The Best Crooks, Thugs, and Hard Cases

When I wrote Six of Crows, I wanted to step away from the “chosen one” narrative I’d followed in the Grisha Trilogy. I also didn’t want to write a “merry band of thieves.” The members of Kaz’s crew don’t have grand destinies. They aren’t secret kings or queens, and they aren’t looking to start a revolution. They’re just six kids who are tough enough and desperate enough to attempt what may well be a suicide mission.

So, in honor of the morally flexible and the downright despicable, I present my six favorite thugs, crooks, and hard cases.


Martin Blank from Grosse Pointe Blank


A professional killer returns home for his high school reunion and to woo the girl he left dateless on prom night ten years before. The hook is great, the sound track is brilliant, and Martin is charming but legitimately awful. He admits to having a certain “moral flexibility” in his psychological profile that allows him to kill and even confesses that he has come to enjoy it.

Favorite quote: “Psychopaths kill for no reason. I kill for money. It’s a job. That didn’t come out right.”

(Also, not great out of context, but any fan of the movie will recognize the beauty of Martin repeating “This is me breathing” as he checks the clip in his gun.)


Jimmy Malone from The Untouchables


Okay, he’s technically one of the good guys, but Malone knows all about getting his hands dirty. (For the record, this is one of my all-time favorite films. Basically, I could watch this and Strictly Ballroom for the rest of my life and be content.)

Favorite quote: “You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way. And that’s how you get Capone.” (I use this quote with surprising frequency.)


Sabetha Belacoros from the Gentlemen Bastards series by Scott Lynch



Confession: Despite multiple recommendations, I didn’t pick up these books until I’d finished with the first draft of Six of Crows because I didn’t want them in my head. The lovely thing? No waiting for the next installment. As for the legendary Sabetha, she consistently outsmarts the supposedly legendary Locke, and she’s never shy about letting people know exactly what she thinks.

Favorite quote: “A boy may be as disagreeable as he pleases, but when a girl refuses to crap sunshine on command, the world mutters darkly about her moods.”


Doc Holliday from Tombstone


I know this movie has its flaws, but Val Kilmer’s Doc Holliday is not one of them. Listening to him face off with Johnny Ringo in Latin and watching him make bro eyes at Wyatt Earp? Not to be missed. He’s absurdly, ridiculously quotable, and his over-the-top, death’s-door pallor makes it all even better.

Favorite quote: “It’s true, you are a good woman. Then again, you may be the Antichrist.”


Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson


Larsson’s hero describes her as “an information junkie with a delinquent child’s take on morals and ethics,” but really she’s a feminist reckoning who wears a lot of black.

Favorite quote: “Keep in mind that I’m crazy, won’t you?”


Virgil and Turk Malloy from Ocean’s Eleven


Not slick-talking Clooney? Not the glibly snacking Brad Pitt? No. The bumbling Malloy brothers playing Twenty Questions delivered one of my favorite exchanges in all of film:

Virgil: Are you a man?

Turk: Yes. Nineteen.

Virgil: Are you alive?

Turk: Yes. Eighteen.

Virgil: Evel Knievel.

Turk: Shit.


Leigh Bardugo is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Grisha Trilogy: Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising. She was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Los Angeles, and graduated from Yale University, and has worked in advertising, journalism, and most recently, makeup and special effects. These days, she’s lives and writes in Hollywood where she can occasionally be heard singing with her band. Her new book, Six of Crows, arrives fall 2015.


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