Making Murder
The Fiction of Thomas Harris
by Philip L. Simpson
December 2009, 358pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-313-35624-7
$75, £58, 66€, A103
eBook Available: 978-0-313-35625-4
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

“We make mercy, manufacture it in the parts that have overgrown our basic reptile brain. There is no murder. We make murder, and it matters only to us.” Near the end of Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon, the author gives this thought to FBI agent Will Graham. But this devastating encapsulation of humankind’s dual nature could be the epigram for all five of Harris’s masterful novels.

Thomas Harris created the iconic fictional murderer and sociopath, Hannibal Lecter. This book explores and analyzes the characters, artistry, and cultural impact of Harris's novels—four of which are centered on the terrifying villain of the iconic film, The Silence of the Lambs.

Making Murder takes readers deep into the work of Thomas Harris and his iconic creation, Hannibal Lecter—one of modern fiction’s most unforgettable characters. A former crime reporter, Harris’s exhaustive research techniques have included extensive time with the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit studying actual serial killers. Like no other available volume, the book explores the dark heart within Harris’s novels—the unflinching look at evil that makes them so much more than just “good reads.”

Making Murder looks at all five of Harris’s novels, starting with the suspenseful terrorist thriller, Black Sunday, then moving through the quartet of books in which Hannibal Lecter gradually moves from malevolent presiding spirit to unsettling, recognizably human protagonist. Author Philip Simpson looks at the critical response each book received and explores the works themselves in terms of story, characters, writing style, allusions and symbols, and themes. An introductory chapter provides insights into the author’s life, publishing history, and significant cultural impact.


  • Includes reproductions of paintings that figure heavily in Harris’s work, including William Blake’s The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed With the Sun
  • Provides bibliographic listings of print and online resources for further reading
Philip L. Simpson is associate provost at the Palm Bay campus of Brevard Community College, Cocoa, FL. He is the author of Psycho Paths: Tracking the Serial Killer through Contemporary American Film and Fiction and numerous essays for edited volumes and journals.


"Phil Simpson’s work on Thomas Harris is brilliant. Harris is one of the most important writers of thrillers today, and his anti-hero Hannibal Lecter is one of the most memorable creations in modern popular fiction. Simpson presents a wonderful introduction to Thomas Harris. It is well-written and highly informative, one of the best books I’ve read this year, and certainly one of the best books I’ve ever read about thrillers."—Gary Hoppenstand, Editor, The Journal of Popular Culture

" 'Well written and meticulously researched, Making Murder gets behind the masks so often affiliated with the reclusive Thomas Harris and his most famous literary and cinematic personage, America's postmodern bogeyman, Hannibal Lecter. Making Murder is a fine sequel to Psycho Paths, Simpson's trenchant study of serial killers, and sheds new light on our thirty-year cultural fascination with Harris's darkly brooding novels and their film adaptations."—Tony Magistrale, Professor and Chair, English Department, University of Vermont
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