With the American election season already burning up the internet and my television screen seemingly constantly turned to pundits talking politicians, I thought it might be time to talk leadership. Specifically, the kind of leadership we see between the pages of a book. In this blog I’ll be focusing on the bad, some of them really bad. Thanks to the recent rage of dystopian novels I have several truly murderous politicos to pick from. But you don’t have to ruin an entire nation or world to make my list; some of these guys are just good old fashioned thieves or charming local criminals.

Below are my picks for the worst politicos I’ve come up against in the last few decades of reading popular fiction genres.

Honorable Mentions: Azrael the Eternal from Land of the Beautiful Dead by R. Lee Smith: This paranormal novel from a master of that genre has a lot to recommend it. The story of what happens to humanity after one of our gods proves to be real it highlights how we are our own greatest enemy.  That said, Azrael didn’t exactly take the high road when we showed him our less than compassionate side; he created a zombie plague and basically destroyed civilization as we know it. Then he fell in love with a teenage ingénue and really pissed me off.

Jafar from A Whole New World by Liz Braswell. In this retelling of Disney’s Aladdin, Jafar steals the lamp just as Aladdin and Abu are trying to exit the Cave of Wonders. He creates a dark dictatorship in which zombies (of a sort) are the soldiers for his regime and he hunts Jasmine with a vengeance. He also practices blood magic and dark magic on the unsuspecting people of his city. Fortunately for her citizenry it doesn’t take Jasmine long to turn into a kickass rebel leader. This is a great tale for young readers who loved the original movie – or for those of any age who really loved that originally movie.

The Runners-Up . . . . .

10. The Villain from The Perfect Victim by Linda Castillo. In this romance, heroine Addison Fox. hires P. I. Randall Talbot to find her birth parents only to discover that someone is desperate to keep that a secret. Really, really desperate.  An excellent romance and chilling suspense tale make this a wonderful addition to any RS library.

9. Mayor Temple Nolan from Open Season by Linda Howard. This is one of my favorite, quite possibly my very favorite, romantic suspense book of all time. The hero and heroine, Daisy and Jack, are just fantastic characters. Daisy, a librarian, reaches the ripe old age of thirty and decides to change her drab exterior to match her fun, feisty interior. Jack is the new sheriff of her small, southern town. He notices Daisy even before the makeover. When she sees something she shouldn’t and he realizes the wrong kind of people are looking for her, he starts an up close and personal protection detail that leads them to the love of a life time. Fun, flirty and romantic with one of the funniest scenes I’ve ever read in a book, this is a novel I am happy to recommend.

8. The Villain from Live to Tell by Wendy Corsi Staub. I can’t name names because the big reveal comes a bit later in the story but this lunatic made a completely idiotic decision to lie when the truth would have had few repercussions. Then he compounded that simple lie with murder. Lots and lots of murder. While I found the start to this tale a bit slow, once it took off I couldn’t put it down. You can see my full review of it here.

7. Lewis Honneker from  The Senator’s Wife by Karen Robards This gentleman was involved pretty deeply in some terrible crime as well as being just a nasty person. His greatest act against humanity though was marrying the incredibly stupid and shallow Ronnie and then hiring “hero” Tom Quinlan. Yikes! Those two were a complete nightmare as a couple. This is still one of the worst books I have ever read and I’ve read a lot of books.

6. David Merritt, President of the United States and his buddy Spencer “Spence” Martin from Exclusive by Sandra Brown. When fallen-on-hard-times TV Journalist Barrie Travis interviews the first lady she gets a whole lot more than she bargained for: from a dead baby to a White House full of questionable characters, the only thing Barrie knows for sure is that the only person she can trust is ex-Marine Gray Bondurant. Or can she trust him? Full of sleazy politicos and nasty villains, this novel is perfect for conspiracy theorists.

5. President Snow and President Coin from Mockingjay. The Hunger Games have to be one of the cruelest, sickest ways to celebrate your victory over your opponent, yet these two seemed quite comfortable with them. They had other flaws, mostly their insatiable desire for power, but the game factor makes them two of the most appalling characters to ever grace a page. Fortunately, the books they star in are some of the greatest novels of our time.

