From Adam Lipkin’s Fear Factor Index, on Bookslut: “…[H]orror, by its nature, doesn’t always allow for series. A successful science-fiction or fantasy novel, even if intended as a one-shot, often involves a lot of world-building, and turning a successful one into a series doesn’t take a lot of work. Likewise, a successful mystery or crime novel usually provides a heroic character who can continue to solve crimes in future novels. But horror novels, of course, often end with most of the protagonists dead or otherwise unlikely to continue to face the supernatural. Thus, Shirley Jackson didn’t exactly hurry out there to write The Haunting of Hill House 2.”

Which is why Thomas Harris is doing another prequel to Silence of the Lambs. Behind the Mask is due out in early 2005, and promises to tell us where Hannibal’s appetite came from. I remember thinking, while reading Hannibal, that part of Dr Lecter’s charm came from his resistance to being analysed by blunt little tools: it was deeply disappointing to be handed a yarn about his sister being killed and eaten by soldiers, and that particular section of the book read as though it had been written by early Jeffrey Archer, not vintage T Harris. The Lecter books illustrate one of Adam Lipkins’ points, though: horror is about upping the ante, and in Hannibal, it was upped to the point where it became almost ludicrous.

I can almost imagine Harris thinking: “So the next monster in human form is going to make a coat out of skins–oops, no, done that; okay, so he’s going to…serve his victim’s organs at a dinner party! Great idea! Nope, did that-got it, how about killer pigs and, no, wait, a dinner party where he eats the guests! Great twist! Brilliant! Now how do I top that? Damn, get back to the early years. They’re always good for a bit of recipe-sharing: how to strain human teeth out of soup, sort of thing.”

On the other hand, any takers for a Hannibal cookbook? I’d buy that. And given some of the “talent” that reaches my desk, I might even use the damn thing.





2 responses to “Hannibalism”

  1. Jabberwock Avatar

    Sort of in two minds about Hannibal still. I thought it was an interesting book (and an interesting film) in its bloated, over-the-top way. Also, I’m not too sure about whether Harris was using the childhood trauma as a blanket explanation for everything Lecter became. There’s something in there about the servants being frightened by how intense and strange the little boy was, long before the sister-eating incident occurred. It’s almost as if he were on his way to becoming a monster anyway, but the early encounter with cannibalism channellised him in a certain direction — providing the specifics so to say. having said that, no, I’m not looking forward to this prequel either – smells too commerce-dictated (as Hannibal was to an extent). Bad enough this cynical film series trying to cash in on the Anthony Hopkins-as-Lecter craze. Red Dragon was such a pointless, misguided film – especially given Michael Mann’s far superior Manhunter, which was made in 1986.P.S. surely Thomas Harris, even at his worst, doesn’t deserve to be compared with early Jeffrey Archer!

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