Through a strange quirk of events I came into a large cache of the Anita Blake books by Laurell K. Hamilton, a long running saga that takes place in a world where vampires and were-animals are commonplace. Much like the Sookie Stackhouse series, which HBO’s popular True Blood is based on. Keeping with my personal rule about books (if it lands on my shelf I read it) I gave this vampire slayer a spin. Looking back I don’t think I’ve ever regretted reading a series as much as Hamilton’s. Not because it’s so bad, but because it held moments of genuine interest before it spiraled out of control.
The series starts out with Guilty Pleasures, an introduction to the bar-hopping paranormal city of St. Louis, where werewolves dance in strip clubs to make ends-meat and vampires conduct business using their libido-inducing powers. It falls on the shoulders of Anita Blake, vampire executioner, zombie raiser, and police advisor, to hunt down the monsters who have overstepped the bounds of the law. With her Browning Hi-Power 9mm and a sharp wit that often sounds like it was stolen from Get Shorty, she dispenses justice in the form of silver bullets and crucifixes.
The first half-dozen or more books all follow a similar format; Anita is called in by her police contacts to solve a murder. While on the case she’s drawn into the underworld of the vampires. She slays some evil baddies, raises some zombies, and saves the day. During her adventure she gets involved in a few romances that never settle. Nor do they reach a conclusion. It’s like a relationship that’s perpetually caught in the dating phase. At the end of each book the story caps off with a ‘who-done-it’ murder mystery reveal and a gunfight. Nothing wrong with that.
For its flaws and minor obsessions (the author loves to talk about clothes and the depth of her male character’s eyes) the Anita Blake series manages to hold attention. It wasn’t until around the tenth or twelfth book I started considering breaking my personal rule about reading everything on my shelf. Like most serial vampire writers, Laurell K. Hamilton falls into the same pit of self-pleasing fantasy that belongs with the worst kind of fan-fiction.
A handful of forgivable love scenes earlier in the series, later devolve into a slog of smut. Until, while reading her book Dance Macabre, I realized that two hundred pages had passed with nothing but vampire balls and supernatural orgies. Where did the mystery go? Where’s the crime drama, the monster-hunting, the wit, the howling at the moon?
The author trades it all for Anita’s harem of ambiguously oriented men; a score of studs described to the reader in vivid, nauseating detail. She even casts aside many of her prior female characters, unconsciously assigning them distasteful traits and poor aesthetics to bolster the sexual draw of her pseudo-mask, Anita.
There is nothing wrong with romance or erotica in literature. But this is not Marquis De Sade. An unrepentant sex fiend would be a more likeable character. Anita ends each raunchy session with an internal monologue justifying what she’s done, sometimes regretfully, other times like she’s relaying an uncontrollable manic episode. It’s all very liberating for sexually independent women- and aggravating for anyone who wants substance of story.
Surely Miss Blake, You Must Be Joking.
I can’t in good conscious recommend this series to the casual reader. If you love vampire novels and supernatural thrillers, consider reading Laurell K. Hamilton up until her 9th book, Obsidian Butterfly. If you love reading about supernatural men with long silky hair who are hung like paint cans, enjoy the Anita Blake series in its entirety. As for myself, I wash my hands of this weirdness.