In Competition No. 2387 you were invited to provide a sketch of a villainous character on their first appearance in an imaginary novel. I turned at once to Dickens, whose introductory descriptions of characters are usually so vivid, and was surprised that when Fagin enters we are told nothing about him except that he had red hair and was repellent-looking. The best male villain, for my money, is Count Fosco, that obese charmer with disconcertingly nimble movements; the best female one (and there aren’t many — Becky Sharp is a bitch, not a villain) is surely Charlotte in Somerville and Ross’s The Real Charlotte, a really nasty bit of work — I mean the character, not the wonderful novel.
The prizewinners, printed below, get £25 each, and Anne Du Croz takes £30 for her quietly sinister scene.
Elizabeth was relieved to be met by the nursing home’s owner, Sister Hammond, a pale-skinned Irish woman of 45 or 50, who seemed as confident and charming in person as she had been on the phone. Tall and elegant in her rather old-fashioned uniform, she bent low to the wheelchair to include Edie in the conversation. Edie marvelled at the fresh flowers around the hall. Sister put a hand on her shoulder, explaining, with a light-hearted laugh, that the end of life was as important as its beginning. Nothing was too good for Woodlands residents. Edie could choose a sea view. She could bring all her most precious personal possessions. ‘This way,’ she said, ‘first tea, and then the forms.’ She wafted down a spotless corridor ahead of them. At the time it didn’t strike Elizabeth as odd that so many of the rooms on either side were obviously unoccupied.
Anne Du Croz
The voice preceded him: a guttural foreign language unfamiliar to the waiting group.