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July 2001

American Gothic

Sinking your teeth into the vampire tale of U.S. author Anne Rice

Don't let the cheesy covers fool you - Anne Rice has much more to offer than fluffy tales of gothic horror. Up to now associated with vampire lore, the prolific writer has recently taken on the subjects of witchcraft and mummies. She has also written several volumes of erotic fiction under the pseudonyms Anne Rampling and A. N. Roquelaure. "The Vampire Chronicles" are an ideal introduction to Rice's work and, although in series, three (marked with a star below) of the seven novels can easily be enjoyed out of sequence and will appeal to readers with discerning tastes:

* Interview with the Vampire, 1976
The first of the now famous vampire saga, Interview is a moving, sensuous account of the life of a tortured soul. As the title indicates, the story - spanning 200 years and rich in historical detail - unfolds in the form of an interview given by the bloodsucking protagonist, Louis Pointe du Lac, to a young journalist in modern-day New Orleans. Although the main characters are vampires, the book examines human issues, such as morality, faith and the individual in a decadent society.

The Vampire Lestat, 1985
This is story of Louis' vampire father, Lestat, from his human beginnings in pre-revolutionary France, to his rise to rock stardom in the 1980s in America.

Queen of the Damned, 1988
Lestat takes us to the Egyptian origins of "the dark gift"-vampirism.

* The Tale of the Body Thief, 1992
With a reduced cast of characters and confined to the present day, Rice focuses on two of her favorite themes: good versus evil and the human condition. Lestat, despondent and disillusioned, despite all he has learned about the meaning and origins of vampiric life, attempts to destroy himself. Having failed, he is soon seduced into temporarily swapping his preternatural husk for that of a mortal one. God and the Devil make cameo appearances.

* Memnoch the Devil, 1995
Called shocking and blasphemous, Memnoch is Rice's most controversial novel. While gothic fiction commonly uses and distorts religious dogma to suit the purposes of the stories, rarely does it cause such an uproar. Rice, a Catholic scholar of sorts, takes a different approach and adjusts her story to suit the tenets of the religion. This obviously hits a bit too close to home for some. Starting in New York City and revolving around Lestat, a drug dealer and his televangelist daughter, the story eventually becomes a tour through heaven and hell. Lestat, with Memnoch as a guide, is introduced to God and the angels, meets Christ at the time of his crucifixion, gains possession of Veronica's veil, makes a stop at the Hagia Sofia during the fourth crusade and eventually lands in hell. The book is fast-paced and utterly intriguing, but not to be taken too seriously.
The Vampire Armand and Pandora, 1998 These are the first two novels in the "New Tales of the Vampires" series are spin-offs, building on characters from Lestat and Queen. Completely superfluous, except in cases of severe vampire withdrawal symptoms. <<<

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