‘We’re not stealing it,’ he said at last. ‘We’re just borrowing it.’

‘It starts with all of us like that,’ Lex said, grinning.

from Lex Trent Versus The Gods by Alex Bell

Conventional storytelling wisdom states that one’s central character should be “easy to relate to.” Where all too many writers go wrong, I think, is that not only do they take that suggestion as some kind of golden rule that always must be obeyed – they also take “easy to relate to” to mean “nice.”

I hate nice heroes. There is nothing more likely to put me off or pull me out of an otherwise potentially decent story/film/game than if it starts shouting too loudly and too obviously that its central protagonist is supposed to be universally likeable.

You know what I’m talking about: Hollywood does it all the time, to the point where certain actors’ career success is only explicable through what must be studio execs’ belief that by casting that person (again) they can say to an audience, “See? That’s supposed to be you!

I mention no names

I believe that nobody is universally likeable. Moreover I believe that in trying to make a character “easy to relate to” creators often leave out so much of what makes a person interesting that the results inevitably qualify as bad characterisation. At any rate, given a choice between an anodyne goodie or an intriguing baddie you can sign me up for the forces of darkness every time.

Some of my very favourite protagonists are rogues, ne’er-do-wells – antiheroes. Most stories involve characters you’re supposed to want to triumph over the horrible situations their authors have put them in, sure, but I’m a sucker for ones in which the pleasure also comes from seeing what shameless, depraved or simply amoral things the antihero or antiheroine is prepared to do to make a story turn out their way.

Enter Lex Trent, of Lex Trent Versus The Gods, by my fellow Chainsaw Gangster Alex Bell.

Lex Trent is a thief. He’s also a liar, a confidence artist, a fraudster, a troublemaker and one of the most engaging and entertaining characters I’m come across since Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora – maybe even George Macdonald Fraser’s majestic bounder Flashman. From terrorizing old ladies to cheating his twin brother there’s no villainy to which Lex won’t stoop: the genius of Alex Bell‘s storytelling is, you love him for it.

Those looking for ‘positive role models’ – whatever those are – look elsewhere. Those who like their fantasy fast and fun and a little bit scurrilous, look no further: Lex Trent Versus The Gods is a hoot.

This is Alex Bell:

And these are her answers to the crucial Chainsaw Gang Questions:

1. What’s your favourite book?

That’s a really tough one, and I can’t possibly choose between Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal, J K Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Madeleine Brent’s Tregaron’s Daughter.

2. What – or who – is your favourite monster?

It would have to be a medusa – because the whole snakes-for-hair and turning-heroes-to-stone thing is so much fun.

3. Your favourite bad-ass monster slayer?

Um . . . is it too predictable to say Buffy?

4. If you could make a pact with the Devil, what would you want in exchange for your immortal soul?

The ability to play any musical instrument (but preferably the violin) fiendishly well. As someone who has to work really hard to be listenable, I covet superlative musical ability.

5. The Chainsaw Gang are all trapped on a desert island with no food. Who would you eat first and why?

Hmm . . . Well, as a vegetarian I would probably be eating the sand, to be honest, but if I’m pushed then I’d have to say Sarah Pinborough because, somehow, it seems less gross to eat a lady than a bloke – you never know where they’ve been, after all.

Thank you, Alex! (Er, I think ;p) To find out more about Alex Bell and her writing, check out her website.

This has been Stage Three of the Chainsaw Gang Blog Tour (click here for Stage One and Stage Two). Stage Four takes place this Monday 18th October at the blog of Stephen Deas. Meanwhile, click here/scroll down to the post below for details of how to win The Chainsaw Library – a signed copy of the latest book by every member of the Gang.