Conan the Barbarian. He's a barbarian, reaver, slayer, pirate, and a dozen other "distasteful" things, has nothing but contempt for the ways of civilized men (to the point of slaughtering a courtroom full of people when they asked him to name an accomplice, although he was defending himself, not attacking them, and would not have killed them if they did not rush him with swords drawn), and has lain with almost as many women as he's killed men. But all the women were willing, he takes a firm stand against black magic, destroys cosmic horrors on an almost-daily basis, and eventually becomes arguably the finest king Aquilonia ever had. He is loyal to his friends and accomplices and does not betray them, ever( and you had best not betray him, if you want to live.) He is also open minded, and stands up against prejudice, such as when he is king of Aquilonia, he defends the worshippers of Astura from the more common religion of Mitra worship, despite the worshippers of Astura having a bad reputation(because they tended to be outsiders, sneaky and secretive. Not because they did anything bad.)
The Bible: God is not always nice. He knows things humans don't know, and does things that are hard to understand, like killing all the firstborn in Egypt, and killing all of Job's servants. Turning people into pillars of salt when they look back. Then there's that forty day flood.
A Brother's Price has the Whistler family. Those in charge are Good Parents, but taking away all privileges (which includes private property) from a disobedient child is decidedly not nice.
Arlen Bales, otherwise known as the Warded Man from The Warded Man and sequels.
Granny Weatherwax is practically the poster girl for this. In fact, it's her catchphrase. She was supposed to be an evil witch, until her "good" sister turned evil in her place. She resents her for that.
"I'm not saying she's not basically a nice person—" Magrat began. "Hah! I am. You'd have to go a long day's journey to find someone basically nastier than Esme," said Nanny Ogg, "and this is me sayin' it. She knows exactly what she is. She was born to be good and she don't like it."
It is mentioned that she feels that the distinction between "Right" and "Wrong" is more important than merely "Good" and "Evil". On one occasion in Maskerade she takes some pleasure in stitching up the wounds of a gang of would-be muggers using a handy sewing kit. The experience appears to be have been rather distressing for the patients.
"Let's do some good."
To a degree, many other Discworld witches. Miss Treason intentionally dresses up the evil witch appearance even though most of it is Boffo novelty items, and can only really do her job because people fear her.
There's also Sam "This is how you play Lawful Good you morons!" Vimes.
Vimes is a pretty definitive one, but what about Vetinari? He's the archetypal Magnificent Bastard, ascended his position with the help of 'a few mysterious murders' and in some of the books comes this close to being an antagonist...but on the other hand, he's turned Ankh-Morpork into a smoothly-running machine with a large and efficient police force and a thriving economy. Nice? Hell, no. Good? Hmm... He also arranged things so when he dies, everything goes to hell. It makes sure he won't be assassinated, but all men are mortal, and Vetinari is a man. On Discworld.
The Summoning Dark from Thud! is not actually evil. It's an ancient dwarven spirit of righteous vengeance and nobody in the book ever expresses the opinion that the Dark's victims didn't deserve their deaths. That being said, in the modern world, the rule of law and justice is more important than killing the guilty, so Vimes knows he needs to stop it.
Micah E. F. Martin's The Canticle gives us Jonathan Servitor, a merciless inquisitor serving a Corrupt Church that's all humanity has standing between it and the ravenous legions of the dead. Needless to say, sometimes he gets his hands dirty.
To some extent, all good guys in Dora Wilk Series are not nice (except for Joshua), but Baal definitely takes the cake. He is on heroes side, but he has no problem with scare tactics, torture or almost-Mind Rape if he believes the other guy to be bad enough to warrant it. Long story short, there is a reason why he's called the Crimson Prince.
Flannery O'Connor spawned a quote that often comes up to describe this trope; it is most commonly repeated through the form in which Walker Percy paraphrased it, when she wrote that, "tenderness leads to the gas chamber". It's a rather shocking way of pointing out that trying to be nice without first being good is a fast road to becoming a very dangerous kind of person.
