28 December 2008

Books: Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris

The supernatural romance novels that feature vampires -once only a sub-culture of the romance genre - has recently gotten huge boost recently, thanks to the success of the Twilight saga. One could argue that this genre has been around much longer, and written much better than the Stephanie Meyers series, but I digress.

Then add on the success of True Blood, the HBO series developed by Alan Ball, and based on these novels, has made Charlaine Harris’ Southern vampire tales just as popular.

What sets, maybe, these books different from the rest, is that Harris has kind of put a new bent on the tired vampire genre that made Anne Rice a household name. It’s vampire story alright, but it’s also part thriller, part detective story (both for the guys, maybe?), with a heavy dose of parody (which I like), and some romance (really for the girls).

Living Dead in Dallas, book two, begins with the death of Lafayette Reynolds, the openly gay cook of Merlotte's Bar, where Sookie Stackhouse works. Now while Bon Temps, Louisiana is a small rural town, there does seem to be a lot of deaths and while Reynolds was found in Sheriff Andy Bellefleur’s police car (Andy had gotten drunk the night before and left his car in the lot), and they did not get along, Sookie is sure Andy had nothing to with the man’s death.

But before she can begin to find out -by using her mind reading abilities - she and boyfriend Vampire Bill are on there way to Dallas as hired help to solve some crimes. It is there, that Sookie runs up against the local anti-vampire club, The Fellowship of the Sun. Trying to find a connection between the Dallas vampires and Fellowship brings Sookie into conflict that could kill her.

This is a much stronger book than first, if only because Harris does not have to set up the whole universe she’s created. Still, I’m unsure how to take her stance on gay people. Lafayette was gay and gets killed, there is a gay vampire named Farrell (who Sookie was looking for in Dallas), who was lead to the Fellowship by another gay vampire, the an ancient -and still looking like he was sixteen -Godfrey. The point is, I guess, Farrell was only into young guys -twinks they would be called in the gay sub-culture - and I find that Harris uses that stereotype to advance the story. I did not like that.

Almost all her characters in Bon Temps seem to dislike gays (which could be the stereotype also, but it comes across rather muddled if that’s her intent), including her bed-hopping brother. All of which seems disingenuous, as Harris went out of her way to make the Stackhouse clan more tolerant to people outside the norm.

But maybe I’m just being sensitive.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and will probably continue to read the series well into 2009. But I need a break, so I’ll take something else next.

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