By Gregory Kirschling
Updated June 19, 2007 at 10:14 PM EDT

Times are tough for Hannibal the Cannibal. First, the new book Hannibal Rising kinda stinks. Then the movie comes along — and it really stinks. The public ignores both, and the press eats Dr. Lecter alive.

Now it gets even uglier. Normally, a hardcover takes about a year to come to paperback — longer, if the hardcover sells well. Late last month, Hannibal Rising sprinted to softcover a short five months after its hardcover debut. Hey, that was fast. And — we might as well keep piling on here — it didn’t even open that high on Publishers Weekly’s mass-market bestsellers list last week; it came in at No. 13, one slot behind the debut of Angela Knight’s Masters of Dragons, an erotic fantasy that apparently pairs a sexy dragon with a half-fairy princess — and, frankly, looks hilarious.

With fond memories of getting busted by a nun in eighth grade for reading Red Dragon, I cracked open Hannibal Rising over the weekend. I got as far as the first paragraph of Chapter One, which read:

“Hannibal the Grim (1365-1428) built Lecter Castle in five years, using for labor the soldiers he had captured at the Battle of Zalgris. On the first day his pennant flew from the completed towers, he assembled the prisoners in the kitchen garden and, mounting his gallows to address them, he released the men to go home, just as he had promised. Many elected to stay in his service, owing to the quality of his provender.”

On second thought, owing to the quality of this provender, perhaps I shall not read Hannibal Rising. Have you? Will you?