men want to be them, women want to bed them. We all need a brave role model. The lone warrior at loose in an uncaring world, foiling the bad guys and saving good women… for himself. The storyteller by the light of the fire talked of a great warrior who single-handedly killed the leader of the marauding tribe and set his people free. He – and sometimes she - appears down the ages in legends and myths as the saviour. He is hope incarnate. He is Ulysses facing down the Sirens, he's Arthur waiting for the call to free Albion. She is Diana [the goddess not the princess] and Wonder Woman.

But for them to live in our imagination each needs to show some human frailty, some weakness. Superman and Kryptonite. Lancelot and women. Smiley and his myopia. The Lone Ranger and .. well take your pick… that funny mask? the silver bullets, the questionable relationship with Tonto? And as for Graham Greene’s leading men… tortured souls every one.

My heroes- Danny McRae and Douglas Brodie - follow this well-trodden path: tilting at windmills, being led astray by a pair of dark eyes. And most importantly: dispensing with bad guys. Every protagonist needs an antagonist, the nastier the better. Sometimes the antagonist is the ‘self’, the warped alter ego bent on self destruction. The Captain Ahab complex. But more simply and more usually it’s a flesh and blood villain…


Do you believe in evil? I do. Not in something inchoate and amorphous. Not something outside of us. But within us. We all have a little wickedness in us and sometimes the bad seed is coaxed into full flowering by abuse and savage example. But sometimes, just sometimes, a person is born with such a rich vein of evil that no amount of love and nurture will erase it. It manifests itself in many ways: murder, torture, rape, abuse of children. Psychiatrists have conjured many labels and many diagnoses and much fewer cures. We wince when we see a headline about some monstrous act against an innocent. We ask ‘how could anyone …?’

The answer is that these are pitiless creatures, incapable of remorse or regret – except regret for not committing more evil before they’re caught or killed. They are Satan himself, Vlad the Impaler, Bill Sykes, Hannibal Lector, Goldfinger. With barely an ounce of compassion among the lot of them. Which makes them ideal targets for the deadly attention of our heroes…