‘Angel Time, Of Love and Evil’ by Anne Rice

More from this show

Angel Time – The novel opens in the present.

At its center is Toby O’Dare—a contract killer of underground fame on assignment to kill once again.

A soulless soul, a dead man walking, he lives under a series of aliases and takes his orders from “The Right Man.” Into O’Dare’s nightmarish world of lone and lethal missions comes a mysterious stranger, a seraph, who offers him a chance to save rather than destroy lives.

O’Dare, who long ago dreamt of being a priest but instead came to embody danger and violence, seizes his chance.

Now he is carried back through the ages to thirteenth-century England, to dark realms where accusations of ritual murder have been made against Jews, where children suddenly die or disappear.

Of Love and Evil – Toby O’Dare is summoned by the angel Malchiah to fifteenth-century Rome—the city of Michelangelo and Raphael, of Leo X and the Holy Inquisition—to solve a terrible crime of poisoning and to uncover the secrets of an earthbound restless spirit, a diabolical dybbuk.

Toby is plunged into this rich age as a lutist sent to charm and calm this troublesome spirit.

ALBERTO RIOS: Welcome to "Books & Co." I'm your host, Alberto Rios. We're joined today by best-selling author Anne Rice who will be talking about her books, Angel Time and most recently, Of Love and Evil. Welcome, Anne.

ANNE RICE: Thank you for having me.

ALBERTO RIOS: I can't wait to talk about these books, as I'm sure you've been asked so many times about religious undertones, as well as a variety of other influences. But I want to start by reading something that I read about you that says you've been called one of the most widely-read writers in modern history. How does that make you feel?

ANNE RICE: It makes me feel wonderful but I don't know if it is true. I know people say it, and I'm always kind of amazed, and I think back on the lonely young lady who lived in Berkeley, California, typing on an old typewriter who wanted to be read so great, if that is true, wonderful.

ALBERTO RIOS: That has happened and the age of the internet probably makes it demonstratively true. I wouldn't be suspicious of that. Let me start by talking a little bit about the books now.


ALBERTO RIOS: These characters you've introduced, starting in Angel Time and in the second book of Of Love and Evil, you start with this character, Toby O'Dare.


ALBERTO RIOS: And he is a young man who has a very troubled beginning.


ALBERTO RIOS: That leads him into a very dark kind of job. He become as killer, in essence.


ALBERTO RIOS: That is not what the book's become but we think for a while that's what we think they will be all about.

ALBERTO RIOS: He becomes very good at this job. Can you tell us a little bit about the dark beginnings of all of this?

ANNE RICE: Right, I wanted to describe a young man that had basically been a very conscientious young man and very sensitive young man, and for various reasons, things that almost happened to him, he becomes eventually a government assassin, very young he becomes a government assassin. And I wanted to give him an opportunity, through an angel coming to him to repent, to turn his life around and go to work for the angels. But to make that a convincing turnaround and to make him an interesting character to me, I had to give him sort of this dark past, this commitment to be an assassin, these family tragedies and other tragedies that sort of led him to discover he had this capacity to kill people, ruthlessly.

ALBERTO RIOS: And the capacity to kill people ruthlessly, he just wanted to do a good job.

ANNE RICE: That's true, but there is also a ruthlessness there. I think any time you're dealing with an assassin in a novel, you're talking about our fears as victims of crime and circumstances and how we would like to strike back, and I wanted to present in Toby somebody with that capacity, he was aggressive and could take in life and walk away and play it out, and that's who I wanted my hero to be. Now, of course, this turnaround is crucial. I mean, Angel Time and Of Love and Evil are really the story of him after the turn around when he repents and turns away from killing forever, really.

And says he will work for the angels to do whatever they send him to do, you know. And the theory of the novels is that the angels do this, they come into our world, they pick people to work for them and they can send those people to any time in history, that for them, everything is happening simultaneously. It is angel time all the time.


ANNE RICE: And they can send Toby back to the Middle Ages to answer a prayer, to use his cunning, his cleverness, his aggressive tendencies to do something really constructive.

