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Monday, October 10, 2011

Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton: Commentary for Readers and Writers, Chapters 16-20

The past few Monday’s we’ve read through Laurell K. Hamilton’s Guilty Pleasures, looking at the story through reader and writer eyes. Today, we’ll focus on chapters 16-20. For chapters 1-5, 6-10, and 11-15, see the last few weeks’ posts. I hope you enjoy this week’s round of Guilty Pleasures.


Chapter 16

Anita starts having nightmares about Jean-Claude. Her friend, Ronnie, a private detective, shows up ringing the doorbell just in time to spare Anita the worst of her subconscious. Anita asks Ronnie’s help to find out if any of the hate groups are involved with the vampire murders since those same groups don’t particularly care for animators either.

Reader Comments: I wonder how much of Anita’s dream has to do with the horrors of the night before and how much has to do with whatever Jean-Claude did to her.

Writer Comments: Yet another character is introduced. This is quite a number for such a short book; though, it gives more validity to the impression of a fully developed, real setting. At this point, I’m starting to wonder if, at the climax, part will involve seeing who’s really on which side and who’s got what it takes to survive. Additionally, I liked that Hamilton remembered to ground Anita’s adventures in everyday life; your workout partner showing up Saturday morning after vampires beat you up isn’t the most typical part of a story, but it adds a nice note of reality.

Chapter 17

Anita goes into work to inform her boss that he will not send her anymore vampire clients. Her boss, Bert, reveals himself as a cunning, manipulative man, who, while he didn’t know what the vamps wanted, knew Anita wouldn’t like it. Next time, if he knows her life might be at risk, he’ll charge more.

Reader Comments: While I don’t like Bert as a person, he’s interesting as a character. I’m looking forward to more involving him, and I’m glad to see that Anita stood up for herself.

Writer Comments: One interesting subject Hamilton engages in this chapter is questions of religion and how it interacts with vampires. With this, she asked what happens to vampires’ souls when they die. Yes, people usually say to avoid the subject of religion, along with politics and sex, but if it’s handled with respect and thoughtfulness, it can give a book a rare depth.

Chapter 18

Even from her coworkers, Anita must conceal the details of her encounter with the vamps. She walks a careful balance of lies with Jamison, another animator, who believes vamps are “fanged people” and has no qualms about encouraging a young man, barely able to shave, to kill himself to become a glamorized vampire. Philip, the dancer and vampire junky at Guilty Pleasures, shows up to find out what happened to Jean-Claude, and Anita pretends they’re lovers to prevent anyone from realizing what’s going on.

Reader Comments: Philip’s appearance confirms that this book is a work of grays. He sort of made my skin crawl in his first appearance, but here, I feel a little sympathy. After all, he mostly just wants to make sure his employer is hale. But Hamilton takes it a step even further than that. She gives him the desire for affirmation that he really is a good looking guy. Vampire junky he may be, but human he very much is, even with all its flaws.

Writer Comments: In this chapter, Hamilton engages questions of morality. Is it moral to allow an eighteen-year-old boy to become a vampire? Is it moral to encourage him? Is it right to allow a coworker to continue believing the lies he tells himself? Is it right to interfere with a coworker’s client to try and save the client’s life? This is what I believe will make Hamilton’s book and series resonate. It isn’t just a book about vampires and animators; it’s a book that engages the mind, the heart, and, on some level, the soul.

Chapter 19

Anita takes Philip to lunch to discuss Jean-Claude. Philip talks her into letting him tag along to interview friends and lovers of the murdered vampires. After all, who among those who adore the vamps would believe that The Executioner was trying to be all nice and friendly?

Reader Comments: Shoot, I’m starting to like Philip. He’s honest in a way that’s appealing, however much I disapprove of other parts of his life. I wonder if Anita will start to feel the same way. I’ve got a bad feeling that he’ll end up a good guy or at least someone more on the good than the bad side.

Writer Comments: Again, Hamilton includes religion and morality, but her best trick in this chapter is weaseling Philip into reader affection. Page after page, she reveals his layers, vulnerabilities, and admirable traits.

Chapter 20

 Philip takes Anita to Rebecca’s apartment where Rebecca attacks her, falls to pieces, then grudgingly gives Anita one clue to the murder of her vampire lover: freak parties, where everyone, vampire and human, can get whatever they want from each other.

Reader Comments: Freak parties. The imagination conjures perhaps more than Hamilton might have had she described them in depth. Yep, creepy, icky, what have you. I wonder if word will start getting around to the other vampire lackeys that Anita is on the trail of the murderer and some will prove more helpful than Rebecca.

Writer Comments: All Hamilton’s characters, even the minor ones like Rebecca, are well developed and real. Rebecca graces the page for a very brief time and makes an impression. At no point do I feel like she or anyone else is a cardboard cutout. And with this rich amount of characterization come little details that may not matter to the current mystery but do wonders for giving the impression that the world is full and complex and real: a coffin in the bedroom, makeup scattered about the bathroom, a broken mirror. We only see Rebecca for a few brief pages, but enough details come to the surface to suggest a twisted, pitiful, and eventful past and present.

Join me next week for the next round of Guilty Pleasures and Wednesday and Friday for more forays into fiction and the speculative.

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