Friday, June 30, 2006

Laurell K. Hamilton and Anita Blake

Just poking around on the internet, as one does, I was led by a link from Bookslut to a blog on the Powell's web site (Powell's being, it seems, a major player among US-based online book dealers; and they seem to be, as Foyles once was, in two minds as to whether they have an apostrophe or not).

In a post about new releases (28 June), the Powell's blogger Brockman makes mention, just in passing, and without highlighting it as anything out of the ordinary, of the fact that this month sees the publication in hardback of the 14th novel in a series by Laurell K. Hamilton.

The series features Anita Blake, vampire hunter, and in this one the amorous Ms. Blake discovers that werewolves and vampires are nothing compared to the horror of pregnancy.

Now I must say that that throwaway four-line plug for book number 14 rather hit me in the eye. I think I'd vaguely heard of Laurell K. Hamilton (an American writer, by the way), but fourteen novels in hardback? About a vampire hunter? OK, you know, and I know, that the hardbacks are often intended for library consumption, for the good and simple reason that they last longer. But in this day and age to persuade a publisher to back you for 14 in a row seems to me to be a considerable achievement.

So I went looking for information. I started, as one does, with Fantasticfiction. I'm not sure who runs that site, or how they make any money out of it, but it's a very useful resource, if a trifle garish in its design. Anyway, they give Laurell K. Hamilton five stars. There's a photo which proves that she ain't bad looking either. (I know, I know; sexist; don't bother to write in.)

The Anita Blake series started in 1993, with Guilty Pleasures. And that first book must be pretty good, because it was reissued in 2002, also issued in a special library binding in 2003, and reprinted in a large-print edition in 2004. There are also several different paperback versions in both the US and the UK (I wonder who gets to sell them in Europe, heh heh heh).

As you would expect, Laurell K. has her own web site, and very professional it is too. This reveals that, after 14 books, the Anita Blake heroine has a substantial following. There is, to begin with, an Anita Blake web ring, with 52 active sites listed; these cover numerous different aspects of the Anita Blake universe (aka Anitaverse). You will also discover that Anita has fans on active duty in Iraq. And there are pictures of fans at signings.

OK, so I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that vampire fiction doesn't win any prestigious prizes. And I can positively feel your lip curling.

But hey -- to quote Our Beloved Leader -- before you get too damn sniffy abou it, just remember a couple of things.

First, it never hurts to give people a little harmless pleasure in this world. And if you you can do it through a series of 14 books, plus a few others on the side, and make a living in the process, so much the better.

Second, may I remind you of a point made elsewhere on this blog, namely that it is a fundamental error, with moral implications, to think of fiction as a hierarchy, a sort of tower block, if you will, with literary fiction at the top and the 'lower' types of fiction tucked away in the basement. That is a concept which has no intellectual validity.

The correct way to think of the various genres of fiction is as a street of many bookshops; and in this street there are no prime sites. Each shop pays the same business taxes as any other: all shops are equal. And the smart customer places her business in different shops at different times; to the advantage of everyone, most importantly herself.

To continue from yesterday's little nonsense: if there is one person this week who has proved that she can hack it at the highest level, it is Laurell K. Hamilton.

19 comments:

Zeno Cosini said...

Absolutely agree with your comments about the hierarchy. Some genre novelists are just flat out better writers - more imaginative, more ambitious, better craftsmen - than many of their rivals in the "literary fiction" camp. Give me Simenon or Lawrence Block or Jerome Charyn or Marc Behm over Ian McEwan or Martin Amis any day of the week.

Trae said...

Laurell K Hamilton has quite a loyal following here in the US. All of her fans are remarkably passionate about her works, and most of us are willing to travel long distances and pay lots of money just to possibly see her, and get her to sign our books.

Her mooks set in the Anitaverse, are incredible, and she has a younger series (the Merry Gentry books)that are wonderful as well. They are based around the fist Faerie American Princess. (no that is NOT a joke. LOL)

Anonymous said...

I also agree, for not only an aspiring female in the literary business, but a well knowledgeable woman she's doing exceedingly well, and hope to see more great books out of her. With both the Anita and Gentry series she puts lots of time and effort into her work, with tons or research to be accurate.

Anonymous said...

While Laurell's first nine books were fantastic forays into dark urban fantasy, her last few books have been nothing but poorly written sex interspersed with a shaky, at best, plot. Her latest book, Danse Macabre, didn't even have the barest skeleton of plot to it. It was nothing but sex and internal monologue.

Marianne McA said...

I know she has a huge fan base, but it is also true that the longer the series goes on, the more reviews you read from people who aren't enjoying them any more.

People are reading Danse Macabre right now, and just in the handful of blogs I visit, two bloggers have said they're giving the series up. And I read some lacerating reviews of Micah as well.

