Friday, February 22, 2008

Good names for bad guys

Christopher Brookmyre named one of his villains Stephen Lime. That's a good name for at least two reasons. It echoes the name of Harry Lime, villain of the Carol Reed/Graham Greene movie classic The Third Man. Indeed, the two Limes practice related forms of villainy.

The name is good also because of what happens when you reduce the first part to an initial. The result describes its bearer well and is all the funnier because the reader shares the pleasure of getting the joke.

What are your favorite character names, be they appropriate for the character, over the top in the manner of Dickens, or as much of a hoot as Brookmyre's S. Lime?

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

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14 Comments:

Blogger pattinase (abbott) said...

Nero Wolfe is a good one. Hannibal Lector too.

February 22, 2008  
Anonymous Steve Lewis said...

Lee Henry Oswald, a private eye kind of guy created by Harry Hunsicker.

Oof.

-- Steve

[Peter, I seem to be computer-challenged today. If this comment shows up twice, you may delete one of them, more than likely this one.]

February 22, 2008  
Blogger Simona said...

The Duke of Omnium, a character in Trollope's Palliser novels.

February 22, 2008  
Blogger Peter said...

Patti, I've always liked the overtones of both parts of Nero Wolfe's name: the psychotic Roman emperor and the swift, dark ravenous beast of prey. That moniker was a wonderful touch on Rex Stout's part. (Come to think of it, Rex Stout itself is almost too good a name to be real.)

I've never read Thomas Harris, and I've seen just a few minutes of Silence of the Lambs. Does something about Hannibal Lector's character suggest a Carthaginian general who reads a lot? The name has quite a ring to it, in any case, and I suppose a memorable name is a good name when it comes to fictional characters.

February 22, 2008  
Blogger Peter said...

An author sets the bar high for wisecracking when he names one character Lee Henry Oswald; calls another Nolan O'Connor without her apparently being Irish, and makes a third "a six foot six semi-psychotic homosexual, also an Iraq war buddy from 19901." (I gleaned all this information from a quick search.) Do the books live up to all the wackiness?

Simona, I have a copy of Phineas Finn lying around, but I haven't read it. Trollope wrote during what was probably the heyday for zanily named characters in English writing. Does the Duke of Omnium live up to his name? The name conjures up many entertaining associations.

February 22, 2008  
Blogger Barbara said...

Yes, he does. And the ancestral home is called Omnium Gatherum.

Hunsicker writes a fairly straight-up hardboiled PI, with a vivid sense of the seamy side of Dallas, though yes, he apparently doesn't take himself too seriously.

February 22, 2008  
Blogger Peter said...

One imagines that the Duke of Omnium is a man of rich and varied appetites. I would also guess that he is not skinny and nervous. In which books does he figure most prominently?

If Hunsicker can pull off a straightforward, hard-boiled story with characters who have names like that, I admire the man. Any suggestions as to which book of his I might try first?

February 22, 2008  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

It ain't crime, but Wodehouse came up with some of the screwiest names imaginable: Galahad Threepwood. Honoria Glossop. Roderick Spode. Percy Frobisher Pilbeam.

February 23, 2008  
Blogger Peter said...

And don't forget Tuppy Glossop, Gussie Fink-Nottle, Pongo Twistleton or Cyril Fotheringay-Phipps. I wonder if other countries have their own counterparts to Dickens, Wodehouse and Trollope in the screwy-names department.

February 23, 2008  
Blogger Philip said...

Dickens and Wodehouse have for me long been the touchstone when it comes to names. But in the naming of police and perps, albeit in a different medium, you just have to love Snidely Whiplash, Black Jacques Shellac, and Dudley Do-Right.

February 23, 2008  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Hey, philip, who could forget those masters of the phrase "Get moose and squirrel," Boris and Natasha?

And in graphic novel media, most of the Dick Tracy villains would fit.

February 23, 2008  
Blogger Simona said...

I am a Trollope fan, so my recommendation is to read the whole series from the beginning (Can You Forgive Her?). The one you have is the second one and the elderly Duke is featured in it (later on in the series there will be a new Duke). The first novel introduces some of the characters that the series follows along the years. And there are many memorable characters in the Palliser Novels.

February 23, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Hmm, that could take a while. He was prolific, wasn't he?

May 08, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Linkmeister, you read my mind. I was going to add Boris Badenov to Philip's list.

Philip, I'd also add Dishonest John, whose disarmingly honest name was about the only thing I remember from Beany & Cecil, a pretty bad cartoon.

All are wonderful names, and all highlight Christopher Brookmyre's restraint, not a trait normally associated with that author. I don't think he ever resorts to easy "S. Lime" jokes.

May 08, 2008  

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