What do you think? Don’t we just seem to love evil people?


What do you think? I was simply driven to ask that question after seeing the sheer number of criminals being touted in this fall’s TV lineup. (I know. I need a life.)

Let me repeat:  what do you think? All right, I’ll grant you that maybe “love” isn’t the right way to express it. Perhaps the better way to ask it is, “Why are we so drawn to evil characters—to criminals, psychopaths, sociopaths and murderers?” It could be a character from Shakespeare (Richard III or Lady MacBeth), or from a Sherlock Holmes mystery (Irene Adler or Moriarty).

Or, it could even be a character who’s your ordinary, everyday, rotten human being. (Uriah Heep comes to mind)

Let me ask you it this way. Who do we seem to remember more? The insanely witty Hannibal Lector or the wimpy/whiny Clarice? Jack the Ripper or his victims? In Stephen King’s The Shining, who stands out more than Jack Torrance? No one, I’d say!

Of course, my friends in The Baker Street Breakfast Club would quite rightly ask, “What about Sherlock Holmes? Aren’t we drawn to him?” Yes, we are! Holmes prevails over evil in the form of such characters as Moriarty, Adler, Milverton and other criminals in The Canon. But is it heresy to suggest that even the brilliant Holmes would pale without that peculiar light cast by those evil characters? In fact, how about Holmes’ own less-than-pleasant idiosyncrasies—shooting up cocaine, blowing holes in Mrs. Watson’s walls, making horribly rude yet truthful observations about Watson and others, etc.? Don’t they just make Holmes more edgy and appealing?

Harry the Torch, the arsonist in my mystery novel, The Burning of The Piping Rock, repulses and attracts readers. Whether he’s clinically insane, I’ll leave to the professionals. But even Harry has become an attractive character of sorts. I haven’t met anyone yet who has liked him, but most readers were drawn to him.

The evil ones of the world are at once fascinating and repulsive. I think in some ways, we recognize in them traits we fear could be in ourselves and want to extinguish. Or, maybe it all goes back to the boogieman scenario that started at childhood and stays with us as adults—loving to be scared and then being reassured by there being no one hiding under the bed.

As I said above, outside of criminal characters, what about those who are just ordinary, everyday, rotten human beings? These would be the type we’ve been more likely to have met in our lives and wish we hadn’t, such as that detestable relative we couldn’t avoid. More likely, it would be someone we’ve met at work, such as the client from hell or more commonly the monster bosses, those office tyrants you only can hope will get theirs in the end. Don’t you find we talk about them for years and years after we’re rid of them?

So, what do you think? Don’t we just seem to love evil people? Please let me know. Thanks!

Oh! A quick note before I go. IndieBound is the website of the more than 300 independent bookstores nationwide. If you visit http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781605710976 you can to order a hard copy edition of The Burning of The Piping Rock. Thanks IndieBound for more exposure for my historical mystery novel!

See you next time!

Joe C-K

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