Jake from Animorphs grows into this over three years of leading a small force of hardened guerrilla fighters, with a serious case of "I Did What I Had to Do."
Most of the team shows shades of this, to varying degrees, Rachel most notably as a Blood Knight not afraid to leave a trail of severed limbs in her wake. In fact, most of the team have large, powerful, violent beasts as their primary morphs (Jake as a tiger, Rachel as a bear, Marco as a silverback gorilla, Cassie as a wolf) that show they're not afraid to kill or maim any who stand in their way, but still always have their sights set on saving the Earth and ending the war.
In regards to his uses of the Cruciatus curse, this trope gets subverted in Order Of The Phoenix when he seems to cross a Moral Event Horizon by using the curse on Bellatrix after she kills Sirius, but the curse fails hard because Harry doesn't have the pure, cruel malice in his heart to perform such an Unforgivable Curse. It gets played straight though in Deathly Hallows when he not only uses the curse on Amycus Carrow after the latter spits on Professor McGonagall, but succeeds. Considering the relatively minor slight by Carrow compared to Bellatrix murdering someone close to Harry, the fact that Harry successfully uses it in DH but not in OotP shows how deep into this trope he's fallen by the end of the series.
Then there's Sirius Black, who himself used to be a bully to Snape when they where growing up, gave him the nickname "Snivellus" and even attempted to feed him to Remus Lupin while transformed into a werewolf. Even into his thirties, an age when most adults would put behind their childish grudges, he still is quite rude to Snape and calls him Snivellus a few times. Sirius also never misses the opportunity to yell at or bully Kreacher, his House Elf. In the movie adaption of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Kreacher's screen time was cut quite a bit but we do get to see Sirius' outburst of shouting "Kreacher! That's enough of your bile! Away with you!". Given that Kreacher is a two, perhaps three-foot-tall house servant and Sirius is twice his size and a wizard to boot, this scene is a little disturbing. But despite all his flaws (perhaps exacerbated by his twelve years of mind rape in Azkaban and an abusive upbringing), he is still capable of feeling immense affection and loyalty, acts of great bravery and kindness, and is staunchly on the side of the good.
In the books, James and Sirius's arrogant attitude to people they dismiss is used to deconstruct this trope, showing what is likely to happen if a person, who is otherwise good, displays Moral Myopia or Moral Dissonance to a few others. Their condescending treatment of their friend Peter Pettigrew, admittedly a Dirty Coward, led the latter to never feel like a true friend but a toady, making him seek out, what Sirius admits, "the biggest bullies of the playground", making him a perfect traitor to Voldemort. Hermione herself points out that House Elfs show loyalty Because You Were Nice to Me, which means that Sirius' treatment of Kreacher, despite not being prejudiced against house-elves and being sympathetic himself, led to his death.
Moody, a paranoid Auror who nonetheless brought in Death Eaters alive whenever he could and never stooped as low as Crouch, as noted by Sirius.
Though she is a compassionate character, Hermione demonstrates remarkable depths of cold, calculated spite in the sixth book to get back at Ron for going out with Lavender by announcing that she's going to an exclusive Christmas party with Cormac McLaggen, the guy who would've been Gryffindor's Keeper instead of Ron (if she hadn't put a hex on Cormac, which Ron doesn't know). When Lavender and Parvati comment that she really likes her Quidditch players (having already gone out with Viktor Krum, an event that sparked Ron's interest in Hermione), she twists the knife even further by saying she likes really good players (Ron's a decent Keeper, but has next to no self-confidence and falls apart as soon as he makes a mistake). Hermione walks off in triumph, Lavender and Parvati quickly discuss this new development, Ron just stares at nothing, and Harry...
Harry was left to ponder in silence the depths to which girls would sink to get revenge.
In C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia series, the narrator points out that many who haven't been to Narnia don't believe something can be terrible and wonderful at the same time. They are wrong. We are repeatedly warned that Aslan "is not a tame lion." As the beavers tell us in the first book, he's "good", but not "safe." There is this encounter, from The Silver Chair, in which Jill Pole, a girl from our world, encounters Aslan without knowing anything about him except that he's a very large talking lion:
"Do you eat girls?" she said.
