Saturday, June 12, 2021

Four unforgettable fictional serial killers

Jen Williams lives in London with her partner and their small ridiculous cat. Having been a fan of grisly fairy tales from a young age, these days Williams writes dark unsettling thrillers with strong female leads, as well as character-driven fantasy novels with plenty of adventure and magic. She has twice won the British Fantasy Award for her Winnowing Flame trilogy, and when she's not writing books she works as a bookseller and a freelance copywriter.

Her new novel is A Dark and Secret Place.

At CrimeReads Williams tagged four favorite dark and twisted villains of fictional lore, including:
Francis Dolarhyde of Red Dragon

You could hardly have a list like this without talking about Thomas Harris and his iconic cast of serial killers, and, specifically of course, Dr Hannibal Lector. First appearing in 1981’s Red Dragon, the doctor is in many ways the grandfather of fictional serial killers, undoubtedly giving birth to hordes of murderers after the huge success of The Silence of the Lambs. After all, it’s Dr. Lector who has really sold us on the idea of a murderer who is just so much cleverer than anyone else in the room, and if you’re a fan of the TV series Hannibal, one who dresses impeccably well, too. But for me the killer that truly haunts me from Thomas Harris’s excellent books is Francis Dolarhyde. Dubbed “the Tooth Fairy” by the press (and what a fantastically rubbish nickname that is), Dolarhyde is murdering entire families to quicken his transformation into a being he calls “the Great Red Dragon,” and Will Graham must enlist the help of Dr. Lector to stop him. Dolahyde is equal parts fascinating, terrifying, and tragic. He is obsessed with William Blake’s painting “The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed With the Sun,” even going so far as to eat the original watercolour, and there is something flatly alien about his transformation into a beast. Yet Harris undercuts all this by having Dolahyde unexpectedly fall for a blind woman at his work place. This, combined with flashbacks to his horrifically abusive childhood, give the reader an uncomfortably intimate portrait of a monster.
Read about another entry on the list.

Red Dragon appears on Caroline Louise Walker's list of six terrifying villain-doctors in fiction, Peter Swanson's list of ten thrillers that explore mental health, John Verdon's list of the ten best whodunits, Laura McHugh's list of ten favorite books about serial killers, Kimberly Turner's list of the ten most disturbing sociopaths in literature, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best dragons in literature and ten of the best tattoos in literature, and the (U.K.) Telegraph 110 best books; Andre Gross says "it should be taught as [a text] in Thriller 101."

--Marshal Zeringue