I hate Charlaine Harris. I make that unchristian statement with no personal animosity toward the lady whom I have never met and have little chance of ever meeting short of going to a fan convention (and that ain’t happenin’). Ms. Harris is the author of a string of hit “Southern vampire” novels and several less well known mystery series
Ms. Harris, whom I call Charlaine in my dark moments, gained my everlasting dislike when I read her first Sookie Stackhouse novel, Dead Until Dark way back in 2001. How, I wondered, could a nice Arkansan church lady (her bio says she’s a past warden in St. James Episcopal Church) write such a steamy romantic fantasy mystery? One which I should have thought up first. It is just not fair. A woman who can write and fix a casserole.
I do comfort myself that I saw Sookie years ago before she became a household word when Anna Paquin was cast as Sookie in HBO’s series True Blood. My husband walked by the television catching the season finale in the corner of his eye. He immediately sat down and said, “What is this??” That’s entertainment, baby.
Shallow as I am, I picked up the first book because I was drawn to the artwork on the cover. I have no idea who the artist is – and whose idea it was to go with Grandma Moses in black leather– but it drew me in. Only recently have the Stackhouse books adopted a photograph for the cover.
Aside to the author- Charlaine – go back to the graphic covers.
For those of you who are functionally illiterate when it comes to vampire fiction and for those of you without HBO, Sookie Stackhouse is a Louisiana road house waitress who is a reluctant psychic. She refers to her power as a disability.
In her night job, she serves a customer whose mind voice is silent. Blessedly quiet. Peaceful. It turns out this particular customer is a vampire named Bill who died around the Civil War. Bill and Sookie become a thing in the first book and she’s off and running in a world where vampires are real and out of the coffin unliving among us.
Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse books are not art and they are not explorations of the misery of the human condition. They are fun and often funny potboilers that take the reader to a what if world of vamps, werewolves, ghosts and other beasties that go bump in the night are real and have feelings, motivations, egos and temper tantrums.
Harris’ vamps are loud and proud after dark, at least. She skillfully grafts the world of the undead on to the mundane world of rural Louisiana. The scene in which Sookie’s grandma begins planning a speaking engagement for Bill to address her Ladies of the Confederate Dead Chapter is hilarious.
Harris labored as a writer for years before she hit on Sookie Stackhouse. She’s no one hit wonder. I just finished reading An Ice Cold Grave, the third in a series that features Harper Connelly, a young woman who suffers a lightning strike that leaves her with the ability to find corpses. In this book, she goes to Doraville, North Carolina in winter to locate victims of a serial killer. There’s one plot twist involving a 13 year old boy that has to be read to be believed. I didn’t see that one coming.
So, even though I hate Charlaine Harris, I shall continue to buy her books and put money in her pocket. I guess that makes me a fan. Ugh.
For a list of all Harris’ books and short stories, go to bibliography For her website, go to www.charlaineharris.com