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Rice praises musical's spirituality


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One of the funny things about Elton John making a musical of "Lestat" is that the vampire Lestat de Lioncourt bears down on Broadway just as his creator, Anne Rice, is finally done with vampires and witches and mummies. Her last book, 2003's "Blood Canticle," was definitively presented as her final word on both her Vampire Chronicles and the Mayfair Witches series.

From here on out, she's just writing about Jesus. Though fans link her shift in focus to the death of her husband, Stan Rice, in 2002, she'd reconverted to the Roman Catholic Church four years earlier, and she says she'd already decided to put the final nail in Lestat's coffin before her husband's sudden death (which occasioned her move from New Orleans to La Jolla to be nearer her son, Christopher).

After 10 vampire books and several interconnected others, the series had gotten pretty long in the tooth anyway, and last year Rice took the extraordinary step of responding to excoriating pans of "Blood Canticle" by posting a long screed among the customer reviews on Amazon.com.

Her brand-new book, "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt," is the first of her novels imagining the life of Christ, told in terse monosyllables by 7-year-old Jesus himself. Kicking off with his striking a bully dead and then reluctantly resurrecting him, the book takes a fantastical "Sword in the Stone" approach to the little Lord Jesus' early adventures with his pal Little Salome and his creepy cousin John, who keeps looking at him funny.

Rice's newfound faith doesn't mean she's renounced her long walk on the dark side that began with 1976's "Interview With the Vampire," from which the new musical draws its lifeblood, along with 1985's "The Vampire Lestat" (which reimagined the villain of the first book as Rice's most enduring hero and, of all things, a rock star). She's simply turned her attention from gloomy gay vampires to another guy with super powers who rose from the dead after three days, and she says that what made her vampires so tortured in the first place were the questions of faith that are her focus now.

"Those books were filled with a lot of curiosity about our relationship to God," Rice says, calling from the road between St. Louis and Kansas City on a book tour. "They were spiritual books, and I do see a continuity. In my return to Jesus Christ, I found what my characters were always looking for and talking about."

Though she wasn't involved with the development of the musical, Rice says that the creators kept in touch with her throughout the process and that she couldn't be happier about the new afterlife of a series that has already spawned two movies, 1994's "Interview With the Vampire" and 2002's "Queen of the Damned."

"They captured the tone perfectly," she says. "They got the spiritual essence of the Vampire Chronicles. I think they came infinitely closer to what it's all about than any other attempted adaptation."

Sam Hurwitt is a freelance writer.

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[...]his creepy cousin John, who keeps looking at him funny.

:laughs: Somehow I'd never imagined John the Baptist as being all weirded out by his cousin Jesus. I suppose that would work, whether he knew and believed what was said or not. He could've heard people talking about the strange goings-on with both Elizabeth and Mary.

:shrugs: It just struck me as a funny (humorous) way to imagine the situation. It'd be true-to-life in how kids would think.

She's liable to have trouble from all sides on picking a religious theme for her new fiction, including (perhaps especially) her own new-found Church.

Note: I'm not taking a religious stance on Ms. Rice's book theme's religious stance. She's welcome to write her fiction as suits her own opinions.

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