"I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms," said the Lion. It didn't say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.
It's worth noting that Aslan is actually supposed to be Jesus. Lewis was a strict Christian, but was quite exasperated by people trying to turn God into a "nice Guy" rather than a "good Guy."
Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice and Sir Thomas Bertram from Mansfield Park by Jane Austen — Both are principled and responsible, but also stiff and distant. Darcy goes beyond "stiff" to "plain rude" once: when first seeing Elizabeth, Darcy says within her hearing, "She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men." Ouch.
Aaron from Pocket in the Sea gives his best friend a roughing up and, it is suggested, a concussion to prevent him from asphyxiating himself.
Nicholas van Rijn from Poul Anderson's Polesotechnic League stories is a greedy, sloppy, cynical, womanizing corporate executive. He also constantly saves his employees from death and disaster, often with an elaborate Batman Gambit that involves using evolutionary psychology to psychoanalyze whatever alien race is giving their interstellar trading company trouble. He is also merciful towards his enemies and tries to create win-win situations for them.
Sherlock Holmes was often arrogant, self-absorbed, callous, and rude; subject to many theories about Asperger's Syndrome and bipolarism.
The main character Anton embodies this trope to a T. Especially during that section of the first book where all bets are off.
Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time has quite a bit of this. Rand al'Thor, and to a lesser degree Perrin Aybara, want to be good and nice, but end up growing more bitter and reclusive as the series progresses. And then there are all the jerkass women, who are "good" only because they oppose the Dark One. There are also the Aiel, who oppose the Dark One, to their last breath, but have a massive superiority complex over all Wetlanders. In later books a few of the characters get annoyed with their attitudes but say nothing because they need them for the Last Battle.
The Malazan Book of the Fallenverse by Steven Erikson and Ian Cameron Esslemont has many good-guy characters who are very disillusioned and grumpy. In fact, most of them are either this or wangsty, or both.
In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Ghostmaker, the angel (or hallucination) that appears to Larkins inspires him to carry out his mission alone, despite his terror, but that includes prying out him the truth of his panic-stricken flight and demanding that he carry it out.
Richard of the Sword of Truth books. Pick a book, especially a later book. He is 'good,' but has a nasty habit of killing people who disagree with him
The other heroes are worse. Richard will only kill you. Cara will torture you first. As for Kahlan...
(after Verna orders an assassin who just killed one of their friends to be tortured by Cara)
assassin: "Mother Confessor! If you're so good as you claim, then show me mercy!"
Kahlan: "But I have, I am allowing you to suffer the sentence Verna has named, and not the one I would impose."
Frodo tells Gollum that he must obey him, because if not, Frodo will put on the Ring, and order Gollum to jump off a cliff or the like. This astounds Sam, who had always assumed that Frodo's goodness made him soft, and reduces Gollum to whimpering terror.
Gandalf fits this trope perfectly, enough that it's alluded to be a general stereotype of wizards. He has quite a temper, he hates explaining himself, and he's also something of a Deadpan Snarker. But he's also the Big Good.
Gandalf: "Dangerous! And so am I, very dangerous: more dangerous than anything you will ever meet, unless you are brought alive before the seat of the Dark Lord!"
Aragorn fits this trope too, especially when he appears for the first time, berating Frodo and getting him scared. As he puts it himself, 'I look foul and feel fair'.
Also Denethor, who is willing to sacrifice anything for Gondor, although this depends on how "good" you consider him to be.
Fingolfin fits the bill and Feanor seemed to. But he went pretty Ax-Crazy there after awhile.
Roland from The Dark Tower series. He desires to be kind, and whenever he has an opportunity he demonstrates it. But he always ends up in situations where he must hurt, even sacrifice those he loves for the sake of his mission. It bothers him.
Harry: People like you always mistake compassion for weakness. Michael and Sanya aren't weak. Fortunately for you, they are good men. Unfortunately for you, I'm not.
