Mephistophelian Reads and Watches

By Isaac H.

Have you ever read a story or watched a movie and, for some reason, the villain seemed more charming and endearing than the hero? Alternatively, have you ever really enjoyed a story only to notice the protagonist was something of a villain themselves? If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you’ll notice something of a theme. I tend to enjoy stories where the hero has something of a dark streak. Where the antagonist seems a lot like a villain, and may even be one in any other context.


Defender of the Innocent by Lawrence Block

This is probably one of the most clever law-related pulp mystery collections I’ve ever read. A combination of side tales in author Lawrence Block’s mystery series, Defender of the Innocent catalogs the story of fictional defense attorney Martin Ehrengraf. A dapper and sagacious man, Ehrengraf boasts that he’s never lost a case, because he only represents innocent clients. Regardless of the evidence gathered, what witnesses saw or even what the client remembers. Evidence changes, crimes re-occur, witness memories obfuscate. In the end the client walks free. But beware: his representation comes at a steep price, and refusing to pay results in frightening consequences. Defender of the Innocent is deliciously devious crime fiction turned on it’s head.

Lucifer, Season 1

Imagine the Prince of Darkness working as a club owner, moonlighting occasionally as a private detective. Based on the graphic novel by Holly Black and Neil Gaiman, Lucifer is a clever take on the drama mystery genre. On it’s surface, Lucifer is a lot like most other weekly serial mysteries.  “The Devil” uses his supernatural abilities and ingrained awareness of human failings to solve seemingly unsolvable crimes.

What makes this show work, aside from the charm and dark humor of Lucifer, is his relationships with co-stars and a cast of recurring side characters. Whether it’s re-hashing his tenuous alliance with his “mother” The Goddess, regaining the respect of his un-fallen sibling angels or his ongoing feud with his “father” The Almighty, the undercurrent of family drama and humor makes for an endearing show. Most enjoyable of all are his romps with his thrill seeking associate and best friend, Mazikeen. While the show veers into somewhat dark and ostensibly blasphemous material, it’s mostly jovial at heart.

Dallas, Season 1

Decades before the power struggles and family drama of Game of Thrones, the tribulations of another group of powerful families fascinated millions around the country. From the late 70’s to the late 80’s, Dallas was THE evening television drama to watch. Recaps and discussions dominated entertainment news. While much of the show dealt with the Texas oil baron Ewing family defeating corporate threats, the bread and butter of the show was infighting and drama. Much of it due to the machinations of the diabolically sharp CEO and family patriarch, J.R. Ewing.

Even if you aren’t familiar with most of the story-lines, you’ve undoubtedly seen references to the show in other series. Plot twists such as the “Who Shot J.R.” (a mystery that had millions of viewers guessing) and “Bobby steps out of the Shower” (a controversial ret-con erasing the events of a previous season) have been parodied in several other ongoing shows. The show even featured an ending that, without spoiling, took an “interesting” paranormal twist.

 

Fifth House of the Heart by Ben Tripp

If I’m being honest with myself, I would have to admit I’m normally bored with vampire novels. The genre feels a little played out with so much content out there. At least, that’s what I thought before reading The Fifth House of the Heart. While this heist-horror-hybrid story involves vampires, the story is really about one of the most unique and interesting protagonists I’ve ever read. Meet Asmodeus Saxon Tang: a wealthy wheeling and dealing rare artifacts procurer. While being extremely clever and personable, Tang is also self admittedly greedy, petty, cowardly and a bit of a philanderer. He would be the first to warn you to never rely on him when his plans go sideways. And plans will go sideways. New York high society knows Tang as an antiques collector with an eye for rarity, but the Church knows his true nature: A very crafty and extremely lucky thief with a knack for obtaining vampiric treasure hoards. Tang isn’t exactly a villain in the strictest sense of the word, but his quirky nature and wobbly morals add a lot of fun to this somewhat gory read.

Are there any stories with devilishly charming leads that draw you in, despite their moral failings? Let us know below. And also enjoy this list of additional reads and media in the genre.

Mephistaphalian Reads and Media

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Comments

2 responses to “Mephistophelian Reads and Watches”

  1. Abby R. says:

    The Blackbirds series by Chuck Wendig jumps to mind for me! Miriam Black is a pretty fantastic anti-hero IMO.

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