Aside from Vampires and Witches, Anne Rice Also Wrote Very Strange Books About Angels 

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Aside from Vampires and Witches, Anne Rice Also Wrote Very Strange Books About Angels 

AMC’s Interview With the Vampire has given die-hard Anne Rice fans such as myself the lavish and densely imagined adaptation of the novel we always hoped for. Now in its second season, the show follows Louis and Claudia as they arrive in Paris and become embroiled in the lives of the Théâtre des Vampires, particularly their enigmatic leader Armand.

It’s a good time to be a Rice fan. Aside from IWTV, AMC has also given us Mayfair Witches, bringing the world of one of Rice’s weirdest novels to life with Alexandra Daddario starring as the reluctant heiress to a matriarchal dynasty of witches who are haunted by the spirit of a malevolent shape-shifting entity known as Lasher. That series was recently renewed for a second season. It’s all building up to a grand Immortal Universe for AMC, which will also include a third series focused on the mysterious Talamasca, the paranormal secret society that unites both vampires and witches in Rice’s novels.

 Rice’s vampires are iconic well beyond the realms of genre fiction. Her creations—so lascivious and emotional and proudly queer—are as influential to vampire fiction as Bram Stoker. There’s a reason that this sprawling series of novels ultimately came to define Rice’s legacy, but she didn’t initially intend to dedicate her career to these beloved creatures, nor did she limit her scope to bloodsuckers. Rice’s bibliography includes vampires, witches, werewolves, djinn, mummies, the castrati, erotic fairy tales, and Jesus. Amid her latter-career titles is a curious duology dedicated to angels, an oft-overlooked story that reveals Rice at a crossroads in her life.

 First, some context: After publishing Blood Canticle, a Vampire Chronicles book so hilariously bad that many of her fans thought it was a joke, Rice revolted and declared she would no longer write about vampires. She had, at that time, become a born-again Catholic and pledged to write only for Christ, which entailed two reasonably well-received novels about Jesus’s youth and the years not covered in the Bible. Eventually, she found her way to angels.

Around the time she began reconsidering her Christianity but before she welcomed Lestat back into her life, she wrote a duology called Songs of the Seraphim: Angel Time and Of Love and Evil. She described them as metaphysical thrillers, a blend of crime, history, and otherworldly belief. Are they great? Not necessarily, but they’re primed for an Immortal Universe-style adaptation, and they do show Rice’s trajectory both as a writer and as a woman with many questions about her devotions.

Our hero is not an angel but a human named Toby O’Dare. Nicknamed Lucky the Fox, he’s a hitman who works for a mysterious figure known as “The Right Man”, whose allegiances are murky. After a tragic childhood in New Orleans where he once dreamed of becoming a priest, Toby’s life is now dedicated to violence (and also playing the lute.) While on assignment at the historic Mission Inn in California, he is swept up by an angel named Malchiah. To prove his might, he shows O’Dare his own life, but through the lens of the unconditional love of God’s divine light. Now redeemed and back within the fold of the Lord, O’Dare is recruited to be a detective of sorts, forever on a mission from God through time and space. His first job? To be sent to 13th-century England to look into the case of a Jewish couple accused of murder.

Make no mistake: these books are Christian fiction. But they’re not the proselytizing smarm of a Kirk Cameron movie or the evangelical back-slapping hackery of the Left Behind books. Even at her most inane, Rice is too lyrical a writer of prose to be that boring or predictable. These two novels (both quite short, certainly when compared to her oft-sprawling vampire stories) are concerned with the redemptive magic of God and how it’s available to everyone regardless of their past. O’Dare’s missions are all rooted in Christian history and his emotional arc is focused on forgiveness and finding peace through the loving power of Christ.

What differentiates Rice’s approach from what many people view as the standard inspirational fiction arc (or at least the stuff that hits the bestseller lists and inspires GOP politicians) is the earnestness with which belief is conveyed. It’s not a competition to be won or a platform to gloat upon. Nobody’s selling you a product. It’s a continuing journey rather than an endpoint, and Rice wanted to delve into that as something more than a point to prove. And it’s all centered on murder mysteries! With angels!

But one wonders if she ran out of steam. There are only two books in this story and the second one (which clocks in at barely 200 pages) ends on a cliffhanger. The year Of Love and Evil was published, she announced that she’d left the Church. She announced that she would no longer be affiliated with the institution over its misogyny and homophobia, and would later describe herself as a believer if not necessarily a follower of any specific doctrine. In 2014, she returned to her beloved vampires with Prince Lestat. It felt like a return to form, one of the best books in the Vampire Chronicles for many readers, myself included.

CBS did option the books in late 2013 for a series, which had Rice herself onboard as an executive producer, but it never got off the ground. It’s unclear how CBS, the home of the cozy American procedural, would have done this setup well. (It certainly needs a grander budget than your average NCIS spinoff.) I could easily see it being folded into the Immortal Universe as part of the Talamasca stuff. Angels and demons are canon in the Vampire Chronicles, most notably in the extremely divisive fifth novel Memnoch the Devil. In that, Lestat goes on a journey through the entire history of God, faith, and humanity with someone who claims to be Satan. It’s essentially Anne Rice’s rewrite of Paradise Lost. You either love it or think it killed the series. Imagine seeing the TV show tackle that arc. That book, however, is much more metaphysically tangled than Rice’s angel novels, which were clearly written from the perspective of a woman more comfortable with her relationship with God (also, nobody goes down on a woman while she’s on her period in Angel Time. Yup, Lestat did that.)

 As the second season of Interview with the Vampire wraps up, AMC’s expansion of Rice’s universe only becomes more intriguing for die-hard fans and newbies alike. It reminds us that her heady philosophical and emotionally dense views on the paranormal remain enticing to readers old and new for a reason. Her angel novels are more noble experiments than grand successes, but they reveal much about both Rice and ourselves. Faith meant far more to Rice than an excuse to brag. Her novels showed that Christian fiction could be ambitious beyond the expectations of its most prominent examples. If only Left Behind cared as much about forgiveness as Rice did.

Kayleigh Donaldson is a critic and pop culture writer for Her work can also be found on IGN, Slashfilm, Uproxx, Little White Lies, Vulture, Roger Ebert, and other publications. She lives in Dundee.

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