This book, which one of my all time favorite movies is base on, is a conundrum for me. I’ve been meaning to read it for years and finally got around to it while quarantining during the pandemic.
The book revolves around Clarice Starling, a FBI trainee who is called in by Jack Crawford to help interview serial killer Hannibal Lecter. Clarice wants to prove her worthiness to both herself and Jack Crawford. Her father died when she was a child so it is no real surprise when Jack becomes a sort of father figure for her.
Hannibal Lecter plays his mind games from behind cell bars. He’s intelligent, a psychopath with an affinity for eating humans, and he knows more than he lets on about the serial killer Clarice and Jack are investigating (Buffalo Bill). The book carries with it the death of Jack’s wife to cancer – something that the film avoids outside of one “How’s the wife?” comment from Hannibal.
The story itself is everything I love about the film. It is the writing style that leaves something to be desired. It’s stiff, intentionally so I think to go along with the FBI aesthetic of the story. Not particularly to my liking but the story is the real draw of this book so I guess I didn’t mind it so much.
For me, I feel like the film goes deeper into the minds of Clarice and Hannibal than the book does. Thomas Harris even writes in his book about Clarice: “She was learning.” A blunt statement that we had already learned and didn’t need repeated to us. Still, however, it is worth reading. Perhaps by the end of summer I will have gotten around to reading “Red Dragon” or “Hannibal”, the other books in this series.
P.S. If you are looking for a great adaptation of the Hannibal Lecter trilogy, check out “Hannibal” on Netflix. It’s only three seasons, and they didn’t quite get to the Clarice Starling part of Hannibal Lecter’s story, but it’s so stylishly done that you won’t notice. The story lines revolve around the “Red Dragon” and “Hannibal” books. It stars Lawrence Fishburne and Jack Crawford, Mads Mikkelson as Hannibal Lecter, and Hugh Dancy as Will Graham as they act out the twisted relationship between the characters. It also stars Gillian Anderson, Gina Torres, Cynthia Nixon, Richard Armitage, and other supporting cast members that are as memorable as they are engrossing. You’ll be begging for another season of this show (NBC gave it the ax after season 3 back in 2015). Watch it. Again, it’s currently streaming on Netflix. You’ll be a #fannibal in no time.