Getting Away With It (Secrets of Bestsellers #2)


What's coming up isn't a universal from my reading and analysis, but it occurs in over 60% of the cases in my growing study of all forms of bestselling fiction - and this figure of course has to take into account that the bestseller has a villain in its cast, which need not always be the case.

I was reminded of this secret recently by finishing two novels that might be deemed popular but did not, so far as I know, make any bestseller lists. One was Peter Lovesy's On The Edge, the other (more recent) Scott Phillips' The Ice Harvest. I enjoyed both, and the malevolence and vim of the lead characters was especially appealing. But the endings, while well done, let me down - the authors had worked hard to build up my rapport with their appalling characters, and I wanted them to survive. They didn't. Justice (legal and divine) won, the characters lost.

So here's my 'secrets of bestsellers #2'. At least 60% of fiction bestsellers include a villain as a principle character AND THE VILLAIN SURVIVES. He or she will lose in terms of the particular battle of the novel, but you sense they will pick themselves up (cf Hannibal Lecter) and steam back into the fray some day.

This also, incidentally, brings to mind the one piece of advice Evelyn Waugh gave to writers in a BBC Face to Face interview. Never kill off your characters, he said. A writer only ever gets one set.

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