Episode 16: Why I Read Weird - 40 Years of Interview with the Vampire

As a kid I read anything and everything I could get my hands on. My sons both love to read but I wonder sometimes about how much I read when I was a kid versus what they read and how I was able to cram in so much. Then I remember there was no iPad or iPhone. The Gameboy lasted about three hours and took a million AA batteries to do it, and cartoons only came on on Saturdays.

So I read. I remember superfudge and Ramona quimby. Encyclopedia Brown, and the Babysitters club. And, while I was a big fraidy cat, I also loved "scary" books. First Bunnicula and The Celery Stalks at Night, then Goosebumps, then Christopher Pike's "Chainletter" and The Last Vampire.

Those Teen novels were my thing by the time I was ten, so when two summers later I found The Tale of the Body Thief at my aunt's house and read the prologue from Lestat, it made sense that I was instantly hooked.

Lestat was arrogant and impetuous. Powerful and prideful. Exotic and exhilarating. He was my favorite fictional character I'd ever found.

So, I asked my aunt what was up with this book and the French vampire with the funny name. She explained the series, four books at the time and now originally it was Lestat's partner Louis who began it all in Interview with the Vampire.

At the end of my trip to see my aunt, I visited the library back home and promptly searched the card catalog for this Anne Rice and her interviewed vampire. I found the large gold foil wrapped hardback copy and made my way to the desk to check it out.

But I was foiled! The librarian scoffed as I handed her my card and the book, telling me "That's an adult book. You have a child's card!"

What the hell sense did that make? If I could understand the words on the page then what business is it of hers of anyone else's how old I am?

Even now, a father of four myself I really don't get what the big deal was. But I played by the rules and waited until my mother came to pick me up, then got her to check it out for me.

Within a month I'd harangued my mother and the head librarian to get me an adult card of my own so that these sorts of misunderstandings wouldn't happen again.

Now, the whole wide world of fiction was open to me. And I read everything. Science fiction and fantasy. Detective novels and westerns. Classic books and modern pop paperbacks. Occasionally even some historical era would catch my fancy and I'd read a series of biographies to fulfill my curiosity.

But mostly, I stuck with Vampires. I read and read the Vampire chronicles from Anne rice. First checking them out then buying my own paperback copies then inevitably buying new ones when I wore the old ones out.

I'm fully happy with our modern digital world. I buy my movies on iTunes and my books on my ipad and I mostly don't miss the old way of doing things, but sometimes when I think about the way a well-loved paperback feels, folding back the spine to hold it open one handed, rolling the cover completely off the thing, duct tape holding the binding together. That stuff I miss.

As each new book in Anne's series would come out, I would wait in line, drop my money and race through it trying to swallow the new info about Lestat and the Children of the Savage Garden whole. But Anne never wrote fast enough to keep me satisfied. I read Brian Lumley and his Necroscope series, Laurel Hamilton and her Anita Blake series. Even the first three novels in the True Blood series along with roughly a million one off takes on the vampire myth from writers big and small, talented and less than so.

But no one ever replaced Lestat's voice. Not when he "slept" after the events of Memnoch, not when Anne put him away as she chased angels, not even when they made that terrible Queen of the Damned movie. That beautiful brat prince has always been in my periphery, whispering just in the next room, always hinting he'll be back. And then he was. Prince Lestat was a surprise for me when Rice announced it. I really never thought she'd return to this world of these characters and had resigned myself to that.

Was it different after so many years? Absolutely. I didn't wait in any lines, I clicked a preorder button in the iTunes Store. There's no well-worn paperback, just my trusty smartphone and the comforting yellowish glow of the books app keeping me up into the wee hours chasing Lestat once again.

I loved the new book, and can't wait to read the adventures promised by its conclusion. But the reason I'm nostalgically tracing my reading history here is that Interview with the Vampire will have been in print for 40 years this month. So, while we all know our favorite French fiend has been stalking the savage garden for 3 centuries, he's been in our collective conscious for 4 decades now. And I at least will be following his stories for as many more in the future as possible.

Happy birthday, Lestat, and thank you, Anne for all you've given us over the years.