Laurell K. Hamilton is the author of two major series: The Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series and Merry Gentry series. The Anita Blake series is currently 16 books long and ongoing; it has also been made into a comic Guilty Pleasures and there is talk of a TV series with Lionsgate who also did the serialized version of The Dead Zone starring Anthony Michael Hall. The Merry Gentry series is 8 books long at the moment and ongoing (the 8th book has been or will be released this winter 2009). She is also the author of several anthologized stories and other books that are mostly in the same vein, I believe. I don’t know every single one of her books. If I did, I’d be a LKH scholar! However, because the movers and pushers in academia often invalidate many types of pop culture genre writers in the academic realm, I wouldn’t have any support on that. I’ll write more about this later in a piece on literary fiction v. fiction.
I have the most of my experience with the Anita Blake series and own all of them as opposed to Merry Gentry, of which I only own the first book and have not read.
I love the depth and richness of the world which LKH has painted for us through Anita. She does not shy away from the conflict, the blood, the gore, the injustice, or the politics involved in her books. It is a very upfront, very present, and Anita has to deal with it. She doesn’t pastel paint or rather purple prose the sex either. This is very much a horror, romance, mystery, fantasy, magic, and erotic romance series with a very, very social and socio-historical presence. There’s dialogue about gender roles, gender and sexual identity and “lifestyles” (such as BDSM, but hesitate to use the term “lifestyles” because its like calling homosexuality a lifestyle—its not a choice, its an identity), political power dynamics, bestiality, friendship, FIBs (Friends in Bed, also known as f*ck buddies, not to be raunchy but hey…), polyamory, patriarchy, homosexuality and bisexuality, androgyny, intersex (though not so much), community organizing, inter-species pregnancies, pedophilia, rape, physical and sexual abuse and violence, professional life, romantic relationships, historical events, torture, race (though not so much). This series is chockfull of a lil’ bit of everything!
Jean-Claude, the Master Vampire of St. Louis, was actually one of my favorite characters. That is, until I read about France’s history of creating and promoting scientific racism and the role France and Britain played in the exploitation and death of Sara Baartman in the 1800s. After that I was turned off to all things French, even the sound of the language being spoken. Not LKH’s fault or Jean-Claude’s, but I still get pissed and feel ick when I think about how European nations like France and Britain have dehumanized and hurt peoples of color in particular.
Now Laurell K. Hamilton is awesome, don’t get me wrong, but I do have a few issues. What is difficult with the Anita Blake series, unlike with J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood stuff, is determining how much of these things are Anita and how much of them are just LKH makin’ mistakes. This series is written always from the first person limited point-of-view with no omniscience from the author! I’ll try to be careful in my criticisms.
Wow. I had more than ten this time, which demonstrates how much there is going on in this series! Without further ado and in no particular order…
TOP ELEVEN ISSUES WITH LAURELL K. HAMILTON’S Anite Blake Vampire Hunter series:
- Richard Zeeman makes me sick! I can’t believe LKH gave him a copout in Blood Noir (Book 15), explaining away his macho-possessive-heterosexist-homophobic-abusive-routine as Anita’s anger spilling over into him as a result of Jean-Claude’s vampire marks on them and the ardeur! Richard gets more copouts than anybody else. Definitely some character inconsistencies there! Sorry this is just me going on here….
- Inconsistencies in plot often come up on her message boards as noticed by fans. Plot holes seem to be an issue. One minor example: A lot of the cases Anita deals with in both her jobs as Federal Marshal and necromancer are never mentioned again.
- Anita’s lack of reflection on her Mexicana heritage. She’s almost just another white girl as far as her characterization goes. She’s badass, don’t get me wrong! But LKH puts a lot of emphasis on her whiteness and uses her Mexicana “darkness” (such as her hair and eyes) to exotify her. Anita is the child of an interracial marriage, a white man and a Mexicana woman. LKH doesn’t hide that, but it definitely isn’t something Anita thinks about often. She, like many Americans in real life, don’t think about race and consider it taboo. Perfect social commentary though, LKH.
- Black people—they don’t pop up often, especially black vampires. The only ones we see that I recall are hybrid wereanimal-vampire creatures that belong to the Mother of All Darkness and they’re creepy. In Cerulean Sins (Book 11) when these hybrid creatures appear, Anita/Hamilton chalks it up to peoples of African descent being resistant to vampirism. People are usually treated like shit when they appear. Bernardo is a Native man fellow Federal Marshal, but he doesn’t appear often either. People of color are definitely marginalized in Anita’s world, which hints at social commentary but could just be whiteness at work in the books.
- There. Is. Not. Enough. Asher! He’s is such a Drama Queen! Or King, whichever he’d prefer. He’s the only one that will point out a legitimate problem and stay on it. I personally wanna actually see Asher dom somebody, Nathanial in particular! Don’t bate us because Anita squeamish about her own “non-vanilla” sexual predilections and everybody else’s.
- When do we find out what Anita is exactly? She is JC’s “human” servant, a necromancer, cannot shift but hold several strains of lycanthropy in her body. We know who the hell she is, but the remaining question is what the hell is she!? This question has gone unanswered for two long.
- Anita has no real female friends. I’d like to see Anita have a strong Black girlfriend. Sorry, this is just me talking! She only has all her guys and that one chick, Ronnie.
- It is landmark that Anita Blake is polyamorous. However, I’d like to see her work harder on her intimate relationships with men and women and stop treating them like extras or spare parts. She does this to Asher and Requiem (even though he up and left).
- Jean Claude and Damian, for example, have been alive for 600+ and 1000+ years. I’d like to hear more of their history even if it hurts. Belle Morte—what is her deal? More history, please!
- We need a list of all the American Masters of the City. I am interested in finding out who the Master Vampire of Atlanta is and what’s his/her history. It is never really explained in depth how the government works in conjunction with Masters and wereanimal groups. Let’s get litigious!
- There needs to more a balance and fullness to the police work and the intimate relationship scenes. Personally, I could live off the books being all about Anita’s personal and intimate relationships, but some fans are more interested in the police work. Sometimes there is too much police work and other times (which I don’t mind personally) there is too much intimate time and too much ranchy sex (I do mind) going on in the books. I don’t mind the sex (except when its feels impersonal and raunchy), as a matter of fact, sometimes I love it, and I love the relationship building. I understand how central Anita’s police work is to her life and I don’t want see that go either.
P.S–Please have Anita put more caps in the asses of villains who rape, murder, and mutilate. Please. I hate when I don’t feel as if justice is served.