My latest guilty pleasure: The Dresden Files (books)

I’ve always been a big fan of libraries, and lately I’ve been going to mine even more than usual. I usually have 1 or 2 books I’m looking for, then I’ll just wander the shelves letting things catch my eye until I have a small pile of 5 or 6 books.

A couple of weeks ago, a book called White Knight by Jim Butcher leapt out at me. I have no idea why. I almost didn’t bother with it since it was subtitled “A Novel Of The Dresden Files” and clearly wasn’t the first one, but I figured “what the hell, maybe it’ll be a fun read”.

Boy howdy was it!

The protagonist is kind of an anti-hero, a bona fide wizard set in the modern world, working (in classic noir fashion) as a private investigator who somehow gets himself in deep shit over and over and over again. Through sheer pluck, wit and occasional horrific violence, he struggles through to (try) and save the day… or at least his own skin.

I’ve read 3 of these books now, and they are all fun, fast-paced fantasy-pulp fiction-crime-msyery novels, with great characters and great writing. I love that they are contemporaneous, although without an excess of pop culture references. Just enough to make you believe they are set in today’s world, without being all cute about it. For instance, in one book, he references John Carpenter’s They Live (a classic pulp sci-fi movie IMO) without actually mentioning the name of the film.

And then there’s all the times that the author makes me actually laugh out loud, like this excerpt from a fight scene, wherein our hero has just stabbed a big monster in the balls, and then makes this observation, as the other monsters slow their pursuit while watching their fallen comrade:

In short, I just am having a fantastic fun time reading these books, even tho I’m reading them all out of order (reading them as I am able to find them at the library, and all). I can’t wait to read more about Harry Dresden and his adventures, and every book is stand-alone fun, and even more fun when I manage to figure out how it all fits with the other parts of the stories I’ve read (yes, there is continuity overall, but each story is fine by itself). Every time I finish one, I can’t wait to read another!

Just wanted to share, and see if anyone else has read these books.

PLEASE! No plot spoilers! I have like 6 or 7 more to read, and would prefer not to know details, since they are, after all, basically crime/mystery stories.

*from Proven Guilty

I’ve read them in order, although I did start one without reading it’s predecessor until I realized that something had obviously happened to Dresden between it and the last one I’d read, at which point I stopped reading and dug up a copy of the one I’d missed. I haven’t yet read the latest, Turn Coat, because my budget doesn’t permit my spending money on hardcovers.

I recently attended a convention where Jim Butcher was Guest of Honor, and got to hear a lot of stories about how he came to write the Dresden books (along with his other series, the Codex Alera, which I find equally readable). He’s also written a bunch of short stories about Dresden; check out his website,, for details.

I really recommend you read the books in order. Small Favor and Turn Coat, the two latest novels, resolve some pretty large plot points you don’t want to get spoiled. There’s a character who gets his comeuppance in a way that’s highly satisfying, but not if you don’t know the events that lead up to it.

For those who read the books.

I’m of course talking about the death of Nicodemus.

Cool; thanks Lurk. I’m actually in the middle of Turn Coat right now, and enjoying it immensely. It’s quite a bit darker than the previous ones I’ve read, but fast-paced and darkly humorous nonetheless.

I’ll check out the stories on the website later tonight, after I finish the book.

Oh, and big thanks for the brief thumbs-up on his other series. I’m usually loathe to get involved in a series without a recommendation, although I got lucky this year with the Dresden Files and S.M. Stirling’s “Change” books.

So what’s so guilty about it? :wink:

I usually eschew novels in series as well, but recently have become caught up in the Dresden world myself. Read the first one (Storm Front) largely because of somewhat fond memories of the short-lived Sci Fi series The Dresden Files and because I was browsing around the Amazon store looking for something interesting. And I was a bit surprised at how much I liked it; I’m definitely looking forward to catching up on them.

Well, it’s pulp fiction, not literature. Maybe I’m feeling some residual angst because I just couldn’t bring myself to read any more of Infinite Jest after struggling through the first 60 pages or so, but I’m devouring the Dresden books.

Ah, one of my favorite series. I think Mr Butcher posted once on the Dope but can’t find it; it may be too long ago for the search to work. I did find a Dresden-related Cecil column here, and a thread commenting on it here.

