Spartansburg, S.C. The Rev. Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, co-authors of the multimillion-selling "Left Behind" novels, have begun a brief tour of the South, home to many of their biggest supporters.
About 800 packed the Christian Supply Inc. store Tuesday to pick up signed copies of "Glorious Appearing," the newly released 12th and final installment of the evangelical series.
Tuesday's stop was the first in a 12-city tour of the South, where 44 percent of "Left Behind" readers live, publicist Beverly Rykerd said.
First published in 1995, the "Left Behind" books originally were sold in Christian book stores, but sales eventually extended to Barnes & Noble and other mainstream retailers. The previous 11 "Left Behind" books have sold 40 million copies, and "Glorious Appearing" has about 2 million copies in print.
The series follows the most literal possible reading of Bible prophecies, and the novels weave complex apocalyptic sequences from Revelations and other books of the Bible.
"The books make you realize you don't want to be 'left behind' after you see what these people had to go through," said Wanda White, a fan who attended the reading.
Tiffany Hughes has read all 11 "Left Behind" books and was in line Tuesday to get the final installment signed. "The book of Revelations is very cryptic," she said. "They have taken that book and put it in layman's terms, and made it easy to understand."
The authors thanked the crowd, which had fans of all ages. "Our ultimate dream has been fulfilled abundantly," said LaHaye, 77, who has been writing and preaching for decades.
In the 1980s, LaHaye decided that a fictional series about the end of time would be an ideal way to spread his teachings. He couldn't write fiction so he eventually collaborated with Jenkins, a 54-year-old religious novelist.
LaHaye is a creationist and religious-right stalwart who opposes gay rights and abortion and defends Roy Moore, the Alabama chief justice ousted for refusing a federal order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from his courthouse. He also once referred to Catholicism as a "false religion."
Some Roman Catholics and conservative Protestants have charged that the "Left Behind" novels are anti-Catholic because the scenario includes a future pope who establishes a false religion linked with the Antichrist. Critics also say that apocalyptic and poetic writings have been interpreted as literal forecasts rather than as symbolic messages to the church.
Jenkins said that LaHaye believes "we should treat the Bible literally where we can. For people who disagree with us, we say, 'Write your own books.' We're just glad we can live in a country where we can compete in a marketplace of ideas."
While "Glorious Appearing" is the final book in the series, the authors plan to write a prequel that will introduce characters sent to the Rapture before the first book began, and a sequel that will tell the story of the final judgment of Satan after Jesus' 1000-year reign on Earth.