"I suppose it would be true to say I'm fascinated by violence. I always have been. It's so present in the life of the human race... I suspect the base line for the human race is to be suspicious, paranoid and untrusting and therefore all of us are potentially violent.” — Tim Willocks from an interview in 2006
“Let the morrow bring on what it would, he thought, for it didn't exist. Only now could lay any claim to forever...”
“He who has not known war has not known God.”
— Quotes from The Religion by Tim Willocks
Author and filmmaker, Tim Willocks, was born on this date in 1957. Our coverage of his fiction has been scanty on the DMR Blog thus far. I’ll see if I can get things caught up a bit.
Dr. Timothy Willocks was born in Cheshire, England, to a working-class family. He graduated from the University College Hospital Medical School, whereupon he began practicing medicine. He did some time as an intern in a trauma ward before specializing in the treatment of drug addiction. Tim eventually grew tired of the stress and hassles involved with practicing medicine and turned to writing.
Willocks’ first published novel was the noir thriller, Bad City Blues. His next novel, Green River Rising, was optioned by Hollywood. As a result, he spent the next eight years in SoCal, writing scripts and producing films. Along the way, he ended up working with the likes of Steven Spielberg and Dennis Hopper. Meanwhile, he was still writing novels on the side. Tim finally decided to get off the Hollyweird carousel and devote all of his time to writing. As he said in 2006, “I love writing screenplays. I just got fed up on them not seeing the light of day."
Tim spent the subsequent four years researching and writing his next novel, The Religion. While his previous novels owed more to his admiration for Hammett, Chandler and Spillane, The Religion let Willocks dig into his love for the works of Robert E. Howard, William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe.
Based on the very real Great Siege of Malta in 1565, The Religion is an epic historical adventure unlike anything written before. Bursting at the seams with rivers of blood, byzantine intrigue and volcanic passions, The Religion introduced Mattias Tannhauser to the literary world. An ex-janissary, mercenary, arms merchant and smuggler, Tannhauser sails to Malta to conduct some business. Once there, he gets dragged into the defense of the island. What follows is as epic as epic gets.
It took awhile for word of The Religion to reach the shores frequented by Sword and Sorcery aficionados. Jim Cornelius—whose opinions I respect—may have been the first guy in our rough-hewn crew of literary buds to tout Willocks’ book to the rest of us. I read it—and loved it—not long after, thanks to a fortuitous stop at Dollar General. Soon, I learned that other Men of Good Taste were fans—John Maddox Roberts, Morgan Holmes, Keith Taylor, John C. Hocking, Scott Oden, Paul McNamee, Fletcher Vredenburgh—all were dragged in by this Last Stand to Top All Last Stands and its Conanic protagonist. Willocks had trapped lightning in a bottle.
Stan Wagenaar was another S&S fan who found The Religion and never looked back. For those who don’t know Stan, he’s a voracious reader of manly adventure fiction. A die-hard AC/DC fan, he likes his coffee black and his whiskey straight. A very no-nonsense guy. Keep that in mind when you read this comment from Stan circa 2016:
“The Religion is possibly the best novel I have read in the past 20 years. (…) This is a book written by a man, for men. Literary snobs need not apply. Blood, guts, testosterone and titties; but so well written. Some images were so clear and beautiful, yet drenched in gore and machismo. The tale of the first red rose, as told by Tannhauser to Carla was heartbreakingly beautiful. Damn, I can’t believe I said that!”
Wagenaar brings up a very good point. Willocks serves up absolutely bone-crunching violence while still crafting some of the most poetic prose of any living author. He delivers the guns and the roses, the silk and the steel. Somehow, Willocks makes it all work. Check out this review from Fletcher Vredenburgh.
The second Tannhauser novel, The Twelve Children of Paris, was unleashed in 2013. Despite the title, this novel ain’t about Tannhauser taking some kids on a tour of the cultural wonders of the City of Lights. Set during the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, Tannhauser must fight his way out of Paris. In roughly twenty-four hours, he kills almost one hundred and fifty people. Yeah, and it’s pretty believable, actually. Mattias is that much of a badass. A dire wolf ravening his way through a massive flock of crazed sheep. The novel is an absolute adrenaline rush with no let-up. Fletcher Vredenburgh has an excellent review here.
In between the two Tannhauser novels, Willocks wrote Doglands. I haven’t read it yet, but the reviews are quite positive. It sounds like a Watership Down for dog-lovers—but with more violence, of course. I’ll have to check it out.
In 2018, Willocks released Memo From Turner out into the world. Once again, the reviews warn that the squeamish and tender-hearted had best leave this novel alone. It was nominated for the prestigious Steel Dagger award, which is presented by the Crime Writers Association. Tim was narrowly beaten by Holly Watt and her novel, To the Lions. You can read about the award here and an interview with Willocks regarding his nomination is here.
Happy birthday, Mr. Willocks. I can’t wait until the third Tannhauser novel is published!