He also has his own website and forums over here.

It’s one of my pleasures and I don’t feel guilty about it at all.

I read all of them within a couple weeks. One of my favorite series.

Does your local library participate in some kind of local web lending program? If it does, you need to read them 1, 2, 3, …

I very much like this series, though I find the resistance Harry gets from some of the Powers that Be (police, Council, etc) to be a bit…cliche. Sort of the 80s detective who can’t catch the bad guy until after he’s been taken off the case, suspended, or fired. Still, surprisingly good urban fantasy.

Oh, goody; I’m always on the lookout for good authors I haven’t tried. I’ll check this series out, since it has the endorsement of some Dopers.

I plan on getting all the books read, and the first in the series has top priority, but honestly, it’s GREAT fun reading them out of order and then putting the whole story together in my head as I go.

Something from the 8th book makes more sense after I read the 3rd book, and something in the 11th book leads me to wonder what must have happened in the 10th book, and so on, and so on…

And, I have to say, at least once in every book I actually bust out laughing so loud that I worry that my neighbors can hear me cackling like a madman. I mean, it’s pretty quiet on my street at 2am, ya know what I’m sayin’?

Yes, I really enjoyed The Dresden Files (books and series). I’m a sucker for scenarios in which magic is part of everyday life. I remember there was a great TV movie from some years back set in 1940s LA in which Fred Ward played a seedy PI (Detective Harry Philip Lovecraft!) solving cases involving demons, etc.

Ah, here it is.

Cast A Deadly Spell, 1991

I see there was a sequel too. With Dennis Hopper! And directed by Paul Schrader, writer of Taxi Driver and director of many brilliant movies! I really must try to catch that.

Witch Hunt, 1994

I’m not sure what’s so guilty about it. It ain’t literature, true, but it’s damn good writing all the same.

I happened much the same to me too. I didn’t know this series existed, but when it came out I liked the tv show. And then I found out it was based on a series of novels and thought hey, why not check one out?

You may be interested to know there’s graphic novels too. Yep, Harry’s in comic form now. The first one Welcome to the Jungle is a prequel to the first book, and the second Storm Front, well it is the firt book, in comic form*.

*is it just me or is Harry in the comics strongly reminiscent of Bruce Campbell?

I’ve really enjoyed these novels too. My only real problem with them is the genre-staple of infinite sequels like this: the same locations show up in roughly the same order along with the same characters (always have to have a bar scene, Bob always shows up around the fourth or fifth chapter, etc.), and every time, they have to be explained.

Otherwise, I think they’re fantastic.
URD, are you sure that spoiler is correct?

Well… I think we could debate this. I think that the works of Raymond Chandler are certainly pulp fiction, but they’re literature as well. Brilliant, innovative writing; insight into multi-dimensionsal characters; plots, settings, and characters that say something about the human condition. If that’s not literature, what is? I think Butcher’s Dresden novels are VERY well written, and have a very Chandler-esque feel to them.

Mind, I’m not saying ALL pulp fiction is literature, but I’m saying that one shouldn’t dismiss something as “not literature” just because it’s not Dostoyevski.

And, yes, when Cecil wrote that column about the Underground Chicago, I was privileged to be in on the phone conversation (I had read all the books and neither Ed nor Cecil had.)

If you’re new to them, I do suggest reading them in order. There are characters and plot arches that build.

It damn well better.

It was such a perfect way for the character to go. Death by hubris. It would feel a little cheap if he survived. What’s Harry supposed to do, strangle him a third time in some future book? I’m sure Anduriel is up and about, as Harry didn’t get the coin. Also, the death of Nicodemus is a good reason for his daughter and Anduriel to seek revenge. Good story for a future book.

I love Jim Butcher. I mean, hunting down the bad guys on a zombie T-Rex? That has got to be the most awesome scene in urban fantasy.

I am a huge fan of Jim Butcher and also recommend his Codex Alera series - but that one you must read in order. The first one was rather slow for me, but now I think I enjoy that series at least as much as The Dresden series.

You might try Glen Cook’s Garret series, which I liked in its early days.