Hannibal's creator to dish up fourth helping of charming cannibal

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The Independent Culture

Uncork a nice, meaty Amarone (it was never a mere Chianti, despite the simplified screenplay in The Silence of the Lambs). Rustle up some fava beans and, yes, go in search of a succulent piece of liver.

Uncork a nice, meaty Amarone (it was never a mere Chianti, despite the simplified screenplay in The Silence of the Lambs). Rustle up some fava beans and, yes, go in search of a succulent piece of liver.

Hannibal Lecter is returning, in a third comeback that has publishers and film makers snarling with glee at the prospect of another hugely lucrative serial killing.

Next autumn, the mysterious American writer Thomas Harris will publish Behind the Mask. It will be the fourth novel to feature the charming cannibal, who has devoured all rivals in fiction and film as the world's favourite mass-market monster, since his birth in the novel Red Dragon in 1981.

Announcing the book, Richard Cable, the managing director of Harris's publishers, Random House, called Dr Lecter "the literary villain to whom all other villains are compared", created by "the premier novelist of psychological suspense of our time". Suggesting that the new novel will satisfy readers' curiosity about how the gourmet psychopath "developed his particular appetite for evil", Mr Cable hinted that it will explore the early life of Hannibal Lecter.

Behind the Mask will appear in Britain under the Heinemann imprint in autumn 2005, with an Arrow paperback in 2006.

Its predecessor, Hannibal, which appeared in 1999, sold more than two million copies in its UK editions alone.

The Dino de Laurentis company, producers of Hannibal and Red Dragon, has already acquired film rights to Behind the Mask.

Sir Anthony Hopkins's seductive and sinister portrayals of Lecter have turned the erudite serial slayer into a movie franchise second only to Bond.

Harris has created the character everybody knows while remaining the author nobody knows.

Born in Tennessee in 1940, the elusive novelist grew up with his farming family in Mississippi. He studied at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and then became a newspaper reporter while publishing short stories in popular magazines.

He married a fellow student, had a daughter, and later divorced.

After 1968, Harris worked for Associated Press in New York. In 1975, he published a thriller about an Arab terrorist attack on America, Black Sunday. Hannibal Lecter first appeared in Red Dragon (1981), with The Silence of the Lambs following in 1988.

Although Michael Mann had filmed Red Dragon as Manhunter in 1986, it was Jonathan Demme's 1991 film of The Silence of the Lambs that established Lecter as a global phenomenon and Harris as one of the world's most bankable writers. It won a clean sweep of all five of the most coveted Oscars - for best film, director, actor, actress (Jodie Foster as junior FBI agent Clarice Starling) and screenplay.

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