The books follow Sookie Stackhouse, a vibrant young southern woman. She works as a barmaid at a local joint called Merlotte's, owned by Sam Merlotte, who has been pining after Sookie since the day they met.
Vampires have "come out of the coffin" thanks to the invention of synthetic blood and they are living among us and fighting for their rights as citizens.
The show isn't told by Sookie and so we get to look into the lives of the other characters. The first season was close to the book but season two has gone pretty far off course. None the less, it is a GREAT show.
Eric Northman does not mess around! He takes care of business even while touching up his roots. Now THAT is what a Vampire should be!