ALBERTO RIOS: We start to see those things play out, each one of them. What is interesting to me is throughout there is a little bit of doubt, he is always harboring doubt. First, he's hoping he is a government assassin.

ANNE RICE: He never knows, which is a theme in our popular literature, you never really know.

ALBERTO RIOS: The good guys. And, in fact, his contact, The Right Man.

ANNE RICE: Exactly.

ALBERTO RIOS: And he says that fervently, but he is not 100% sure, and so when the angel, Malchiah –


ALBERTO RIOS: -- comes and visits him, he is not sure, but much like his work with the assassin, he jumps in all the way.

ANNE RICE: Totally.

ALBERTO RIOS: All the way.

ANNE RICE: He resists a little bit who you are, are you a figment of my imagination? He resists but he is convinced and he does. And then he is transported back into the Middle Ages, so there is no question this is legitimate or at least the best illusion he's ever seen.

ALBERTO RIOS: I was reminded at that moment where he is being visited by the angel, in all of literature; there are instances where angels suddenly appear.


ALBERTO RIOS: And we would think what a wonderful, glorious moment, and yet, as human beings we can't accept it at face value.


ALBERTO RIOS: I think of maybe Bernard's angel Venine where the angel comes to the Jewish shopkeeper, Manischewitz, and the angel is black, and Manischewitz says, how can that be? There is something that always stops us, and I think Toby is wrestling with that throughout.

ANNE RICE: Right. I think that is the nature of being human, to doubt and be unsure.

ALBERTO RIOS: I'm interested in this notion of timelessness time. Timelessness and time. Toby certainly thinks he belongs in the time period where he grew up, and being in New Orleans and having that family, and yet now, time is uprooted. It's changed. It's not time, it's action.


ALBERTO RIOS: And this changes him because he now takes these skills and they aren't constrained in the ways they might have been by time.

ANNE RICE: Exactly.

ALBERTO RIOS: And this gives him the opportunity to go forward then and do some things.

ANNE RICE: That's true.

ALBERTO RIOS: You play with the word "mission" throughout the books. His favorite place, he's staying in the mission. You talk about the mission in San Juan Capistrano. The mission style, the architecture.


ALBERTO RIOS: Do you want to talk about seeding some of the text with words that help us get a sense of him?

ANNE RICE: You know, I come from New Orleans, and a lot of the novels I've written there have been set in New Orleans, and some in Europe and ancient times, but to me, atmosphere is very important. And when I found the missions in California, the Mission Inn, I found an atmosphere that sparked my imagination. There I was dealing with Toby, this character from New Orleans, I felt he would fall in love with the Mission Inn. To this notion, I never thought about the fact that I referred to "mission" as what he is doing all the time.

ALBERTO RIOS: A noun and verb.

ANNE RICE: Of course, he finds statues of angels and all kinds of iconography in the Mission Inn and responds to that very strongly. He is looking for goodness, looking for a way to turn his life around, looking for a meaning of life. And the Mission Inn and his pattern, the beauty of the California missions itself, they speak to him about meaning, they promise an answer.

ALBERTO RIOS: And in this search, he's also looking for kind of a calm in the middle of the storm.


ALBERTO RIOS: And I'm not sure he ever quite gets that.

ANNE RICE: Well, he is sent off right away by Malchiah to go back in time, so he is plunged into a lot of confusion. But he himself has been sort of an armchair historian and Medievalist. He probably would have been a very happy college teacher, teaching history, so he gets to use that on the ground.

ALBERTO RIOS: Playing the lute made me laugh because what happens today in a contemporary industry, the lute doesn't seem to be a contemporary instrument, but go back in time when it is a contemporary instrument so he is perfectly equipped.

ANNE RICE: That's right.

ALBERTO RIOS: So it is not just his knowledge of poisons, which we will talk about in a minute.


ALBERTO RIOS: But also his ability to play instruments in a way today that might not have equipped him in the same way of going back a couple of hundred years.

ANNE RICE: Sure. If he was a saxophone player, he would have a problem.

