When the hero is an a-hole.

Or more precisely, the moment I turn against a character and therefore an author.

I'm not talking anti-heroes here. Or even outright villains. I've read any number of books were characters are less than admirable, even despicable, or at the very least unreliable narrators.

That's fine. I get it. I don't normally apply ethics to whether I enjoy a story.

In fact, the examples below of when I did turn on a hero are in some cases pretty minor offenses in the scheme of things.

But they were the moment when something turned off inside me and made me not like either the book or the writer.

First example is a pretty well known mystery writer with a female antagonist. The hero solves the crime and does her thing and that's all good, but toward the end of the book, she goes in and messes with the finances and credit ratings of her boyfriend's ex-wife.

Now this ex-wife is never portrayed as anything more than just shallow and annoying.

The 'hero" and boyfriend chortle at how they've screw up her life. In my eyes, at that moment the hero turned from a savvy, diligent detective to a malignant narcissist. What's more, I get the distinct impression from the specificity of the story that it is what the author wishes she could do, or worse, may have done.

The 'crime' in the second example is even less substantial, and yet I may never read the author again. Because the crime completely offended me.

So this character is a secondary character, but almost as important as the main character--in fact, a case could be made he is the main character. So we know he's a thief and liar and murderer, and all that I accept without questioning.

Near the end of the book, the two main characters are talking and at the end of the conversation, the guy throws his beer bottle over his shoulder and it shatters into some rocks.

I turn against the bastard right then and there.

Who does that on your own property? But more, who does that at all?

I walk in the woods every day for an hour. No matter where I go, someone has dumped trash, vandalized, littered, graffitied and...broken grass. It pisses me off every time I see it.

So I immediately question whether the author thinks this is ok? Don't laugh, but at least murder and robbery have reasonable motivations, but vandalism and littering and tail-gating? Fuck those guys!

The third example I'm pretty sure everyone will disagree with, because it's a well-loved book; A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Now this is a great book in almost every way, and yet---I came away not liking it or the author.

This is my memory from reading it as a teenager, which means it might be slightly unreliable, but also remarkable that it has stuck with me all this time.

Actually, there are two examples here.

The first is that female narrator has a ner'-do-well uncle who at one point in the book is so defeated by life he takes to his bed and won't leave.

The scorn and ridicule that is rained down on this character's head was distasteful to me at the time. When, less than five years later, I have a bout of severe clinical depression myself, where I can't seem to get out of bed, well, I hated the anecdote even more.

The second example is when the protagonist goes to work in a mill and is ostracized and picked on. Another character at the mill, who is a real sad sack, befriends her.

But the hero isn't accepted by the others until she not only rejects the sad sack, but does it in a way that seems cruel to me.

That stuck will me, all these years. To be fair, one of the themes of the book is how hard the life of an immigrant is and how you can't afford to be a whiner or malinger or a loser. But still...

I guess you never know what thing is going to turn an author into someone I never want to read again, but there it is.