Bethulia: The Master and the Mouse

My latest book, Bethulia, follows the story of several women, but they all revolve around a man, Simon Delaney. There are two things you need to know about Simon Delaney. a) he’s good-looking and b) he’s the bad guy. This is not a serious spoiler, because I think it’s fairly obvious to the reader from the start. How or why he has done bad things is another matter.

Some villains can be very compelling, drawing the reader in far better than the hero. Goodness and nobility often comes across as boring, whereas wickedness and villainy can be quite appealing. Milton may not have intended to create a fan club for Satan when he wrote Paradise Lost, but that’s what he did. In real life, as well as in fiction, women are sometimes drawn to bad guys. I know he’s one of the greatest romantic figures of all time, but I can never figure out why Jane Eyre, fiercely independent free spirit, is drawn so irresistibly to such a malicious, mocking, sadistic bastard as Mr Rochester. The master. Passion fits more neatly with villainy than with virtue.

Mr Rochester is not portrayed as the villain of Jane Eyre, and his sadism is perhaps less horrifying than the soul-crushing domination of control-freak St John Rivers. He is strong with a hint of vulnerability, which can appeal. Many people, in need of saving, value strong men above anything demanding like liberty or justice or democracy. It is an unfortunate fact that they like to be told what to do. The worse people in the world are strong. Psychopaths are strong, which is why they finish up as presidents, generals and corporate CEOs. They are easy and satisfying to create in fiction, but God save us from strong men in real life.

I have created characters who were psychopaths – male and female – amoral and indifferent to others in their quest to seek their own advantage. Simon Delaney is not one of them. He is the bad guy not because he’s strong, but because he’s weak. Random chance is not something he seizes and runs with. It’s a crisis for him. He needs things precisely planned and in order, with himself as the centre of all. If something goes wrong, or veers off at a tangent, or involves something he doesn’t understand, like creativity instead of the blunt certainty of numbers, he risks a melt-down. He has to be in charge because he is terrified that a loss of absolute control means being swept away. Such men can be just as dangerous as psychopaths because their efforts not to be swept away frequently result in precisely that. And in the process, others get swept away with them.

Simon Delaney may wreck the lives of women, but he is not a misogynist as such – a hater of women. He’s just pathetically desperate. But in a world where misogyny looms large, it is often easy to mistake it for a result of male strength. Wrong. It’s the result of weakness. It is hatred born of abject terror. Terror of the other, and what it might become, what it might do. What is it that women might do that terrifies such men so much that they are driven to control, suppress, dominate, disempower, crush and annihilate? Is it the woman in the night, armed with snippers, who will emasculate them in their sleep? Looking at the Taliban, or Andrew Tate, or rather too many members of the Metropolitan police, it clearly isn’t strength driving them, but fear, born of panic at the idea of women as equal, sentient, rational human beings. Such weak men can always fall back on brute force, since in that respect they are usually stronger than women. They are compelled to use that to dominate, belittle and enslave, or run the risk of sinking beneath the flesh-tearing fury of the vengeful bacchantes lurking in the dark corners of their nightmares. Weak men have a lot of nightmares.

Sometimes, of course, they wake up and find their nightmares are real. One can always dream.


Three girls, Alison, Danny and Jude, closer than sisters. Nothing can separate them—
Until Simon Delaney comes on the scene. Handsome, successful and ambitious, what woman wouldn’t want him? When Alison dies, Danny and Jude will go to any lengths to have him.

Available from Diamond Crime
Or from Amazon.

3 thoughts on “Bethulia: The Master and the Mouse

  1. Re “The worse people in the world are strong. Psychopaths are strong, which is why they finish up as presidents, generals and corporate CEOs.”

    This is a mischaracterization, handing psychopaths an unearned positive attribute. Psychopaths are highly controlling and very power-hungry, but not strong folks as they’re ethically dead inhumane criminal people — see “The 2 Married Pink Elephants In The Historical Room” …

    But it’s very common for fiction writers to describe psychopaths in glorifying terms, helping to misdirect and miseducate the public far and wide.


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