Christian fiction readers likely know him best as the co-writer of the blockbuster Left Behind series, co-authored with Jerry B. Jenkins. The popular books launched a veritable industry unto itself, including novels, kids books, DVDs, a videogame, a soundtrack album and comic books.
"The Tim LaHaye I got to know had a pastor's heart and lived to share his faith," Jenkins says. "He listened to and cared about everyone, regardless of age, gender or social standing. If Tim was missing from the autograph table or the green room of a network television show, he was likely in a corner praying with someone he'd just met — from a reader to a part-time bookstore stock clerk to a TV network anchorman."
Dr. LaHaye wrote or co-wrote more than 60 books — most of them non-fiction titles — with more than 14 million copies in print in as many as 32 languages. Topics he explored included family life, temperaments, the biblical view of sex and marriage, Bible prophecy and secular humanism.
He also co-wrote three other series of novels: The End series with Craig Parshall, the Babylon Rising series with Greg Dinallo, and The Jesus Chronicles with Jenkins. However, the Left Behind brand became a phenomenon, credited as the all-time bestselling Christian fiction series. The apocalyptic thrillers speculate how certain prophecies in the Bible might play out if millions of Christian were to suddenly disappear.
In a 1998 profile, LaHaye told People magazine that the idea for the original novel came to him while he was sitting on an airplane watching the pilots. “I’d think to myself, 'What if the Rapture occurred on an airplane?’”
It took him three years to find a co-writer, when a literary agent introduced him to the prolific Jenkins, who at that time had already written more than 100 books. For their collaboration, LaHaye sent outlines to his co-writer, who then fleshed them out into a novel.
Launching in 1995 with Left Behind: A Novel of the Last Days, the series went on to break publishing records. There were 16 volumes in the core series, with 80 million copies in print. The books appeared on the best-seller lists of The New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, and Christian Booksellers Association.