Even demonstrated by the Knights themselves in the same scene. When Harry leaves the room, the Knights are standing calmly in the hall, knowing full well what Harry was doing and choosing not to intervene. After all, they aren't out to judge or punish someone for taking a baseball bat to an evil bastard's knees. And they take gleeful delight in the look on the man's face when he realized what Harry was about to do, as well as Harry's parting shot: he left the man a quarter to call for an ambulance, assuming he dragged himself across the parking lot to a payphone.
Sanya: Payphones cost more than a quarter these days, Harry.
And in Changes, during the attack on Chichen Itza, Ebenezar kills two hundred enemy gunmen with a few gestures of his staff. He isthe Blackstaff, who has an unique license to kill and use Black Magic in defense of the Council, after all.
Mab, and the Winter Court in general. Normally, with The Fair Folk, Summer (Seelie) fae are seen as the 'good guys' and Winter (Unseelie) are the 'bad guys.' However, Blue and Orange Morality means sometimes nice isn't good. On the other hand, Winter are downright scary, and more likely to make threats and send things to eat your head over some offense. However, most of the fae who are on the hero's side are Winter, and in the most recent book, Mab's Training from Hell makes Harry a lot more badass (yes, there are things out there that require Harry to be even more badass than usual. Run.) and it turns out that Winter protects the human world from The Outsiders.
Michael Carpenter is a genuine Nice Guy and devoted family man but whenever his family is threatened he's not afraid to go in a dark place to make whomever threatened his family pay. And it's enough to unnerve even Harry Dresden.
In the opening chapter of Charles Williams' Descent Into Hell, one of the amateur actresses remarks that nature is "terribly good". Playwright Peter Stanhope breaks in with "You do mean terribly?", and later notes that "The substantive contains the adjective, not vice versa. The good contains terror, not terror good." This leads into the next chapter where Pauline encounters the doppelganger, which proves to be indeed "terribly good".
The main character in Brian Stableford's Hooded Swan novels is practically a pacifist who abhors violence and will almost always step up to do something heroic if he's called upon, including sacrificing his own life if it saves others, but he's abrasive and sarcastic, doesn't get along with anybody and either resents, insults or condescends to people trying to be friends to him, including the alien symbiote inside his mind. He even seems blind to his own heroic nature, the first person narrative is full of rationalizations of why he's no hero.
In T.H. White's The Once and Future King, Sir Galahad is detested by most of the knights he comes into contact with, because he is far too good to be merely polite.
The Baroness in Thackeray's The Virginians remarks: "...Let me tell you, sir, that angels are sometimes not very commodes à vivre. It may be they are too good to live with us sinners, and the air down below here don't agree with them."
Tris. It's even lampshaded by her student in Shatterglass, which makes her blush. Aw.
Dedicate InitiateCrane. He's a Jerk Ass to everyone, even the people he speaks reasonably politely to. He kicks hard-working, earnest helpers out of his laboratory for so much as having a loose thread on their clothes. (The reasoning was justified, in that they were working with the pure essences of an incredibly virulent and thus far incurable disease. The manner in which he dismisses them, however, was not.) He automatically believes the worst of everyone, even his university friend Rosethorn. And yet he has, on more than one occasion, worked himself almost to the point of collapsing from exhaustion in an effort to find the cure for a plague and save people from dying.
Bernabus, Drust and later Grubbs from The Demonata series love this trope.
After undergoing some major Character Development, Scorpio from the later Revelation Space novels is one of the more altruistic characters, but he's definitely not someone you should piss off.
In the Left Behind series, God goes all out with His judgments during the Tribulation in order to bring as many people to salvation as possible before sending Jesus to finish off the hardened moral rebels which comprise the bulk of the Global Community army sided with the Antichrist as well as those who didn't accept Him as savior. However, this is not to say that God enjoyed doing this.
