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:

  1. 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….
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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).
  9. 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!
  10. 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!
  11. 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.

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13 thoughts on “Issued: L. K. Hamilton

  1. Uh just wanted to correct you there when you say there are few people of color in Hamilton’s books. I don’t know how many of the AB books you own that you’ve actually read (your ignorance on the subject indicates it can’t have been that many) but in reality there has been quite a cross section of races and ethnic backgrounds. At least 8 are major characters–Anita’s mentor Manny Rodriguez, Richard’s second in command Jamil, the wererat king Rafael, Anita’s wereleopard Vivian, Richard’s third in command Shang-Da, Itzpapalotl, Dominga Salvador, Padma (and his rapist son). Then there’s a vampire named Rashida, a co-worker of Anita’s named Jamison, Dead Dave, Bartolome, Valentina, the werepanther Gabriel, another vampire named Meng Die, Anita’s co worker Clive….I could go on like this, but it’d just get embarrassing. Several have been prominent in different plot lines. (Btw, I know you said you haven’t read the Merry Gentry series, but the fore runner to be her king is Doyle, a truly mouth watering black man).

    Incidentally I would also love to see Anita having more female friends…unfortunately she seems to hate other women (what if they took away one of the 500 men she’s boning?? gasp)

    Also I feel compelled to point out the irony of you complaining about racism in the same paragraph where you state you hate the French so much you get sick just hearing them speak.

    1. Thank you for your comments on my blog!

      I’d like to talk to you about it. I’m a writer myself and I know when someone is a main character and when they are a peripheral character. Now how can you sit there wherever you are and say that most of the characters you named are anything but peripheral characters? None of these characters have anything close to the kind of airtime that say Micah or Ted or even Ronnie get. FYI–St. Louis is full of Black people and Hamilton seems to be oblivious to that while waxing poetic about ballet and Jean-Claude’s creamy white skin. Being politically important (or in servitude to someone who is politically important–i.e. Jamil and Shang Da) does not constitute the inclusion of developed important characters of color.

      RACE REPRESENTATION IS NOT SYNONYMOUS WITH INCLUSION OF CHARACTER OF COLORS!!!

      If I take a movie with an all white cast in it and stick in an Arab and a Latino who are the friends of the president and only have a couple of lines ever so often does that mean that they’re people or does that mean that they are side characters? 🙂 You decide!

      You’re talking about representation and I’m talking about full personhood as characters and representation. Sorry. Try Again.

      The people of color (Latino Asian and Black primarily) don’t seem important enough to get regular mention appearances and importance in comparison to white characters and they are intensely exoticizied because of their race. Their presence in comparison to white characters and their importance is disproportionate at best. Opinions on the matter differ from person to person I understand and the race issues in the books that I present are my opinions.

      I may not agree with you but I like hearing your opinions. Thanks for stepping up!

      By the way–French is not a race; its a nationality. They’re commonly classified as white Western European. As a sociologist I forgive you–its a common mistake to make. I would suggest that you research the history of Haiti and Sara Baartmen before you judge me for being a little unhappy with the history of violence that the French in particular have against Black peoples. It is a well-documented history. Yes–French is supposed to be this beautiful aesthetic classical language and hearing it makes me want to yak sometimes! 😉 You can say the French supported racism and slavery in any language–“beautiful” or otherwise–and its still a history of racism and slavery.

      Thanks again for your cutting commentary! But I urge you to get your idea and facts straight! Read my opinions and criticisms thoroughly before biting.

      Queenly

  2. Firstly let me say that I liked your analysis of the little of the series you have read. But as you point out, you have not read all of the books, so as a fellow professor I do think you should avoid making such sweeping generalizations about issues that have often been ‘solved’ in later story lines.

    While Anita Blake herself is a character who seems to hate women (true of Hamilton’s other series as well) I disagree that there is a “lack of reflection on her Mexicana heritage”. Indeed I would argue that one of the underlying themes of the series has been about Black dealing with the shame she was made to feel about that heritage. Until she embraced her Mexicaness she was unable to perform well as a necromancer.

    However, I do agree with your assessment of the black characters. While there are a number of black characters (see Destined’s comments) her treatment of those characters is, in my opinion, unthinkingly racist. Beyond having to explain why there are so few black vampires (a point that was both clever and racist) she feels the need to explain her black characters. For example, so often (and I am intentionally avoiding specifics) she feels the need point out that they are well spoken or well dressed over and over again. In other words, unlike most black people Jamil is almost obsessed with dressing well (indeed it has become almost a plot device whenever he is mentioned). Why is that necessary? Though another reader would point out that Jean Claude is equally obsessed with his clothes (has anyone noticed how ridiculous the clothes in these books are, I mean who dresses like that?!)

