For the first time since his 1975 debut, “Black Sunday,” Thomas Harris has written a book that doesn’t include Hannibal Lecter, the erudite cannibal Stephen King once called “the greatest fictional monster of our time.”
Lecter ruled the pages of “Red Dragon,” “The Silence of the Lambs,” “Hannibal” and “Hannibal Rising,” dining on the delicately prepared organs of his victims, but it’s a young woman, Caridad Mora, who drives the plot of Harris’s first novel in 13 years. “Cari Mora,” which has almost 350,000 copies in print, enters the fiction list this week at No. 3.
“People are always asking me, ‘How do you think of these characters?’” Harris recently told The Times in his first substantive interview since the mid-1970s. “People ask you that when they can’t think of anything else to say. I respond that I don’t make anything up. So look around you. Because everything has happened.”
Of his reluctance to talk to the press, Harris says, “I’ve been fortunate that my books have found readership without me promoting them, and I prefer it that way.” Going so many years without granting an interview made him a popular target for intrepid reporters. He has always rebuffed them politely, but it is perhaps worth noting that in “Red Dragon,” a serial killer glues a journalist to a wheelchair before biting off his lips and setting him on fire.
The most interesting thing about the fiction list, though, is that Delia Owens’s “Where the Crawdads Sing” is still sitting at No. 1. The novel, which was published last August, got an initial boost from Reese Witherspoon, who picked it for her Hello, Sunshine book club. Since then it’s become a true word-of-mouth hit, sellling over one million copies.
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Things are beginning to loosen up on the nonfiction list, which has been dominated for months by two memoirs: Michelle Obama’s “Becoming,” which was published in November, and Tara Westover’s “Educated,” which came out in February 2018. (Well over a year after its publication, “Educated” is still selling so strongly that it doesn’t yet have a paperback release date, which is almost unheard-of in the book industry.)
Both “Becoming” and “Educated” are still in the top 10, but Mark R. Levin’s “Unfreedom of the Press” has seized the top spot (sending “Howard Stern Comes Again” to No. 2), and another new book, William H. McRaven’s “Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations,” enters the list at No. 4.
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