More memorable villains in literature


25.  Dr. Fu Manchu: The evil genius from the Sax Rohmer novels bent on world domination was oddly enough, averse to the use of guns.  With an intellect that rivaled that of Moriarty, the nemesis of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Fu Manchu used all the tools at his disposal to achieve his nefarious goals.  Fu Manchu headed a shadowy organization that spanned the globe, its tentacles of corruption reaching everywhere. He later became a symbol for the yellow terror as well as the basis for evil masterminds in fiction.  Readers were introduced to Dr. Fu Manchu in The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu (1913, Methuen).

This man, whether a fanatic or a duly appointed agent, is, unquestionably, the most malign and formidable personality existing in the world today. He is a linguist who speaks with almost equal facility in any of the civilized languages, and in most of the barbaric. He is an adept in all the arts and sciences which a great university could teach him. He also is an adept in certain obscure arts and sciences which no university of to-day can teach. He has the brains of any three men of genius. Petrie, he is a mental giant.

24.  Big Jim Rennie: The Second Selectman of Chester’s Mill, Rhode Island is more than just the town’s de facto leader, he’s the owner of a car dealership and radio station in Stephen King’s Under the Dome (Scribner, 2009).  Already a bible thumping, power hungry, ego driven, corrupt politician guilty of organizing and creating the nation’s largest methamphetamine lab by clandestinely swiping propane tanks from throughout the town, including its hospital, Big Jim was ready for the criminal hall of shame even before the Dome dropped over the town, cutting it off from the rest of the world.  Isolated from the rest of the world, Big Jim quickly establishes control of the town, doing whatever it takes to assert control when met with resistance.  Aside from multiple murders, Big Jim orchestrates a riot, covers up a rape perpetrated by members of the volunteer police force he established, orders the arson of the town newspaper and disobeys a direct order from the President of the United States, locking away the Dale Barbara, the man the President assigned to take control of the situation beneath the Dome and going so far as to threaten Barbara with waterboarding prior to execution by firing squad.

He was in that mostly empty-headed state of grace which is sometimes such fertile soil; it’s the ground from which our brightest dreams and biggest ideas (both good and spectacularly bad) suddenly burst forth, often full-blown.

23.   Justice Wargrave: We meet Lawrence John Wargrave in the pages of Agatha Christie’s classic murder mystery And Then There Were None (Collins Crime Club, 1939).  Known as a hanging judge, Wargrave finally tires of what he sees as a failing justice system and using his ties to that system finds nine people who are either directly or indirectly responsible for the killing of others.  Then he anonymously invites and joins all of them to a mansion on an isolated island and one by one, kills them, even faking his own death at one point to cast off any suspicions that he is the killer.  Once the deed is done, he writes a confession, stuffs it into a bottle that he tosses into the sea and then he takes his own life.

Ten little Indian boys went out to dine; One choked his little self, and then there were nine. Nine Little Indian boys sat up very late; One overslept himself and then there were eight. Eight little Indian boys traveling in Devon; One said he’d stay there and then there were seven. Seven little Indian boys chopping up sticks; One chopped himself in halves then there were six. Six Indian boys playing with a hive; A bumble-bee stung one then there were five. Five Indian boys going in for law; One got in Chancery then there were four. Four Indian boys going out to sea; A red herring swallowed one then there were three. Three Indian boys walking in the zoo; A big bear hugged one then there were two. Two Indian boys sitting in the sun; One got all frizzled up then there was one. One Indian boy left all alone; He went and hanged himself and then there were none.

22.  Mr. Griffin: One of the early mad scientists of fiction, in the pages of The Invisible Man, by H.G. Wells, this man of science develops a serum that turns the body invisible.  To fund his research, he steals money from his father, who in turn commits suicide.  Griffin tests the serum on a cat, then uses it on himself and burns down the building in which he had been living.  After surviving on the streets by stealing what he needs to maintain a living, Griffin is shot while attempting to break into a house.  He flees to a friend’s house where he relates his story and confesses that he is about begin a reign of terror, revealing his madness.

The stranger came early in February one wintry day, through a biting wind and a driving snow, the last snowfall of the year, over the down, walking as it seemed from Bramblehurst railway station and carrying a little black portmanteau in his thickly gloved hand.

21.  Godking Wanhope: When we meet Dorian in the pages of Brent Weeks’ Night Angel trilogy (Orbit Books, 2008), he’s not a villain.  He’s a mage and prophet working to try and bring a prophecy to its optimal end.  With the best of intentions, he becomes the Godking Wanhope, seizing power in the Khalidoran empire and committing a host of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, and raising the dead for use in war.

To change an entire nation, to undo the evil his father had wrought, he had taken a harem, raised krul, slaughtered children, raped girls and started a war. In fact, he’d accomplished most of the things for which he hated his father, and in far less time. The truth was, Dorian had always been more interested in being known as good than in simply being good. And he was about to do it again.

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