Each year, the Dutch publishing world and its customers celebrate the books most often packed in suitcases and rucksacks and taken on summer holidays – thrillers. Dutch Thriller Month (or, Maand van het Spannende Boek) kicks off on Thursday May 31 in Felix Meritis in Amsterdam with an evening of authors (including Kate Mosse, author of The Labyrinth), workshops, discusssions, presentations, awards, music and more.
The theme of this year’s thriller month is “The evil inside you: how far is too far?”. It highlights an interesting trend in crime fiction: antiheroes. The main characters of these books are not the sleuths but the bad guys: unspeakably evil, horribly bad, or just plain flawed. And yet, we can’t help rooting for them, because in the end, they are often trying to do the right thing, although going about it in a way that most of us would find distasteful.
We asked Jouke, ABC The Hague’s Crime Fiction buyer, to give us some examples of great antiheroes.
Dexter Morgan is a forensic blood spatter analyst with an unusual hobby: he hunts down unconvicted murderers and kills them. He does this according to his own code of ethics, and strict procedures that ensure he can can go on dispensing his brand of vigilante justice with near impunity.
Darkly Dreaming Dexter – Jeff Lindsay
Lisbeth Salander, a tattoed, socially incompetent, misunderstood genius hacker with a cache of authority issues. She is dedicated to exacting a horrid revenge on men who have abused women – bullies, predators and corrupt businessmen. Together with prison-bound journalist Mikael Blomkvist she investigates the forty year old case of the disappearance of a young socialite.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson
The protagonist of The Silence of the Lambs may be Clarice Starling, but everyone knows the star is Hannibal Lecter. Brilliant psychiatrist, and canniablistic serial killer, he is so dangerous that he is denied all forms of human physical contact. From his cell, he drip feeds FBI agent Starling clues to help her catch a serial killer in exchange for details about her unhappy childhood.
Silence of The Lambs – Thomas Harris
JW takes a job dealing drugs to the rich kids he longs to join. His supplier suggests he track town Jorge, a young Latino drug dealer, has just broken out of jail, to win his trust in order to widen his patch. But JW’s not the only one on Jorge’s trail: Mrado, the muscle behind the mob who ratted Jorge out to the cops, is also on the hunt. But he’s tired of being a pawn in a risky game. As the paths of these antiheroes intertwine further, they find themselves mercilessly pitted against one another in a world where allegiances are hard-won, revenge is hard-fought, and a way out of it all is even harder to come by.
Easy Money – Jens Lapidus
Patrick Bateman is a smart, handsome young banker who earns his fortune on Wall Street by day while spending his nights expressing his true self through indiscriminate torture, rape, murder and cannibalism. Underneath it all, though, Patrick just wants to be loved.
American Psycho – Bret Easton Ellis
Philip Marlowe is a detached, cynical, tough, hard drinking detective. The quintessential private eye, Marlowe has a habit of wisecracking so much that people want to hit him and often do. Operating as a lone wolf, he’s not averse to dishing out punches and not afraid to take them either. His moral righteousness sets him apart from other antiheroes, however, his tragic personality and avoidance of happiness set him apart from the heroes too.
The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
Charming, intelligent, and almost entirely without conscience, Tom Ripley is paid by a businessman to retrieve his playboy son, Dickie greenleaf, from Italy. He becomes so infatuated with Greenleaf and his lifestyle that he murders him in order to become him.
The Talented Mr Ripley – Patricia Highsmith
John Keller makes a decent wage, lives in a nice apartment. Works the crossword puzzle. Watches a little TV. Until the phone rings and he packs a suitcase, gets on a plane, flies halfway across the country… and kills somebody.
Hit Man – Lawrence Block
Professor James Moriarty & Colonel Sebastian Basher Moran are the the twisted evil dopplegangers of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson in this witty and audacious reimagining of one of Doyle’s most memorable stories. Together they run London crime, owning police and criminals alike.
Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the D’Urbervilles – Kim Newman
John Wayne Cleaver is a sociopath. He likes dead bodies and he’s obsessed with serial killers, but really doesn’t want to become one. So he lives by self-prescribed rules that enable him to lead a convincing version of normal life. This unusual personality gives him the objectivity to see what others don’t: that the body the police have just found behind the Laundromat is different.
I Am Not A Serial Killer – Dan Wells
Lou Ford is the deputy sheriff of a small town in Texas. The worst thing most people can say against him is that he’s a little slow and a little boring. But, then, most people don’t know about the sickness–the sickness that almost got Lou put away when he was younger. The sickness that is about to surface again.
The Killer Inside Me – Jim Thompson
Witty confidence man and burglar Arsene Lupin is like a criminal Sherlock Holmes-meets-Robin Hood. The poor and innocent have nothing to fear from him; often they profit from his spontaneous generosity. The rich and powerful, and the detective who tries to spoil his fun, however, must beware. They are the target of Arsene’s mischief and tomfoolery. A masterful thief, his plans frequently evolve into elaborate capers.
Arsene Lupin, Gentleman-Thief – Maurice LeBlanc