ALBERTO RIOS: Why would this troubled youth go to it? Maybe because he is troubled, you would pick an instrument nobody else would even recognize today.


ALBERTO RIOS: And yet it starts to make increasing sense.

ANNE RICE: Right. When you look around, there are actually quite a few people playing the lute today and making recordings, but most of it has to do with Medieval music, Renaissance music, trying to bring back the past. I don't think there are any swinging, hard core lutists throughout.

ALBERTO RIOS: He uses it as almost a meditative mechanism, almost a magical instrument through him.


ALBERTO RIOS: In that he is able to perceive things because he is finding again that calm that is so missing. I mean, he locates it in the music.


ALBERTO RIOS: It is a little bit outside of him but it's close.

ANNE RICE: Right, it is something with continuity, and that comes out, I think particularly in the second book of Of Love and Evil when he hears a particular melody and it speaks to him, a harmony, and he plays that at a significant moment in the plot and plays that melody on the lute and that does affect the story. It affects his mission to make the situation right, and that's all in the novel.

ALBERTO RIOS: And he plays something that somebody else recognizes.


ALBERTO RIOS: So they want to keep him around, and that is an interesting mechanism, interesting plot device. It's not him, per se, but something he is able to do that then intrigues somebody else.


ALBERTO RIOS: So all the more reason for him to be vested in the action of the moment.

ANNE RICE: Um-hum.

ALBERTO RIOS: But it is not inside him all the time, it is always slightly around him, as well.

ANNE RICE: Um-hum.

ALBERTO RIOS: An aura, if you will, an aura of things he can do, not a mystical aura in the way that we might perceive that.


ALBERTO RIOS: But an aura of things he's capable of.


ALBERTO RIOS: The beginning of "Of Love and Evil" has this wonderful, almost Celestial embrace, this opening that is like the portals of, and we don't know yet, but also has readers opening up the book in that moment.
As a character, he's sort of in that moment and we're experiencing something that is, you know, poetic, it is -- we get feeling, we feel something from it.

ANNE RICE: Um-hum.

ALBERTO RIOS: It is a very, very big way to open a book.

ANNE RICE: Um-hum.

ALBERTO RIOS: Most books start quietly. Can you talk a little bit about that?

ANNE RICE: You know, I do these things instinctively, or I don't put a great deal of thought into them, I just knew I wanted to begin that way with him hearing this music and really being with the angels, actually, and having to come back down and be back in the real world and dealing with things. Somewhere to give that taste of what the experiences were that he was now having that he's a person who has experienced an extraordinary conversion. He's seen the miraculous, to some extent, he's seen an angel. And I wanted to try to deal with that and really expand on that. I wanted that to be a very real thing. I myself have never seen an angel. I've never heard the kind of music I'm describing him hearing, but we have testimony from countless people that they've seen angels and they've had near-death experiences, they've experienced that kind of music, so I was trying as a novelist to make that experience real.

ALBERTO RIOS: Let’s take a moment to remind the viewers that you're watching Books & Co. I'm your host, Alberto Rios, and we're talking about Anne Rice who is talking about her two books, Angel Time and Of Love and Evil.

This idea of who has seen and who hasn't seen an angel is a pretty intriguing one because we hear these stories, we don't know that we ourselves have or have not seen an angel and that puts him right in the predicament that we're discussing. He's got to make a decision.


ALBERTO RIOS: Is this an angel? Is this not an angel? And you complicate it by putting other beings, other voices into his head.


ALBERTO RIOS: And who are those? What are the other voices? These are trying to shake him up?

ANNE RICE: In the second novel, he encounters somebody who he thinks has been sent by the angels, and it turns out this is somebody who has not been sent. This person in vision in the Renaissance Rome in the second novel, this person tells him you're all an illusion, you're duped by powerful forces. And I think we're hearing voices like this every minute today, all of us. No matter what you believe, you're going to be hearing a voice that is telling you it is a complete dilution. If you're an atheist, you will have Christians telling that you is a complete dilution. I wanted Toby to deal with that, a powerful temptation. The antagonist would target him and tempt him in a profound way, so that is what I was playing with. I took the opportunity with this spirit that comes to him to put what I felt were the best arguments throughout that Toby is deluded, so I love to play with a different points of view in my novel, or novels. I love to have somebody come up and call into question all the values that my hero has.

