“Between guilt and regret?” I laughed. “A big one. I’m guilty because I know a lot of what I’ve done is wrong, but to be sorry, I’d have to regret doing it, and the only thing I’m really sorry about”–her head darted in, thinking she had me, but I was too fast and caught her by the hair, slinging her around and letting go as she rocketed back toward my lane–“is that horrible first frame split.”
“You son of a–” The ball return cut her off again.
“Hey,” I yelled, “here’s an idea. If your head comes off, don’t start a fight in a goddam bowling alley.”
Do you dig bad boys? I’m not talking about posers with leather jackets and permanent sneers. Nor do I mean jerks and assholes. I’m talking genuine anti-heroes. They don’t defy convention, they reject it. You won’t see them sneering at polite society. Uh uh, real anti-heroes spit at it, or punch it in the face. They want to be left alone to do their own thing without a bunch of finger-wagging, tut tutting, rules, regulations or laws. Mess with them at your own risk, because anti-heroes fight back. They fight dirty. Do them wrong, earn a place on their shit list, and oh man, you will be so very sorry.
Anti-heroes appeal to me because they say the things good manners won’t allow me to say. They do things I’d never have the guts to do. If you pay attention, you see they’re doing wrong for the right reasons. Not for power or greed or self-aggrandizement. You’ll never see a true anti-hero running for political office (though some are thrust, unwillingly and often unwittingly, into leadership roles). They do what they do for justice or for love. Anti-heroes play for high stakes. The difference between heroes and anti-heroes is, heroes know they are on the right side. The do the right thing because it is the right thing, their nobility springs from good intentions. Anti-heroes don’t give a shit. Most would be either appalled or dumbfounded that anyone would be so stupid as to think they are nice guys.
Which brings me to Eric Courtney, baddest of the bad boys, (anti)hero of Lewis’s Void City novels. I first met him in Staked and remember thinking, “Oh my God, why am I liking this guy?” He kills people. When he gets pissed off (or even slightly annoyed) heads roll–literally. Eric is a vampire. He hates other vampires. He pretty much hates all supernatural creatures. He wants to be left alone. When you’re an uber-vamp and pretty much the most powerful being on several planes of existence, other folks get a little obsessed with taking you down. Yeah, never a good idea.
And oh yeah, Eric is a horndog. So he has women problems, too. They fall in love with him, then they want to kill him.
Except for Greta, Eric’s daughter. Lewis pulled off a two-fer with Greta, a female anti-hero. Greta is a monster with a kick. She can figure out how to kill anybody, or anything. Greta would be just another monster, someone you’d hope would meet a gruesome and well-deserved end… except. Greta loves her daddy.
“So you love him,” Scrytha shouted. “Unconditionally. So what! Love does not conquer all!”
But I didn’t need love to conquer all. I only needed love to conquer her.
Anti-heroes remind us that there is always something bigger than ourselves. Good manners, societal norms, convention, rules. In the great scheme of things, those are petty. The important stuff, the big things–love, loyalty, justice–sometimes it takes a real kick-ass, badass to point out that those are the only things that really matter.
Lest you think I’m getting too philosophical and lofty, Lewis is a funny, funny writer, too.
If you like vampires, action, blood, magically murderous Mustangs, guts, grue, gore, sex, belly laughs and amazement at how inventive and wildly imaginative story-telling can be, check out the Void City novels. Start at the beginning with Staked, then follow Eric’s bad-assery with Revamped, Crossed and finally Burned.
What about you, readers? Do you have a fondness for the real bad boys? Let me know who your favorite anti-heroes are.
Burned, by J. F. Lewis, available in paperback and ebook
Discovered: author is on my must-buy list
Purchased: January 31, 2012, $7.99 ebook