One of my first introductions to supernatural literature was INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE. Anne Rice’s imagination thrilled me. She took a monster and made him erotic, forever changing how we view the undead. The original Dracula, as depicted by Bram Stoker, is horrific, a figure that evokes fear and dread. Lestat, on the other hand, oozes sensuality. His power is seductive, alluring. He mesmerizes so completely you want to offer him your life’s blood. When his fangs sink into your flesh, you swoon with ecstasy, one final, whole-body orgasm before death. What a way to go!

Rice’s 1976 book unleashed a frenzy of vampiric literature, including a slew of sequels from the grand dame herself. Unfortunately, not all of them matched the caliber of the first one. Most were vastly overwritten—LESTAT, in particular, was tediously redundant. An unfortunate result of her astounding success, it seems. She refused to have her work edited. The lean prose of INTERVIEW blew up in subsequent works, often subjecting readers to 500 pages that could have easily been whittled. (One exception is QUEEN OF THE DAMNED. It was very long and yet remained engrossing.)

Rice’s other books revealed an ongoing fixation with eroticism, from the sex lives of priests and castrati in CRY TO HEAVEN to the hardcore S&M of her SLEEPING BEAUTY trilogy (don’t read those if you’re at all queasy—they’re quite graphic). Even her WOLF books are sexual.

Yet Rice was a complex woman with openly acknowledged religious quandaries. Raised Catholic, she spurned the church, then rejoined it and left again. Many of her later works, such as CHRIST OUR LORD, which I haven’t read, deal with spiritual issues. You’ll find characters musing about God and the soul in books as diverse as the LIVES OF THE MAYFAIR WITCHES trilogy (terrific) and SERVANT OF THE BONES (awful).

Love her or hate her, there are few who can compare with Rice for ingenuity and skill. She took fiends we thought devoid of feeling and made them whole. Inhuman, malignant, yet consumed with dilemmas of the heart and mind and flesh. That’s quite a legacy for any author.

Thanks for reading. Wishing you all the very best in 2022.