I have always been curious about the Hannibal Lecter stories, especially the movies, which I enjoyed. I have recently watched the entire series of Hannibal on NBC and I’m totally digging that – not only are the main cast fantastic, but it’s fantastic to see Eddie Izzard sink his teeth into the role of a serial killer. With this enthusiasm in mind, I decided to turn to the books for the first time, and see how Thomas Harris writes.
I suppose it is perhaps wrong to start with the latest book in the Hannibal Lecter series, but I was more than curious to see how Lecter as a child develops into the formidably brilliant killer. I was not disappointed. Harris’s writing is poetic and thought-provoking, a narrative worthy of Lecter himself. Much like Lindsay’s ‘Dexter’, you immediately love and sympathize (hesitate to say empathize) with young Hannibal, as the dark forces play and shape his mind towards the inevitable. Of course we know what Lecter becomes, but this in no way diminishes the enjoyment to be had as Harris sits the reader in a front row seat in Lecter’s nascent shadow.
I recently watched a video from the online magazine Slate, entitled Which Movie Psychopaths are the Most and Least Realistic. An audience of forensic psychiatrists sat down and watched a number of movies featuring psychopathic killers. Lecter (as played by Hopkins in the movies) was dismissed as being too much of a genius, a characteristic which is rare among normal populations, let alone psychopathic killers. Being a genius, though, just makes his character less probable, and not necessarily less realistic.
In later incarnations of Lecter, you never see him lose control or see him at odds with his drives and desires. In Hannibal Rising you get to witness the death of his innocence and the masterful acceptance of his fate.