Banks, L. A.
Banks, L. A. (1959–)(pop culture)
LA. Banks, a pen-name for Leslie Esdaile-Banks is the writer of the popular “Vampire Huntress Legend” series of romance novels, the first volume of which appeared in 2003. She has emerged through the first decade of the twenty-first century as one of the most successful and prominent African-American authors. Banks is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and subsequently received her master’s degree from Temple University. A product of Philadelphia, she has made it her home as an adult.
Banks introduced her main character, Damali Richards, a strong female slayer—termed a Neteru—a Balance Swaying Force of Light, in Minion. In her normal persona, Richards is a spoken word performer who works with a band. The band’s musicians—Marlene, Shabazz, Big Mike, Rider, Jose, J.L., and Dan live together and hunt vampires after their gigs.
In Minion, local gang members have come under attack and those who fell victim have been found mutilated to a point beyond recognition. The perpetrator is discovered to be Fallon Nuit, a power vampire, who is the ongoing villain in the series. Enter Richards and her cohorts, and her former lover, Carlos Rivera, who is now a youthful vampire growing stronger night by night, and who will push the plot forward as he runs between Richards and Nuit.
As the story develops, Banks introduces a number of variations on the vampire myth. The vampires believe, for instance, that if they could impregnate Richards as she enters into adulthood (i.e. her twenty-first birthday), the child would be a daywalker, a vampire freed from their nocturnal limitations with the power to create further day-walkers. When vampires feed, they hide the bite marks to conceal their presence from humans. Vampires emanate from the sixth level of hell. They are ruled by a Vampire Council with one Council Level vampire master for each of the five inhabited continents. It is from this powerful realm all evil comes; thus a huntress is needed to balance the situation for the embattled human race.
Beginning with an idea out of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in Banks’s world there is a vampire huntress born every millennium, surrounded by a group of associates who protect her backside, and a vampire lover in search of his soul. But Banks set the idea in a hip-hop urban African-American setting and developed it with her own unique slant. The huntress, for example, is special, in part, because she is born to live through the change of the millennium, and as such she has a different alignment of the planets in her horoscope. As she grows, her powers slowly emerge. She will develop her full powers on her twenty-first birthday, but begins vampire hunting before that time. Eventually, the biblical origins of Banks’s books become important as the events of the biblical apocalypse begin to unfold. The twelve “Vampire Huntress Legend” books are projected to be followed by a graphic novel series that will both tell the story of the novels and add new materials, including the background story of Richards before the events in Minion.
Banks has not been limited to writing her vampire series, now more than a dozen titles strong, but has produced twenty-five additional novels in a variety of genres written under several pennames. She maintains an Internet site at http://www.vampire-huntress.com/.
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