Hit & Run: Heroes with bite

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The Independent Online

Bella Swan has problems. She's just moved from the heat of Arizona to the small town of Forks in Washington, where it rains all the time.

Her father, the local sheriff, is always busy and she's finding it hard to fit in at her new school. There's one boy, however, who might make it all worthwhile, he's sensitive, smart and good-looking. There's only one only problem – he's a vampire.

Welcome to the world of Twilight, Stephanie Meyer's best-selling series of novels about the love between a lonely girl and a dreamy bloodsucker with a conscience. More than 17 million copies of the books have been sold worldwide and now the film adaptation of the first novel, which opens in the UK on 19 December, is expected to become the blockbuster hit of the season thanks to its fervent army of devoted teen fans.

In the US, where the film, featuring Harry Potter hearthrob Robert Pattinson and rising star Kristen Stewart, opens next week, that army is already clamouring for tickets. Twilight took 63 per cent of pre-sales on ticket website fandango.com, while more than 100 show times across the country have reportedly sold out. Those are big numbers, bigger even than the pre-sales for Disney's High School Musical 3 ahead of its $42m opening weekend.

Twilight is likely to become that rare thing, a genuine word-of-mouth hit, propelled to the top of the box office by an almost obsessive support. There are fans who have tattoos of the book's infamous line, "So the lion fell in love with the lamb".

And it's not just Twilight, vampires are big news right now. The teen sections in bookshops are heaving with rival titles from Melissa de la Cruz's Blue Bloods series, essentially Gossip Girl with more bite, to Richelle Meads' Vampire Academy series, which focuses on an all-vamp boarding school. But it's not just teenagers who fancy a date with the undead. Anne Rice's Interview With the Vampire may no longer top the best-seller lists but in its place are numerous copycat attempts from the serious – Susan Hubbard's Society of S – to the schlocky – Christine Feehan's steamy Carpathian series.

Nor is it only fiction that is turning to the dark side. Not since Buffy stalked the corridors of Sunningdale High, stake in hand, have so many bloodsuckers competed to get their fangs into fans. HBO's newest drama, True Blood, is a witty take on vampire tropes adapted by Six Feet Under's Alan Ball, while Johnny Depp plans to resurrect 1970s vampire drama Dark Shadows with long-time collaborator Tim Burton. Twilight is set, however, to eclipse them all. When the final novel in the series, Breaking Dawn, was released in August, bookshops opened at midnight to meet demand; a similar rush is anticipated in the US when cinemas open their doors at midnight on 21 November. As to whether it will ultimately trump that other teen-driven hit High School Musical 3 only time and the box office can tell, but one thing is certain: the battle between the all-singing all-dancing Disneybots and the sensitive vampires with soul will be much bloodier than anyone could have imagined. Sarah Jane Hughes

The beef over burgers

Who doesn't love a quarter-pounder? If the gourmet burger craze sweeping the nation is anything to go by, most of us do. High streets from Exeter to Edinburgh boast trendy burger joints offering fancy patties, with one in the new Westfield shopping centre serving a version with foie gras. But for me, the finest burgers come from the thousands of roadside vans across the country. So why is Guildford Council forcing them to serve soups and salads? Just as Pizza Hut is the home of pizzas, a van is the rightful home of the burger. Jamie Merrill

Puzzling times for the fashion pack

Picture this. You've drained the port, sucked all the chocolate from granny's stem gingers, the children have lost interest in Shrek IV and hell is about to break loose over the washing up. If Christmas threatens to lack harmony and style, I have the solution: a 1000-piece, limited-edition, jigsaw puzzle by leading fashion photographer Steven Meisel. On sale this week, the 50cm by 70cm portrait is the ultimate gift for fashion fans – and, for $750 (£485), offers a rare chance to own a print by this enigmatic American snapper.

Meisel dominates the key international fashion titles and most prestigious advertising campaigns. His controversial Vogue stories have included "models in rehab" and "terror suspects in prison". However, there's nothing in his jigsaw to scandalise the aunties. Meisel has selected a complex shot from the Christmas 2007 issue of Italian Vogue depicting the model Meghan Collison amid a writhing swarm of printed pattern and tattooist's artwork.

Produced by Editions Ricordi (and available via shop.artandcom merce.com) the puzzle, signed and numbered by the photographer himself, is also an unusual foray into print sales for Meisel, raising the question of whether one really should play with it – or simply archive it until the art market recovers. Either way, this is clever market-positioning from Meisel. Penny Martin

A bad case of wisteria hysteria

Could there be a snootier nickname for Kate and Pippa Middleton than the 'Wisteria Sisters'? They have been dubbed thus because they are, apparently, decorative, fragrant and – horrors – excellent (social) climbers. Think what you will about them, but when did being a girl with ideas above her station become a crime? We should celebrate, not berate, wisteria women – after all, without ambition and social mobility we wouldn't have Billie Piper, Helen Mirren and, over the pond, Oprah Winfrey. No one calls the self-made success-story Alan Sugar a bindweed bloke, do they? Rebecca Armstrong