A review of Laurell K. Hamilton’s ‘The Lunatic Cafe’ chapter thirteen

Anita is home again, home again, curled up with Sigmund the toy penguin, reading the file Marcus gave her. Anita Blake has only rage and penguins. That is all. There’s nothing else to her character.

The folder consisted of a half dozen sheets of paper. All neatly typed, double spaced. The first was a list of eight names with an animal designation beside them. The last two pages were an explanation of the names. Eight lycanthropes had gone missing. Vanished. No bodies, no signs of violence. Nothing. Their families knew noting. None of the lycanthropes knew anything.

I went back over the names. Margaret Smitz was number seven. Designation wolf. Could it be George Smitz’s wife?

No shit.

The last few pages were suggestions about who Marcus thought I should talk to. Controlling little bastard.


He’s given you a folder of neatly organised and categorised information to make it easier for you, an apparent investigator, to find these people. What a shit head. I mean, honestly, what an awful thing to do.

They needed to go to the police. But they didn’t trust human law. As late as the 1960s, lycanthropes were still being mobbed and burned at the stake. Couldn’t blame them for being leery.

  1. Being burnt at the stake is punishment for heresy, murder, treason and coin forgery.
  2. I refuse to believe that into the 1960s, within the United States (as Anita only gives a shit about the US, but just to be thorough I refuse to believe people were being burnt at the stake for being a werewolf anywhere into the 1960s), people were tying werewolves to pyres and having a good old fashioned immolation.
  3. There was a minority group being mobbed and killed in the US in the 1960s. The link is not welcome and quite insulting.
  4. Fuck you.

Anita phones Edward and asks what the hell is he doing in town. I’m always the first to note that he’s a creepy, creepy stalker, but what business is it of yours Anita? His grandfather might be dying in hospital or something. Sorry, but does everyone in St Louis have to have their presence approved of personally by Anita Blake?

Edward counters her questions with more questions. They arrange to meet up and exchange frustrating questions with each other. Edward, you see, is hunting shapeshifters. What an amazing and unlikely coincidence. Either he’s involved and it’s a trap or Hamilton is being lazy. I’m not sure which is the better option. If it’s all a trap, then Anita might get hurt but she’s not going to die. The amount of books says that she’s safe for a while yet.

Anyway, I’d like to congratulate the plot for finally making an appearance. Well done. You’re going to get ignored or violently abused.


13 thoughts on “A review of Laurell K. Hamilton’s ‘The Lunatic Cafe’ chapter thirteen

  1. Later she swaps out the penguins for being a rapist.

    Someone here is a control freak, yes, Anita, but it isn’t Marcus

    “There was a minority group being mobbed and killed in the US in the 1960s. The link is not welcome and quite insulting.”

    I was about to say…

  2. I do wonder though, how do you show racism toward another group…such as werewolves and not be a jerk about it? I admit, I’ve had a roll playing game with a friend, where we’ve treated the supernatural as either being known or not being known through our time playing over the years.. When they were known, we sometimes had then being taken as pets, though no matter how we thought about it, we couldn’t really believe human being were going to actually make someone into a slave just because they got a infection of some sort…thus changing them the few times the moon was full each month.But then, we were looking for an excuse to put our characters through drama, so it was a lazy though somtimes fun way to do it. ;P Yeah, we have our kinks.

    So, if you have these wolves that are being treated less than…once someone knows what they are…figuring they avoid wearing a sign after all…how do you treat it in a sensitive but truthful manner?

    • “we couldn’t really believe human being were going to actually make someone into a slave just because they got a infection of some sort” Oh, people would do that, trust me. Just look at slavery and its ‘justifications’ through history. Nah, you’re good there I’d say.

      For issues of sensitivity and not screwing up offensively ala LKH and her AIDs metaphor…Don’t try to make it an analogue or equivalent to the oppression and persecution of any real group. Don’t have it be “just like with gay people/black people/Jews/etc but with werewolves!” Not only does it not really work right or make sense for several reasons, it’s offensive for several reasons too. Persecution against werewolves shouldn’t be ‘like’ anything but persecution against werewolves. Definitely avoid things in particular associated with persecution against real-life groups like lynching or camps. This is not say a werewolf can never be hung for whatever reason, just that it shouldn’t be the number one way of dealing with them, associated in particular with the persecution of werewolves, etc.