Wedge Antilles is said to have cold-space lubricants for blood. He will take aside and verbally tear his subordinates apart if, say, they're too cocky or they've done something wrong. One of them who was called out at length for folding up whenever he's given any responsibility says "Every time I hear one of your 'motivational speeches' I want to beat you to death." Despite that, Wedge is a Reasonable Authority Figure of the highest caliber. Gain his trust, prove that you've learned and changed, and he will back you to hell and back. To people who haven't just screwed up, he can be very kind and understanding - but he can also be very cruel if someone steps out of line and endangers the squadron, the mission, or civilians. And if you diss a late friend and comrade of his out ofFantastic Racism...
Ii-chan, the main character of NISIOISIN's Zaregoto novels, fits this trope to a tee.
Allanon of Terry Brooks's Shannara series is manipulative, shadowy and secretive. He frequently resorts to threats and bullying, is perhaps the king of Figure It Out Yourself, and uses people like sock puppets. He's also seven feet tall, sports a Black Cloak, and is mistrusted by the vast majority of those who meet him. He's the Big Good.
Quite a few characters in Honor Harrington fit this to a T, particularly the title character, a naval officer who is a skilled marskman, expert tactician, and unbelievably dangerous in hand-to-hand combat.
Another noteworthy example is the President of Haven in the later books. One of her cabinet members is tampering with the official communications between their government and Manticore, hoping to game the situation so that he can take power when the current leader falls out of favor. He comes to the startling realization that he's been running with the Idiot Ball after she declares war on Manticore instead of bending over backwards to avoid it. He particularly should have seen that coming considering that she started her political career as a cell leader in a violent left-wing revolutionary organization in the Legislaturalist days, and says so in a mental comment to himself when she does blow up.
Stated succinctly by Aivars Terekhov when he comes with a task force to the rescue of a planet rebelling against a dictatorial government, combined with a dose of Evil Cannot Comprehend Good. The people he's addressing have several seconds to contemplate his message before the building they're in is vaporized from orbit.
"Why is it that people like you always think you're more ruthless than people like me?"
The good guys (if you can find them) in A Song of Ice and Fire, being feudal lords of a war-torn kingdom, generally fall here. The nicest of the main characters are the various members of the Stark family, who are kind enough to personally execute criminals rather than keep an executioner on staff.
Stannis is also an example of this, at least at first.
Alberich is more in the mode of Drill Sergeant Nasty (having been an officer in the army of Valdemar's enemy Karse before gaining a Companion), as is Kerowyn (who was a mercenary). They're among the few Heralds who had prior military experience before gaining Companions, and it shows.
The In Death series: Eve Dallas is good, but she is not nice. Roarke seems nicer... until you get on his bad side.
Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: The Sisterhood/Vigilantes. Each member did start out as nice, but the minute they form this group is the minute they dive into this trope. Reason 6 is certainly a factor for this, although reason 2 may possibly apply as well. The first 7 books are all about them getting Revenge on the people who wronged them. The last 13 books are all about trying to get back to their normal, everyday lives. Unfortunately, this trope gets cranked Up to Eleven so much that some of the villains actually become Unintentionally Sympathetic!
From The Laundry Files by Charles Stross, we get Angleton, head of the Counter-Possession branch and protagonist Bob's sometimes-boss (matrix management at work). He takes a personal interest in Bob's career, makes sure he's given the best of care when he needs it, and is inhumanly effective at managing the titular occult intelligence agency to protect civilians from the Cthulhoid horrors lurking around the edges of reality. He's also scary as hell and has been known to very ruthlesslydeal with anyone who tries a boardroom coup. Angleton is eventually revealed to be an Eater of Souls who was indoctrinated to pass for human in the 1930s; given the ramshackle nature of the spells that were supposed to hold him in place, Bob is sure that he's here as The Fettered voluntarily, and sides with humanity against other super entities of his own accord.
In Derek Robinson's WWII novel Piece of Cake, the Ensemble Dark Horse is Moggy Cattermole, an Ace Pilot who has no qualms about shooting down enemy Red Cross planes, or strafing German air crews in rubber dinghies, or bullying his fellow pilots...But he's still one of the good guys.
Made very clear in the Young Wizards series, especially in A Wizard Abroad. The Powers and their tools might be good (except for those like the Lone Power which gets complicated) but that in no way means that they're safe.
