Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden is a private investigator (PI) and the country's only publicly listed wizard, based out of Chicago. He specializes in Paranormal crimes and finding lost items. Harry also finds frequent work consulting for the Chicago Police Department's Special Investigations unit. Currently, he is also a Warden of the White Council, and one of two Regional Commander's based out of the US. Harry is an extremely powerful wizard when it comes to raw talent, but often has problems focusing his magic due to his young age (in wizard terms at least). He has what he claims are 'old world views' when it comes to women, thinking they should be looked at more then just "shorter, weaker men with breasts." His chivalrous attitude means he has a soft spot for a 'damsel in distress'. The books are told from his point of view.
Harry is the son of Margaret LeFay, a powerful wizard, and Malcolm Dresden, a humble stage magician. When Margaret died in childbirth, his father named him for three famous illusionists: Harry Houdini, Harry Blackstone, and David Copperfield. His father raised him on the road while he toured the country until his own death of a brain aneurysm when Harry was six years old.
After spending years in the foster system, he was adopted at age ten (shortly after his magical talent manifested) by Justin DuMorne. Justin had adopted another orphan with power, Elaine Mallory, with whom Harry became very close to and had a relationship with during his teen years. However, Justin was revealed to be a practitioner of black magic, and when Harry was 16, Justin attempted to enthrall Harry with Elaine's help. Harry succeeded in killing Justin DuMorne, burning him to death. Harry recovers DuMorne's assistant Bob, a spirit of air and intellect bound to a human skull, from the wreckage.
In the wake of these events, Harry was almost executed by the White Council for breaking the First Law of Magic, "Thou shalt not kill." However, he was spared when the Council was unable to prove that the killing was not in self-defense. Instead, Harry was placed under the Doom of Damocles, a version of probation with very little leniency, and apprenticed to Ebenezar McCoy until he was nineteen. His time with McCoy became some of the most formative years of his life. While he learned how to do magic with Justin, he learned the more important lesson of WHY from McCoy. In their three years together, McCoy became a mentor and father figure to Harry.
A year or two after leaving McCoy, Harry moves Chicago. He adopts a tailless kitten he finds in a trash can and names it "Mister." He works a series of increasingly random jobs for two years, before joining local PI Nicholas Christian of Ragged Angel Investigations. He spends three years there (one memorable event is chronicled in the short story "A Restoration of Faith") before opening his own business, using his magical powers as his key skill. It's unclear when exactly he started working with the CPD, although it has been his main, steady source of income most of the time.
During the time after the loss of Elaine and throughout Storm Front until Grave Peril, Harry becomes involved with Susan Rodriguez even confessing his love for her, the only time he has ever done this to any woman. They meet up again in Changes which puts them both in peril.
Developments throughout the series
Storm Front - First book in the series
Grave Peril - We meet Lea (the Leanandsidhe), Harry's fairy godmother. Harry sought help from her in order to defeat Justin DuMorne, and a deal was struck: she would give him the power to defeat Justin in exchange for his allegiance.
Susan, Harry's girlfriend, is half-turned by a vampire and leaves in order to figure her life out.
Blood Rites - Harry learns that Thomas Raith, a White Court vampire he encounters in Grave Peril and Death Masks, is his older half-brother, sharing Margaret LeFay as a mother. Though Harry grew up believing his mother died in childbirth, he learns that she was actually murdered by Thomas' father, lord of the White Court.
He also learns that his mentor Ebenezar McCoy had also been his mother's teacher, before she was seduced by darker magic. Harry's idealized vision of the man was shattered when Ebenezar reveals his identity as the "wetworks" man of the Council. Holding the title of Blackstaff, McCoy alone has permission to break the Laws of Magic at his discretion, which in Harry's mind went against everything McCoy had been teaching him. Harry realizes that during his apprenticeship, Ebenezar had been under orders to execute him if he slipped up at all.
During a battle with Black Court vampires, Harry severely burns his left hand, rendering it almost useless.
Proven Guilty - Harry takes Molly Carpenter under his wing as an apprentice, and he and Molly are both placed under the Doom of Damocles for her unwitting crimes against the laws of magic.
White Night - published April 3, 2007. The first three chapters are now available on JimButcher.com.
Turn Coat - To be published on April 7, 2009.
Changes - Harry discovers that he is a father, but that his daughter has been captured by his enemies in The Red Court and drastic action will be required to retain his new status. As usual, he does drastic better than anyone expects with dire consequences for the Red Court, and then tops this by dying at the end of the book. In the course of this novel, he assumes the mantle of The Winter Knight.
Ghost Story - Harry begins the novel dead (or, technically, comatose and in the process of a near-death experience) and has to work from there, following up on the consequences of his actions in Changes.