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.