The Gospel According to Anne [Excerpts]
After 25 novels in 25 years, Rice, 64, hasn't published a book since 2003's "Blood Chronicle," the tenth volume of her best-selling vampire series. They may have heard she came close to death last year, when she had surgery for an intestinal blockage, and also back in 1998, when she went into a sudden diabetic coma; that same year she returned to the Roman Catholic Church, which she'd left at 18.
"For the last six months," she says, "people have been sending e-mails saying, 'What are you doing next?' And I've told them, 'You may not want what I'm doing next'." We'll know soon. In two weeks, Anne Rice, the chronicler of vampires, witches and—under the pseudonym A. N. Roquelaure—of soft-core S&M encounters, will publish "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt," a novel about the 7-year-old Jesus, narrated by Christ himself. "I promised," she says, "that from now on I would write only for the Lord."
To render such a hero and his world believable, she immersed herself not only in Scripture, but in first-century histories and New Testament scholarship—some of which she found disturbingly skeptical. "Even Hitler scholarship usually allows Hitler a certain amount of power and mystery." She also watched every Biblical movie she could find, from "The Robe" to "The Passion of the Christ" ("I loved it"). And she dipped into previous novels, from "Quo Vadis" to Norman Mailer's "The Gospel According to the Son" to Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins's apocalyptic Left Behind series. ("I was intrigued. But their vision is not my vision.") She can cite scholarly authority for giving her Christ a birth date of 11 B.C., and for making James, his disciple, the son of Joseph by a previous marriage. But she's also taken liberties where they don't explicitly conflict with Scripture. No one reports that the young Jesus studied with the historian Philo of Alexandria, as the novel has it—or that Jesus' family was in Alexandria at all. And she's used legends of the boy Messiah's miracles from the noncanonical Apocrypha: bringing clay birds to life, striking a bully dead and resurrecting him (Gates, "Newsweek," October 31, 2005).