ALBERTO RIOS: And you're not afraid to play with the narrative. All of this is plot, and we're moving forward and moving forward.


ALBERTO RIOS: But you stop us occasionally. It is very poetic. I want to talk about your notion whether there is a poetry in here. I will read a few lines that stop me. Things like "cruel things will make cruel men." And talking about the mission, "islands not of our time." Almost fun. "I craved rituals and monuments and maps of meaning." And from Angel Time, "one can't be a killer every moment of one's life." I laugh, but should I be laughing? And, "I have a fine imagination, that's why I'm such a good killer."


ALBERTO RIOS: Complex reactions the reader has in those moments because they, out of context can seem funny.

ALBERTO RIOS: But these are real observations.


ALBERTO RIOS: They are true to the moment, and they stop us. And while they may not be flowering language in the way we perceive poetic language to be, it stops the narrative, makes me take stock of the moment and examine my own feelings. You do that consciously? Do you have training? You were married, after all, to Stan Rice, who is poet and painter and professor and ultimately director of creative writing at San Francisco State University, so you've been around poetry.

ANNE RICE: Very much so. Stan's work had a profound effect on me, and Stan's whole approach to life, his belief that poetry had to be completely accurate, whether the poet was talking about the way something looked or something felt or something was, it had to be rooted in truth. All of that, that influenced me. And I've always learned to bring everything I'm capable of doing to whatever novel I'm writing. I've never wanted to settle for the limitations of genre or the limitations of the novel. I mean, one of the things you find out when you study the novel is that all the rules were broken in the first century in 18th century. I mean, Shandi, all those novels broke all the rules, they just walked all over them. Right there in the beginning. Then you had sort of a hardening of rules in the 19th century that a novel had a beginning, middle and end, an appealing hero and an antagonist and you can throw that out the window and say I don't want to write this anymore. I've always done this kind of thing.

ALBERTO RIOS: And the constraint here is time itself, which is a pretty audacious and wonderful idea, reminds me of maybe something that Einstein said when he said, I'm dealing with relativity and all of its issues. After that, wearing plaids with stripes is easy, something to that effect.

ANNE RICE: Wonderful.

ALBERTO RIOS: But the big issues, they take some time and thought.


ALBERTO RIOS: There is a funny thing, time. Takes you time to write timelessness. There is an irony in that.


ALBERTO RIOS: Well, okay. So as we go forward, you know, you also create some interesting language, or you remind us of some words we maybe don't immediately bring to our vocabularies, and one I'm curious about,
cardiognosis. Can you tell us about that word?

ANNE RICE: I found that word in the work of Pasquale Perete, who wrote a book on angels. It is a simple, good book that tells you all we know as orthodox Christians about angels. It goes into saints and theologians, and Pasquale Perete said this amazing thing, he said, angels lack knowledge of the heart. Wow, that is very typically Catholic to say something like that.

ALBERTO RIOS: Very much.

ANNE RICE: To get into theology and science and apply it to angels. And, I thought, well, is that true? Do these really powerful perfect beings that live in the presence of God, do they really lack a knowledge of the heart, or are they sublimely able to pick up signals they need from the human heart? So I'm kind of wrestling with that in the books. Toby comes across that very thing in the book by Perete, and now kia, in talking about Toby's life, noticed that Toby noticed that statement. And Malchiah hints that it is not true.

ALBERTO RIOS: So they have a little bit of your, you're taking that dialogue outside of the original book and doing some more with it.


ALBERTO RIOS: You have the other -- we've heard the word, but it's useful to think about it again, the dybbuk.

ANNE RICE: The dybbuk, yeah. I don't know how to pronounce it either.

