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The Strange World of Thomas Harris

David Sexton <em>Short Books, 157pp, £4.99</em>

ISBN 05712084

David Sexton's contribution to the innovative Short Books series is a study of Thomas Harris, the creator of the Uber-serial killer Hannibal Lecter. With stylish economy, and no little humour, Sexton argues that Harris is a great contemporary melodramatist, part of a tradition that includes Bram Stoker and Edgar Allan Poe. Lecter is indisputably a marvellous, if ethically troubling, fictional creation, and Sexton offers a persuasive, theory-free close reading of novels rich in allusion and arcane reference, in a learned, conversational style that has all but disappeared from modern literary journalism, and certainly from the universities. It would be interesting to know what Harris thinks of such attention but, as he refuses to speak to the press, we shall never know. Unless, that is, he agrees to an authorised biography, which Sexton seems ideally positioned to write, should he wish to.

Jason Cowley is editor of the New Statesman. He has been the editor of Granta, a senior editor at the Observer and a staff writer at the Times.

This article first appeared in the 10 September 2001 issue of the New Statesman, The New Statesman Essay - The love of a robot