      As for just writing about it in-general and how to make it realistic, flesh it out, etc., I’d also advise thinking of the following:

      Think through exactly what would be most likely to happen. What are the most likely ways that people would exploit and abuse werewolves, and why? For instance, if, like AB shifters, they have enhanced strength even in human form, they probably would be used for hard labor. Which raises the question of why the werewolves, if they do have special powers 24/7 and not just on full moons, put up with it? What stops them from fighting back? Do some of them? And if they don’t have any abilities other than just becoming wolves, and that’s only on the full moon, how are they controlled then? If they’re regular wolves than it could be done easily enough with the right equipment, like locking them in a room beforehand, but what if they’re larger, stronger wolves? Or the wolf-man type that have thumbs and can reach a window or bust down a door?

      How does it effect your wolves? I’ll be honest, I get tired real fast of woe-is-we poor persecuted werewolves. I also get tired real fast of any protagonist that just rolls over and accepts their lot and whines a lot internally about how tragic and unfair it is. Even if they’re not fighting back for whatever reason (they know there’s no way they’d win, they’re mentally indoctrinated to accept it, etc.) have them be more than just tragic woobie victims with constant monologues going about it.

      Do the people doing the oppressing have any good points? One of the big difference between people hating vampires, mutants, etc. and real-life minority groups is that vampires, mutants, etc., are actually dangerous and could, if they wanted to, really hurt people. The AB werewolves have enhanced strength, speed, senses, heal like Wolverine, and can go into a killing frenzy if they get angry, aroused, afraid, etc. It’s not really bigotry to be afraid of someone like that, whether they became that way from an infection or not, it’s common sense. What about your wolves do people have to be afraid or angry about? If they do have reasons like that, it’s best not to paint them as just senseless bigots, because a reader is going to go “hey, wait, they have a point, author!”

      Is this anti-werewolf sentiment and practices something individual, or is it a widespread cultural belief? How long has it been around either way? Are werewolves commonly known, in that case? Do some classes, cultures, religions, etc view things differently?

      If it’s an infection, is it understood as such, or seen mistakenly as something else, such as a curse or punishment from God? Are precautions taken against it, like the vaccines in the Anitaverse? Are the precautions effective, or are they mistaken, like wearing an amulet to defend against the disease? Are the precautions reasonable for the time period–for instance, wearing an amulet for a disease wouldn’t make much sense now, but it would in other time periods.

      Hope this all helps =D I love worldbuilding, best of luck with this!

      • That does give me much to think about. The things we do, between my friend and I for about 12 years, has varied. Her characters tend to think of the wolves as animals that have no rights. Mine tend to think of them as people who have no real control of themselves because of the wolf spirit that is in them at all time, having bounded with their soul and making them dangerous in gereral. The wolves, however, tend to think that humans are just bad in general, and not to be trusted.

        With just the two of us playing all sides, it can get a little confusing 😉

        Our wolves can infect in any form they are in. they generall keep themselve hidden, at least in this version of our story, but there is also a sector of humans that often buy and sell them as either exotic pets or sex slaves with magical controls in place to keep them behaving.

        Because it is only the two of us, we sometimes go across lines as we both know what the other will allow….though it is funny too as we often comment that we would never condone many of the things in real life.

        But I think treating them as their own, not comparing but saying this is how were wolves are treated, would make the most sense. Even if they are treated like other races, that also seems to make it sound as if they weren’t really so real somehow…if you have to compare them to some part of society that is real…if that makes any sense.

        But do people still put others into slavery now? Because of illness? That sounds very naive to me, but I don’t really know. I admit I don’t tend to pay attention to the world. I know there is racism all around, and my daughter is mixed so, I’ve seen her struggle with either black or white people who have put her down. Both have done it to her, and I’ve done what I can to tell her that she’s just fine either way. And I know that in some places, woman are not treated as much more than animals as well.

        All in all, it does make me think about what directions to go with our story. We keep wanting to make it into a comic some day, but with some of the themes not being acceptable to many people, I worry about offending pretty much everyone 😉 and even though we have some very twisted people in our stories, we do not condone the things that they do. ;P even if the naughty parts of us still like to write about them.

  3. Not because of illness, but slavery still happens. There’s no illness in existence though that would make someone appealing as a slave or pet, but if there was, I’m sure it would happen to them, and becoming a large, beautiful, majestic animal that appeals to a lot of people as an exotic pet is an ‘illness’ that would most likely make them a valuable commodity in human trafficking. It’s not so much about “we’re doing this just because they have an illness!” so much as “regardless of why they’re this way, we can sure sell them for a lot, and that’s reason enough!” in that case. They could justify that to themselves with “well, if they’re out of control due to the wolf spirit anyway, we’re helping them AND the human public by controlling them, and is it so wrong to also make a dime on the side for it?” or with the belief that, as with your friend, that they’re just animals anyway so there’s no moral quandary for them.

