ON A TABLE at Laurell K. Hamilton's home in Jefferson County
are a boom box, a stack of CDs, a laptop computer, a mug of hot tea
and notes she has jotted to herself. Nearby, Snoopy, the parrot,
squawks. Pugsley, the pug, is napping.
As for Hamilton, she's tending to her 15-month-old daughter,
Trinity, but shortly she will magically move herself into a world
of make-believe. She's about to begin another day of vampire
hunting and depicting activities of werewolves in a book she is
writing. All this and ghoulish bloodsucking, too, on a weekday
At once, Hamilton's brown eyes, riveted on the computer screen,
may dance or narrow to a piercing stare. Her moods depend on the
pictures and places that occupy her imagination as the story
builds. In her fancy, she creates a room that brims with hints of
vamps and werewolves. Is that a hissing, 200-year-old zombie in the
corner? Visitors dare not press the issue, knowing full well the
irresistible urge a vampire has to nibble on one's neck. A wise
policy is to never take your eyes off the vampire in front of you
to glance at the werewolf in back of you.
Her most recent book is "The Lunatic Cafe" (Ace, $5.99), the
fourth in a series. Each book is set in St. Louis, and each is
narrated by chief character Anita Blake, who raises the dead for a
living. Blake moonlights as a legal vampire executioner whose
skills are in demand by police units from Belleville to Eureka. She
has more than a dozen vampire kills under her belt.
In all, Hamilton, 32, has sold nine books. "Guilty Pleasures,"
the first book in the Blake series, is in its third printing. "The
Laughing Corpse," "Circus of the Damned" and "The Lunatic Cafe" are
in their second printing. Her publisher wants a new book completed
every six to nine months.
Hamilton had made vampires and werewolves her writing specialty
long before a recent growth in popularity among vampire cults.
Books, films and role-playing vampire games contributed to the
surge in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In "From Dusk Till Dawn,"
a current film on the topic, Quentin Tarantino and George Clooney
happen into a biker bar run by vampires.
The books in Hamilton's Blake series are all mysteries. They
don't follow Dracula folklore perfectly - they're fun and
unpretentious. At times, breezy.
"I get letters from people who say, `I've never read books like
this,' " says Hamilton, who writes with stereo earphones clamped to
her head while listening to CDs of Depeche Mode and U2.
"Anita's world is pretty much our world. In other words,
everything that goes bump in the night is what you have to deal
with day by day."
This means you could very well meet up with vampires or
werewolves at the Lunatic Cafe, in University City, or at Guilty
Pleasures, a male strip bar (sort of a Chippendales with fangs) in
the heart of the vampire district on Laclede's Landing. All
fictional, of course.
According to legend, holy items can be used for protection from
vampires and other mythological creatures that are evil. At Guilty
Pleasures, no crosses or crucifixes are allowed inside. You've got
to give them to the holy-item check girl at the door.
In Anita's world, Guilty Pleasures doesn't advertise itself
because, as Hamilton explains, "People discriminate against
werewolves. Werewolves could lose their jobs. They're still in the
closet. The few who aren't walk around in black leather. Remember,
it only takes one werewolf to eat a few people and it sets back the
cause. Vampires get much better press."
In large measure, Hamilton's grandmother, Laura Gentry, 84, was
responsible for Laurell's interest in vampire fangs and lycanthropy
(taking the shape and behavior of the animal that bites you), not
to mention an urge to plunge into the bewitching fantasy world of
shapeshifters, wererats, sweet-tasting blood and humans who are
transformed into furry beings. …