandemar (Neverwhere).  You never know quite what to expect from this pair of assassins.  It isn’t what they do that makes them great villains, it’s how they do it.  Mr. Vandemar is every part the intimidating, towering thug, while Mr. Croup is the elegance of murder in a loquacious package.  Together, they create a level of constant fear about going through London Below.

Those are mine–what are yours?

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