So basically, I think you might find the odd lip curl at your recommendation even from those people who do enjoy the genre. Though others, clearly, are still enjoying her writing.

Should say I've only read the one, and it wasn't my sort of thing.

Gully Jimson said...

"First, it never hurts to give people a little harmless pleasure in this world."

Ah, yes, I like that,in an all too serious world.

Paul Ekert said...

This reminded me of an Agents blog that I read the other day which complained that Vampire stories sent to her always had a hunting sequence that was "in the dark"...

Vampires... Dark.... Hmmm, why would that be do you think. Makes you wonder really if Agent blogs are now totaly losing touch with reality... And their customers...

I was also reminded of Kazuo Ishiguro talking at the Hay festival last year about his "Never let me go". A book on cloning that he said wasnt SF... The thing is, writers don't want their books in genre classes because that means a snotty review in the Guardian or the Times...

Being a genre author is tough. Look at Pratchet and Stephen King, both people who had to make millions before anyone "of worth" could say "yes he is a good writer..."

Thankfully, the customers, the fans, the people who actually part with money for the book ignore the "people of worth"...

Entertainment for its own sake. What would Dickens have said ;)

Anonymous said...

Having purchased all of LKH's books and having just finished reading Danse Macbre, I do agree that the series has become less plot driven and did contain the usual(physically impossible but yummy!) sex and lots of "internal monologue." The great thing about the ealier books was that a person could identify so well with the humanity in Anita's character despite all the fantastic creatures and situations. While she has always used the first person view and allowed us to hear the inner dialog, it has lately become a monolog, and just too tiresome sometimes. I guess the hardest thing is to keep a character consistent and still be fresh. I think she can fix this - she has great instincts and self awareness. I still like the series, and will continue to look for the next book, but I hope it will contain more balance.

Andrew Wheeler said...

All of Hamilton's books for the past several years have been top-ten New York Times bestsellers in hardcover; she's a major-selling writer here. Of course, genre fiction doesn't get the acclaim and glamor that "literary" books do, but I bet Laurell is happy enough with her piles of cash.

Anonymous said...

It's definitely not a question of quality, just tastes. Although the Anita Blake books have been on a steady decline towards smut for the last few books, to many they are still far more accessible and compelling compared to the "literary" genre.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

You're remarks on "the hierarchy" are so gorgeously written, I wish they could be branded on every reader/writer/critic's forehead.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

"Your," not "You're" - ack.

xiatiligadis@yahoo.com.au said...

laurell k. hamilton is the best writer i have ever read and as some might think danse macarbe was shaky and had no plot well i don't agree i think it delved into the past of the other characters.

though i didn't think the harlequin was as well written but i still think that the series will last for years to come still and i actauly like them all in hardcover.

Anonymous said...

re "...literary fiction at the top and the 'lower' types of fiction tucked away in the basement. That is a concept which has no intellectual validity..."

Actually, it DOES have intellectual validity. At least Merriam-Webster asserts it clearly in the definition of LITERATURE:

2: the production of literary work especially as an occupation
3 a (1): writings in prose or verse; especially : writings having excellence of form or expression and expressing ideas of permanent or universal interest

Therefore, LITERARY FICTION is a genre associated with excellence, permanence and universal interest.

You jackass...

Anonymous said...

have loved her books from the start. and still can't wait for the next one to come out. already have it preordered from Amazon. these books take me away from the every day boredom and into a world of nauty erotica. i would get so...interested, that hy husbund got curious and he now reads the books and is an avid fan. but i have to say that her last two Merry Gentry novels leave me "frustrated". all that book and it only covered 2 days in her life?!? too much ying yang. i found myself skipping dialog because it seemed inate and annoying. maybe i was just looking for the 'juicy" parts. but even those were predictable. as much as i love her books, both Merry and Anita, if she doesn't speed the action up a little i may have to find a new favorite author. like Kim Harrison. she's very good and isn't afraid to kill off a main character. and i don't mean Hamilton needs more sex in her books, i mean she needs more depth to her stories. the last two Anita's? what has happened to her job? does she still have one? or is she just going from bed to bed.

Anonymous said...

I have read all the books except one, Danse Macabre. I didn't read it because I was already bored with the same ole same ole, how the heroine had become the villian and the reviews were bad.

I have turned to other writers of this genre and then the glare of just how badly these books have deteriorated practically blinds me. I won't be buying another LKH book.

The plots are an afterthought now, the sex is boring because it is not sensual, rather like a frat party and written the same way every time. It is a shame, she started out so good. There are so many more reasons why this series has gone south, too many to list here but there are a few blogs that will will more than happy to list them all. LKH apparently thinks (from her blog) that her critics are prudes, she obviously doesn't understand the badly written sex is just the tip of the iceberg. "Badly written" being the keys words, not "sex". Oh well, there are so many good books of this genre out now that, for me, her books are not missed.

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