    Still Hamilton is a white woman and as a result, while she tries to be inclusive, she often falls back into racist tropes that we have come to expect in white written literature. That doesn’t stop me from loving all of her books. Oh and Destined Doyle is not black as in a black person he is literally black as in the color of night. I only make that distinction because Hamilton herself is so careful to make that distinction herself lest we think a fairy might cross a racial boundary and have sex with someone of African descent. Finally, as a sociologist Ms Queenly, you should recognize that race is not simply about skin color (a rather reductive and 19th century analysis) and has (certainly outside of the US) been as often about national origin. Therefore Destined was not incorrect in categorizing your anti-French comments as racist (though I see that you were trying to make a point.)

    An interesting conversation that I have been hoping to see for some time. Now I’ve found it I shall certainly keep reading your blog.

    1. Your comment was very informative and refreshing. Great to see others are thinking about this. My views are presented from a very unique perspective: the perspective of a Black woman who has grown up in the southern United States of America. So I’m a little confused as to how you and the commentator that proceded you deduce that France is anything other than a white western European power. Furthermore, the characters in Hamilton’s series are white French; as far as I know, white and French has never been synonomous with the term “people of color”. However, you are correct, race does not exclude nationality but most definitely includes it.

      I do not deny that I am not impressed with France’s track record in the arena of race relations and I stand firmly by what I said about the French language making my stomach roil sometimes when I read or hear it, the same way that English does when I speak it or read it; English is the only language I know and speak fluently and I am bound round and wrapped up in its limitations and social shortcomings, as I am certain this is with any language that colonizes and oppresses those who do not speak it and/or whose ancestors did not speak it. French has a repuation for being so romantic, this “language of love” that alters its conjugations for the sake of aesthetics as I understand it; the comment I made about French was to push back against that commonly held idea. Like any language, rather romantic or not, French is a tongue that has oppressed and colonized, mutilated and massacred. Point blank, I don’t think its special or unique. Whether what I said is correctly or incorrectly racist or whether French is a soft pretty romantic language, others such as yourself will be the judge–my only intention was to pushback against the romanticization of the French language and the exceptionalizing of the hypocritical nation of France with all its connotations with freedom, revolution, and justice. Your judgement is not my concern, although I do not take it lightly.

      For the record, the only book that I have not completely read is Flirt. Its a long series and has its inconsistencies, so maybe something’s not coming across for my interpretations. The same goes for you apparently.

      All of this aside, what you have said about Anita and her struggles with race, I am coming to see myself, as I have started reading Flirt. I cannot say that I will be purchasing Hamilton’s books anytime soon in a hurry, but it will be interesting to see if Anita grows any further on this front.

  3. Hi

    Thanks for responding. Of course I don’t want to get in a back and forth and take up space on what is, after all, your blog. However I did want to correct a couple of mistakes or perhaps misreads.

    So to quote you “I don’t know every single one of her books.” The assumption was therefore that you have not read them. Thank you for correcting, but you cannot blame the reader for making, what is clearly, a mistaken assumption based on the words and context of the sentence.

    Secondly, I was not in any way disputing your analysis of the French. I was simply positing that the reader’s response to your comments was not incorrect. As a woman of black-Nigerian British descent (and a historian of the African American experience), I am aware of the difficult history of the West in regards to race. Indeed I lived through ten years of the race riots that resulted from Britain’s institutionalized racism born of slavery and colonization. Therefore while I understand your comments (as I said) I also recognized that there might be an equally strong sense that you were in fact being racist from someone who has a connection to the language that you were (rightfully or otherwise) demeaning (though that might in itself lead to a discussion of meaning of racism).

    I only disagreed with your analysis of her approach to her Mexican heritage. I actually agreed with everything else you had to say. So I’m sorry that you thought otherwise.

    Should you continue reading (not that you were asking)? Absolutely! If you’ve gotten this far, beyond the endless scenes of bad sex, beyond the destruction of the male characters, beyond the demonizing of female relationships, beyond the development of Anita into a ‘monster’ herself, then why stop now? I love these books and was excited to see another black woman talk about them. It certainly made me feel like I wasn’t the only other one out there for a change.

