I just finished reading another Josephine Tey book, The Singing Sands. Very good book. Once again, highly recommend it. And everything I said about Inspector Grant and the writing style still applies. Though the ending was MUCH better. Brilliant. 🙂

So, this is a blurb from the book in a part near the end. Grant and a man named Tad are talking about why Grant doesn’t like a particular person (who actually is the villain, so his suspicion is confirmed.)

Anyway, it gave me a really interesting insight into villains in general. Which is a good thing for if you’re trying to write a realistic villain. 😛


   “I find vanity repellent. As a person I loathe it, and as a policeman I distrust it.”

   “It’s a harmless sort of weakness,” Tad said, with a tolerant lift of a shoulder.

   “That is just where you are wrong. It is the utterly destructive quality. When you say vanity, you are thinking of the kind that admires itself in mirrors and buys things to deck itself out in. But that is merely personal conceit. Real vanity is something quite different. A matter not of person but of personality. Vanity says, ‘I must have this because I am me.’ It is a frightening thing because it is incurable. You can never convince Vanity that anyone else is of the slightest importance; he just doesn’t understand what you are talking about. He would rather kill a person than be put to the inconvenience of doing a six months’ stretch.”

   “But that’s being insane.”

   “Not according to Vanity’s reckoning. And certainly not in the medical sense. It is merely Vanity being logical. It is, as I said, a frightening trait, and the basis of all criminal personality. Criminals- true criminals, as opposed to the little man who cooks the accounts in an emergency or the man who kills his wife when he finds her with a stranger- true criminals vary in looks and tastes and intelligence and method as widely as the rest of the world does, but they have one invariable characteristic: their pathological vanity.”

I can see that in a lot a of fictional villains, including my own. I don’t know about you, but I’m exciting to get back to writing him now.

What do you think?

Please comment!


8 thoughts on “Vanity

  1. Great quote! Makes me, of course, think of the original sin of vanity/pride. We all have the choice between pride and humility – one exalts ourselves over proper authority (in the case of criminals, they are too self-important to think the law applies to them, the other willingly (or begrudgingly) submits to authority. 🙂

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