Susan Isaacs loves a rogue: Here are her nine favorites

The best-selling writer, whose new novel features a sinister narrator, lists the 9 antiheroes closest to her heart

By Susan Isaacs

Published October 22, 2012 8:43PM (EDT)

It's not all Jane Eyre out there. In her sweet, honorable, slightly passive-aggressive way, Jane was as perfect as a protagonist can get while remaining interesting; in fact, she's one of my favorites. But most characters are more morally ambiguous. And some are just plain bad – somewhere between nasty and bad to the bone.

In my new novel, "Goldberg Variations," I have four narrators. One, Gloria Goldberg Garrison, is a real stinker. Not evil, mind you, but cruel to amuse herself and others. She’s the sort who seeks out your most sensitive area so she can know precisely where to stick in the shiv. Gloria made me uncomfortable enough that during the writing I had to soothe myself by thinking: Hey, Dostoevsky probably didn't think Raskolnikov was a sweetheart.

What do these bad guys offer us?  A chance to pray for their redemption? A safe way to relish sin? I’ve liked or loved so many novels that had main characters who either made morally questionable choices or were downright evil. The entire noir genre is theirs.

Still, beyond the Chandlers and the Hammetts, here are my “Naughty Nine,” first-rate novels that feature a gamut of no-goodniks.


Susan Isaacs

Susan Isaacs was born in Brooklyn. Her novels include Compromising Positions, Close Relations, Almost Paradise, Any Place I Hang My Hat, and As Husbands Go. A recipient of the Writers for Writers Award and the John Steinbeck Award, Isaacs serves as chairman of the board of Poets & Writers, and is a past president of Mystery Writers of America. Her fiction has been translated into 30 languages. She lives on Long Island with her husband. Her latest novel, Goldberg Variations, was just published by Scribner.

MORE FROM Susan Isaacs