  4. Thank you again for replying and clarifying. It certainly is good to see that someone else out there with a grasp of the situation is thinking about these this series as well. I have recieved complaints about my interpretations and plenty of views on this blog but not very many people come right out and talk about it on the level that you have. Your voice is much appreciated.

    I generally tend to respond when something I say is labeled as “racist” because I fight against the idea that all racism is exactly the same thing or causes exactly the same damage. It definitely matters, in many situations, who is saying what–again depending on a definition of racism. I do think you’re right and I think we agree here.

    I only meant that I have not read every single one of LKH’s books outside of ABVH. I “specialize” in the Anita Blake series primarily, although I do own the first book of the Merry Gentry series and just have not read it. ABVH is the series that I address primarily.

  5. One problem I have is how LKH treats women who are not Anita. They are either white-bread prudes, gaudy blonde bimbos, evil/shady chicks who are attracted to Anita or jealous bitches. Don’t get me started on how Ronnie was treated in Danse Macrabe.

    1. That’s exactly what I’m saying. Maybe LKH is afraid that a new great female character will overshadow Anita so everybody has to be shittier than she is in personality and presentation. ~Queens

  6. I’m disappointed in your change of view on Jean-Claude based on a historical view and discrimination in the 1800s against colored people. This is the reason why racism will never have an end shirt of the obliteration of historical text because people are so god damn emotional about things that don’t involve them directly and that they think every previous utterance of discrimination is a personal hate against them.

    I see those black girls in my human geo class who look so butthurt everytime racism is mentioned in previous context. Maybe I can’t understand being white myself, but I can certainly tell you that it is hella annoying for me to see. Don’t see me getting up in someone face when someone calls me white, because I don’t give a shit. it just describes the color of my skin, like my hair, or eyes. To call a black person black is not calling them by the color of their skin, no, it’s fucking blasphemy.

    I agree with the plot holes, my example being that the council said that there hadn’t been an empty chair in over 4000 years (when they came to visit for Oliver’s death) but narcissus in chains describes belle morte as only being 2000 years old.

    The reason I believe there are a lack of black people is due to belle Mortes view on the beauty of black men or Jean claudes racism as you want to believe because he’s french. Tbh, hating Jean claude for that reason is like hating a character in your favorite movie because of what the actor did in reallife. It bothers the shit outta me when people do this. My friend named her dog Bella after the Twilight saga, but when Kristen Stewart cheated on Robert pattinson she got so emotional and wanted to change her dogs name because she hated what KS did. Some people.

    I can’t say I wouldn’t be so demanding of white people if the book contained only black people but in a way it’s potentially simple your idea of what true sexual appeal is. Maybe you don’t think white women can look good, or white men, and that’s why you desire black characters. I really can’t read minds. I know, hard to believe.

    I feel so awkward didn’t mean for this to be like the,other long ass comments that I admit I skimmed over. Woooops. 😉

    1. 1) I’m not sure I ever said I hate JC. But then again I wrote this post a long time ago, I haven’t read it since then. I also haven’t read anything new from LKH since then.

      2) Do you you know how many selfish ignorant white people with inflated heads come here saying stuff like this to me? A lot. You’re not special.

      3) You have no reason to be offended when someone calls you white. It can’t be used as an insult. See #5 below for more details.

      4) Thanks for the parts of your comment that don’t sound like whiny privileged white bullshit. I always like that.

      5) My skin is brown, like many people of my race. While some Black peoples do identify their skin as black, because it is darker, ‘black’ is a color and when used by whites such as yourself, it typically denotes a racist worldview in meaning, intention, and tone/utterance, not any meaningful acknowledgement or understanding of race/ethnicity/culture, let alone any degree of respect. ‘Black’ is a race and ethnicity with very specific meanings and histories, unlike the term ‘white’. Its a difference between A) ‘black is inferior, black is disgusting, black is evil, black is exotic, etc. and B) ‘She is Black, she has spoken of her experiences with racism like this…’

      6) You’re the one who’s “butthurt” here. So if any more of your comments sound like MOST of this one does, I won’t entertain them.

      Thank you,

      Queens

      FYI: I’d say say more but I only skimmed your essay because most of it is an unnecessary rant. If you want someone to agree with you, I’m sure you can find other whites with racist perspectives who enjoy or hate the work of Laurell K. Hamilton. I am not one of them.

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