Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - Vampire author Rice gives lift to pastor's 'Descent'

Vampire author Rice gives lift to pastor's 'Descent'

By Carol Memmott, USA TODAY

She is a best-selling author known for novels about vampires. He is a minister who says he has seen and talked with angels. Anne Rice and Howard Storm have never met, yet they are working together to promote Storm's book, My Descent Into Death: A Second Chance at Life (Doubleday, $14.95).

Anne Rice sees nothing strange about her collaboration with Howard Storm: 'Vampires and angels are very similar,' she says.

Rice sees nothing strange about their collaboration. 'Vampires and angels are very similar,' she says. 'My discussion of vampires has always presented them as sort of the elegant inverse of angels.'

Rice says she, like Storm, was a 'fashionable atheist' for many years. She re-embraced her Roman Catholic faith in 1998. He got religion after excruciating stomach pain landed him in a Paris hospital for emergency surgery in 1985.

While in the hospital, Storm says, he had a near-death experience that didn't fit the stereotypical version — the one in which people experience a bright light and the presence of love. Instead, Storm says he was viciously attacked by creatures he sensed were once human. During those attacks, he says, he heard a voice telling him to pray. Storm knew no prayers but began murmuring lines from the 23rd Psalm, the Pledge of Allegiance and The Star-Spangled Banner. Then, he says, he was in the presence of Jesus and angels.

Through his ministry in Cincinnati, TV appearances and speaking engagements, Storm shares his experience with skeptics and believers. He also wrote a book. A British publisher printed a limited number of My Descent Into Death, not readily available in the USA. (Related excerpt: Read a preview of My Descent Into Death)

Rice read Descent, saw Storm on TV and, when he asked for help in finding an American publisher, she obliged — and even wrote the foreword for the new edition, now in bookstores. The process moved quickly, she says, "as though angels were kicking open doors. ... I'll do anything to help get his book to the public, because he has something important to give people."

And about those skeptics? Storm encounters his share. "I'm called 'new agey' by the Christians, and the non-Christians call me a Christian fanatic." He puts up with the abuse, he says, because "like the Blues Brothers, I feel like I'm on a mission from God."

Rice and Storm keep in touch by e-mail but have never spoken or met. But they will appear together on NBC's Today in New York on March 15.

"People say 'What are you doing with Anne Rice? She's a vampire person, and you're a Jesus guy,' " Storm says.

"I tell them Anne and I are on the same wavelength."

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