By Whitney Pastorek
September 20, 2006 at 12:00 PM EDT

Get those fava beans ready: Thomas Harris has finally finished his latest Hannibal Lecter novel, slated for a Christmas release. What better way to say ”Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus!” than with some cannibalism? (Have the lambs in the manger stopped screaming, Clarice?) Titled Hannibal Rising, the book will focus on the early life of Dr. Lecter; sort of a ”Hannibal Begins,” if you will, in which we find out just what made the man so insidious. (I sure hope we find out it’s because he fell down a well and had a scary run-in with some scary, scary ferrets.)

The book makes a handy tie-in with Young Hannibal: Behind the Mask, a movie slated for early 2007, also written by Harris (and starring Gaspard Ulliel, pictured). Which is an interesting bit of synergy — we’ve all heard of books being made into movies, and movies being novelized into books, but can anyone think of another instance where the screenplay and the novel were being written almost simultaneously? And do the kids still care about Dr. L. at this late date, or have we all moved on to Saw, Hostel, and other trendier mutilation franchises?