According to Reuters, author Thomas Harris has written a new book featuring fictional serial killer/cannibal Hannibal Lecter, famously played in films by Anthony Hopkins.

The book, Hannibal Rising, will be in stores on December 5 with a first printing of 1.5 million copies and just in time for the Christmas sales season, Delacorte Press, an imprint of the Bantam Dell Publishing Group, said on Tuesday.

Lecter first appeared in print in Harris' 1981 book Red Dragon and then in 1988 in Silence of the Lambs.

But he became widely known through the 1991 Oscar-winning movie Silence of the Lambs, starring Hopkins and Jodie Foster as FBI trainee-turned-agent Clarice Starling.

In Hannibal Rising readers learn about Lecter's early life in Eastern Europe from age 6 to 20, following the death of his entire family during World War Two.

A film version of the new novel from a screenplay by Harris is expected to be released in February 2007.