Secrets of the Man Who Created Hannibal Lecter

Thomas Harris on His New Novel, Distressed Animals, and More.

Thomas Harris's "Red Dragon"
Thomas Harris discussed his fiction in a rare interview.
Martin Pettitt/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / May 19, 2019 11:29 am

In Hannibal Lecter, Thomas Harris created one of the most fascinating and unnerving characters in American fiction. Even when he’s not writing about Lecter, Harris has a penchant for the disconcerting: his early novel Black Sunday, adapted for the screen in 1977, was about a terrorist attack on the Super Bowl. And in his Lecter novels, Harris traced the evolution of a terrifyingly amoral figure, a man in whom a rigorous intellect is offset by a diabolical penchant for cannibalism. Stephen King, who knows a thing or two about horror fiction, once called Harris’s novel Hannibal “one of the two most frightening popular novels of our time.”

Harris doesn’t do many interviews, preferring to let his fiction speak for itself. But it’s a recent and rare one, for the New York Times, which provides readers with a window into what Harris does when he’s not writing. And what that actually involves is…nurturing sick and injured animals back to health?

Yes, now it can be revealed: Thomas Harris is a regular at an animal rescue center near his Miami home. “He’s brought orphaned squirrels and an injured ibis there,” the article reveals. Accompanying it are photos of Harris bonding with a possum and with a a tiny, tiny owl. It’s about the cutest thing you’ll ever see that has some connection to The Silence of the Lambs.

What else can be gleaned from the interview? Harris’s latest novel, Cari Mora, in which characters clash over a fortune buried beneath a Miami Beach mansion, emerged from his desire to write about the area of Florida in which he lives. Elements of his novel Hannibal Rising were written as an homage to The Tale of Genji. And Harris “plans to binge-watch” the cult television series Hannibal at some point soon. (Who among us can’t relate to having a show that they’re hoping to get around to binging? Admittedly, most us did not write the novels on which that show was based, but even so.)

In her review of Cari Mora, Slate’s Laura Miller notes that its title character’s name can be seen as a play on the Latin “Cara Mori,” or “Dear Death.” Harris definitely has a penchant for the macabre, but this recent interview showcases Harris’s livelier aspects as well.

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