    If you’re just doing it between yourselves and not running a multi-person roleplaying game or trying to publish it as a book, you really don’t need to worry about all this though, unless you want to. Stuff between two friends just doing it for fun makes it fine for anything-goes, really, because it’s just for the two of you and if you both like it, no need to change anything you don’t want. Well, until you want to make it into a comic, then you’ll probably want to expand things, work out the kinks, fill the gaps, etc.

    If your audience is going to be adults, having twisted things happen is alright. Some people like to read about that, so while the themes aren’t going to be acceptable to some people, there are also likely people who will want to read it for just that! Ditto for twisted people; it’s usually pretty easy to tell when the author is approving or condoning for what people do. I love reading about twisted people, just as long as the authors knows they’re twisted and intends it. That’s my big issues with Anita in the later AB books–she’s a horrible twisted person that rapes and enslaves others, but the author doesn’t see it like that. If she was the same way but the author intended it to be a downward spiral and for us not to agree with Anita, I’d probably love it! =D So yeah, I wouldn’t worry too much about dark characters and dark themes, it actually sounds like my type of deal! Some people just won’t want to read dark stuff, but that’s okay, plenty will!

    • Just catching up to this conversation (I was spending the evening in some quiet knitting :P) but testify for all of this. I think it all boils down to: darkness is great when dealing with supernatural stuff – for me, the darker the better! (I mean, one of my favourite books has a character I absolutely love being sort of uh… no better way to put it, raped to death with a spear by her sister. It’s brutal and makes me cry but it has such an impact because of how unexpected it is and how serious it makes the situation)- and that the best way to avoid unfortunate implications is do avoid outright comparisons. I have such an issue with LKH’s stuff because she’s trying to draw a clear line between AIDS/homosexuality/race and her uber perfect werewolves and vampires. And it’s insulting. And lazy writing.

      Nothing offends me more than lazy writing.

      • Knitting is fun…oh wait, I’m horrible at knitting. Crotchet is fun 😉

        Spear rape…I feel much better now. 🙂 Much better. No laziness for me. 🙂 mostly. Wow, spear raping. Ow.

      • Yeah… it turns my stomach each time. I cry every time, I hate to read her die in such a horrific way, but the death has a purpose. It’s not there for cheap impact. It happens so unexpectedly but you realise, reading on, that her death had to happen, otherwise there’s no power in the situation. I would recommend the series, but Wilbur Smith does have a taste for gruesome deaths. In the first one, the evil grand vizier gets his guts hooked out by a spinning blade on a chariot wheel.

      • I’m starting to think my ideas are not as scary as I imagined. 😉 I’ll have to look that writer up 🙂

      • I’m going to be writing about his Ancient Egypt series for my Dottie Recommends as they are some of my absolute favourite books. Quite violent, but meticulously researched and beautifully written.

    • 🙂 all good points. 🙂 I think we’ve done everything and I would have to agree, that the wolf thing is most likely and excuse to many to get a pretty wolf as a play thing. 🙂 and there are those that do think they’re doing a service. 😉

      The only thing I have that’s concrete at the moment is…

      because we decided that Stephen, our wolf, had just been sold to someone who only got him because he likes expensive things. The collar zaps him if he gets out of line. And pets don’t get clothes it seems. He’s in the process of being rescued at the moment, but we’ll have to help him recover. He’s now been a slave for about a week…not much time really as being a slave goes ;P but he’s been a little damaged. Poor guy. We’re all for the hurt/ comfort.

      and I agree about Anita. If she was just like that, it would be one thing, but everyone in her world, tends to be proven wrong if they don’t agree with her.

      The things I struggle with, is the having people who had views not my own, even ways I’d think are just bad, but showing them as believing those things and not just being evil because of that thing. The slave owners are not all evil, even though I know that owning another person is wrong. The wolves have an urge to bite someone and make a pack, and they do kidnap humans from time to time and just bite them, which they think is also their right somehow. 😉

      Thanks for your advice. 🙂 I think the main thing might be to be true to the character for who they are and where they are coming from, and to show opposing points as well. Maybe to show that things aren’t always so cut and dry.

      • Looking at situations from all sides is a great way to tackle an issue; things are much better, more complex, when they’re not cut and dry. Look at Jaime Lannister in ASOIAF For three or so books, we’re told he’s an incestuous, murderous creep – and then WHAM, we get his point of view and so much character development, and the situation, once so simple, becomes so much deeper and so much more interesting.

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