4. Councilor Henry Scott, Psy -Changeling Series by Nalini Singh – First appearance in book one, Slave to Sensation. While there are many in the Psy-Changeling world who are evil, Henry received the honor of representing them because of his abuse of his own people and his prejudice against other races. Again, in fairness to him, he is far from the only Psy to display these characteristics, he’s just the one I chose to represent them. This series is a must read for sci-fi/paranormal romance fans.

3. Aro and the Volturi from Breaking DawnThese men are mass murdering psychopaths. That happens, especially among politicians. However, they are more than that. Edward Cullen tells us, “The Volturi aren’t supposed to be the villains, the way they seem to you. They are the foundation of our peace and civilization.” Uhm, not true, Edward, totally not true. Their peace is forged through abusing the power they have to police their own. And through the use of a torturous, psychopathic child who was played by a very poor actress in the films.

2. Bluebeard from The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault

The Legend :  A young bride is told never to open one of the rooms on her husband’s estate, only to give in to curiosity and discover that it contains the answer to the question of what happened to his former wives. Let’s just say it was nothing good.

The Source: While in the fairytale Bluebeard is only a nobleman it’s believed that the “inspiration” for this tale is either Breton King Conomor the Accursed or King Henry the Eighth. Both men were notorious for murdering unwanted wives.  Author Kristine Grayson did a good job of using this story as her basis for the romance Charming Blue, in which Bluebeard is a prince and tragic hero.

1. Cornelius Fudge from The Harry Potter Series. The most frightening thing about Cornelius is that he is very real. He isn’t the kind of massive villain that would approve a Hunger Games Scenario nor is he the kind of man that would kill indiscriminately to accumulate power. He is the kind of person who uses the press to ruthless advantage against his opponents, tries underhanded ways to undermine his detractors, and in his quest for power leaves his nation vulnerable to a madman. Our history books are peopled with such charmers and the sad thing is our future will be riddled with them as well if we are not vigilant.

And the most villainous leader is . . . . .

Shahryar from 1001 Arabian Knights I want to start by saying I enjoy the Arabian Nights tales. I love good stories abounding in magic and plucky heroes and this ensemble has some great ones. I don’t want the book banned from schools and libraries; I don’t think our children need to be kept from reading it to spare their delicate little minds. History is full of bad things and fiction is an excellent doorway to discussions on those topics. I think the tale can also be extremely empowering – a young woman defeats the most powerful, deadly man in her world using only her wits. But there are several things disturbing enough about this tale to make Shahryar my most villainous fictional character.

He Gets the Heroine:  Every night for three years the vengeful King Shahryar sleeps with a different virgin, executing her the next morning.” That is the basis for the story of Shahrazad, a woman who saves the life of herself and countless other young maidens by weaving such interesting stories that the murderous bastard who is her husband wants to hear just one more tale before killing her. Eventually, he falls in love and stops the killing. If ever a villain did not deserve an HEA it was this guy.

The Murder of 1,000 Girls: This isn’t war; this isn’t punishment for a war. This isn’t killing someone who stands between you and power. It isn’t necessitated by a need to feed on human blood. His wife cheated and it isn’t enough that he kills her, he must punish all women for her crime. What makes it disturbing is that heroes in romances today might not kill but that need to take the actions of one woman out on all other women can still be found in many novels.

No Justice: He never pays for the young ladies he killed; there is no vengeance or retribution for them.

The good news is that I’ve seen the legend changed sufficiently in modern retellings so that you can cheer for the heroine when she gets her HEA. Among my favorite of those novels are A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston, a lyrical and beautiful book which involves a clever use of magic  and The Storyteller’s Daughter by Cameron Dokey, which has Shahrazad saving the repentant king before he can enact his sentence on the women of the land.

So which book politicians do you feel are the worst?

–Maggie Boyd

 


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