In The Secret of Platform 13, the northern part of the Island is inhabited by harpies, hags, hellhounds and other creatures who, while not evil, are naturally unpleasant to other kinds of people. They actually serve as the Island's police force; apparently they don't need a jail, since spending a bit of time alone with these folks with reform anybody.
The narration also notes that Nanny Brown "wasn't a particularly nice woman, but she loved babies," and seems to have done a good job raising Ben.
In The Balanced Sword, how Khoros operates. He misdirects and uses everyone mercilessly. Though he usually is courteous.
In Piers Anthony's Xanth series, the "Good" Magician Humphrey is usually rude to people who come to him for Answers (his specialty). He sets three challenges to slow down all but the most dedicated ones and then charges a year of service (or an equivalent Magic item) per Answer.
Hoyt: I am not particularly neat or clean; I am certainly not what anyone would call normal. But I am as good as anyone else.
The Shadow counts. He may fight crime...but don't expect him to win any Citizen of the Year Awards due to his nasty and downright frightening demeanor.
Jayfeather from Warrior Cats may be one of the most important heroes in the third and fourth story arcs, but his temper is notoriously short.
Bumblestripe:[shrugs] He snapped at Hazeltail for getting in the way, hissed at Cherrypaw for trampling on Ferncloud's moss, and ordered Foxleap and Toadstep to fetch comfrey. So I guess he's okay.
The Hunger Games: Being on Katniss's side doesn't stop Johanna Mason from being rude, insulting, and harsh.
Troll prince Tristan in Malediction Trilogy. He is a decent guy who wants all the best for his subjects and he is willing to stay imprisoned in order to protect the whole humankind from the evil that he perceives other trolls to be - but at the same time he is perfectly willing to kill his father and younger brother, if it is necessary to achieve the said goals.
Karyl of The Dinosaur Lords, while certainly willing to help and a good and responsible commander, has no qualms against letting people brutally lynch a knight who's been raiding their towns.
Gabriel from the Samaria series, specifically Archangel and Angel-Seeker. You won't find a more honorable or compassionate man on Samaria, and he has a very clear understanding of right and wrong. But he's not a friendly man, and he really doesn't take anyone else's opinions into account; when he gives a command, he expects it to be obeyed, and he expects the god Jovah's commands to be obeyed without question as well. This is why Jovah chooses the indomitable Rachel as his wife, since she won't put up with him ordering her around and can deliver him a much-needed lesson in humility. It's also why Jovah chooses him as Archangel in the first place; no lesser man would be able to force the Jansai to end the practice of slavery on Samaria.
In Victoria, protagonist John Rumford is incorruptible and completely loyal to the good cause, but not always the most friendly or socially smooth person in the setting. And he can be more than a little brutal on the bad guys, too.
Villains by Necessity: There's Mizzamir, who let's face it, is pretending to be a hero, even if he won't admit it to himself. There's several other "good" characters who indulge in some less savory practices. Among the members of a "good" adventuring party were a woman who quite clearly wouldn't have taken "no" for an answer from Sam, while Fenwick tried to date-rape Kaylana, having dosed her drink with aphrodisiacs.
Jules De Grandin is a decorated WWI veteran, police detective and surgeon as well as an occult investigator, who's normally a kind if rascally gentleman. However, when he gets a cold glint in his eye, the forces of evil beware!! In the short story "The Brain-Thief", Jules de Grandin had already chopped off the hand of the East Indian hypnotist (this is justified as the villain was about to shoot a cop). He then grabs the helpless villain and executes him by shoving his face into a hot stove. In the "The Wolf of St.Bonnot", an annoying woman interrupted a dangerous seance that de Grandin had to hold and so Jules threatened to kill her with a knife that he earlier used to kill an ectoplasmic werewolf spirit.
Reilly, the protagonist in Tom Kratman's "Okuyyuki", isn't the most sociable of men. He usually manages to get along reasonably well with his fellow soldiers, and that's about the best that can be said for it.