ALBERTO RIOS: A couple of ways. Talk about that, as well, because he is confronted but someone who is, you know –

ANNE RICE: Right, a Hebrew word or Jewish word for a demon or a devil or a ghost that is earth bound and has come back to make a lot of trouble. And –

ALBERTO RIOS: Not exactly an anti­angel.

ANNE RICE: No, maybe troubled soul.


ANNE RICE: And he comes, in Of Love and Evil, Toby is sent back to Renaissance Rome and he is dealing with a dybbuk, a troublesome ghost, maybe called a poltergeist, and he needs to get down to the bottom of the mystery of what that is. And he does. That's his mission in that book and he does solve that problem. But I loved using that word.

ALBERTO RIOS: I was struck by it myself. You had the opportunity, you're writing about the time periods in which these are normal words, that is to say, these were words now fresh again, rather than we would in the 21st century maybe think of them as past their time, and now you're finding their time and the issues themselves are either not resolved or now we can look at a different way, which is exciting. Now, you have a -- these are, both of these books are part of what you call the songs of the seraphim series, which makes me think there are more coming.


ALBERTO RIOS: And you have, it seems to me, a love of writing books in series. You don't want to let your characters go.

ANNE RICE: Sometimes I wish I didn't, but it's what happens. I never finish the story at end of the book. Now, I have written some books that are stand-alone books, but every single one could have had a sequel, could have gone into a series. And when I'm strongly tempted and obsessed to go on, I go on. This one was really conceived of as a series. This is the first time I attempted to plan a series from the beginning, and I do plan a third book which may be bigger, maybe as big as with both of these books combined, and it will take Toby into a completely new kind of mission, which is a mission to save a soul, which he has not really had.

ALBERTO RIOS: This has architect all over it, working with Christian beliefs and structures.


ALBERTO RIOS: And working with maybe the tasks of Hercules or where he's in, he wants to be good, he wants to do the things that ought to be done.


ALBERTO RIOS: And it comes at a cost to him.

ANNE RICE: It does. It does. And one thing that came out very strongly when I was writing the second book was that you have great consolation at the beginning of a conversion but that doesn't always last. The nature of humans is to doubt, forget. Scripture tells us that. The apostles could see Jesus feed 5,000 people with the loafs and fishes, and then go out on the sea and wake him up. Oh, ye of little faith.

ALBERTO RIOS: That is all it took.

ANNE RICE: That is really part of the human predicament that we can experience that powerful conviction, and then we have doubts, the fear comes back. Is life meaningless, was I diluted, was I crazy? So I really got into that, Of Love and Evil. And the book ends with a cliff-hanger that promises there is going to be a lot of stress because the things Toby has done in this world, they have consequences. You're not able to walk away from that because the angels want you. Unless they take you out of this world, and they haven't done that.

ALBERTO RIOS: He has personal consequences beyond the evil actions. He now has a love interest and a son.

ANNE RICE: Yes, a 10-year-old son he didn't know he had.

ALBERTO RIOS: So that clearly is going to be the complicating factor.

ANNE RICE: Right. Everything he is now thinking of in terms of covering up his crimes has to do with that son so he can somehow stay out of prison for that son.

ALBERTO RIOS: Well, I want to say thank you for speaking with us today, and I know it's clear that we have more to look forward to. Songs of the Seraphim. We've been talking with Anne Rice about her books, Angel Time and Of Love and Evil. I'm Alberto Rios for Books & Co., thank you for joining us today and we hope to see you again very soon with another good book.

Learn more about Anne Rice.
A green monster with a goofy grin holds a large toothbrush. Text: HealthySmileLearning.org Video Contest: How does your favorite monster brush its teeth?
Oct. 8

Digital Video Contest 2023

Hispanic Heritage Awards image
airs Sept. 29

Hispanic Heritage Awards

Tito Munoz conducting the Phoenix Symphony
aired Sept. 25

Opening Night: A Romantic Evening

Sports Fundamentals image

Athletic Coaching Essentials (ACE) Beginner Series

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch
with azpbs.org!

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: