Butchering Hamilton

Personal update later, maybe, when I sort through what I want to say and what will not be whiny, pointless bitching. For now…

I used to really be into Laurell K Hamilton. I loved the first nine books of the Anita Blake series; they were just fun reading and good, solid writing. I liked the characters, the plot, the worldbuilding. And it frustrated the hell out of me when her writing started to go downhill in book ten, when it started being just sex and violence and no plot or character whatsoever. But I kept checking back in with each book release, hoping she’d pulled herself out of her slump. So I read Skin Trade at the store this week when it came out. And I called a friend up when I got to page 400, 30 pages from the end, and said excitedly, “She’s back! Great character development, interesting plot, and no one’s had sex yet!” Then the last thirty pages sucker punched me, as Hamilton used sex as a hand-waving device to call attention away from the fact that she made the villain a paper tiger with no real teeth to him and ended the book without resolving a half-dozen subplots she’d set up. I was disappointed, furious. The book needed another hundred pages, at least, of careful writing, and she wrecked it. Was she up against deadline? Did she just not care? Is she burned out?

By contrast, I’m rereading Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files right now. The books keep getting better, and on the reread, I’m noticing that he’s setting stuff up in book two that he needs for books six and nine. THAT’S writing. The man gives me hope that writers can keep getting better, even after they’re published, even after they’re famous, if they make their craft a priority.