THE WRITE STUFF
Once described as a cross between Heironymous Bosch and Stephen King, Tim Willocks has just published his maddest and baddest thriller Blood Stained Kings. Ann Donald gets the lowdown.
liarne Timothy Willocks
Route to becoming a writer When I was a boy l used to write war stories and westerns — i still have sackfuls of exercise books full of them. Then I didn't write for about fifteen years because I was studying. until my first book Bud City Blues.
Previous Jobs l‘ve worked as a doctor since I983 in everything from geriatrics to accident and emergency and surgery. then general psychiatry. in the last few years I‘ve worked at a detox clinic for alcohol and substance abuse.
Daily Routine It‘s pretty erratic really. On a good writing day I'll get up early in the morning and work right through to the early hours. Most evenings i go to my karate class and one or two days a week I'm at the clinic or on call overnight.
Inﬂuences Sam Peckirrpah and Sergio Leone were tremendous inﬂuences as were Mickey Spillane and Joseph Conrad. I'd also say Enid Blyton has been incredibly inﬂuential. She writes a cracking story and i read all her books between the ages of six and eight. Ambition To write better and more diverse books and to pass a few dan grades at karate as I‘ve been on the first level for twelve years now.
Fears When you first start as a doctor the knowledge that you have the responsibility ofa living person in your hands and anything can go wrong is frightening. Also when you have to go into a waiting room and tell someone their loved one has just died is awful. I'd rather be set upon by six hooligans than do that.
Income 1 don‘t know exactly but I can tell you how much I got from my last book. including all foreign n'ghts — $980,000. After agents' fees and the tax people I put 40 per cent of that in the bank.
Blood Stained K ings by Tim Willocks is published by Jamil/tun Cape (I! f l 4. 99. His last nm'el (;r('t”1 River Rising is being made into (iii/m.
nam— MAKING HISTORY
I Hannibal Ross Leckie (Canongatc £l~l.99) Ross Leckic‘s first novel is the epic ‘autobiography‘ ofthc 3rd century military genius Hannibal who. at eighteen. assumes command of the Carthaginian army with a view to breaking the Roman yoke.
ln mid-winter. the invincible Hannibal leads his army of mercenaries and elephants over the Alps. invades Italy and inﬂicts upon the Romans :1 series
of crippling defeats.
I First person and fast-paced. the
: narrative has a picaresque. comic book I feel about it but the short staccato
l sentences can be a trial to read and the 5 writing can be startlingly sloppy: ‘ln
the dark. the crosses were eerie. At first
light the next morning they were not that.‘
i If one can overlook the stylistics. this might be an enjoyable romp for those
; who appreciated I Claudius and other i novels of its ilk. even if it's not in the same class. It would have been a lot more convincing had it been studded with more concrete details and less summary. (Paul Houghton)
l Pryor Convictions And Other Lite Sentences Richard Pryor with Todd Gold (Heinernarm £16.99) The first clue to the angle taken by comedian Richard Pryor on the story of his life comes right at the beginning of the book. among the acknowledgements — ‘my lawyers. doctors. and accountants. and my personal therapists‘. Financial success is inseparable from physical pain in a wild cycle of causeand effect. Pryor takes us through his early childhood and first awareness of racial prejudice: through his shift in comic style from Bill Cosby inoffensivcness to the radical ‘nigger‘ whose abrasive monologues had an unrelenting Black- with-a-capital-B perspective. Through years of ‘chasing pussy'. taking drugs.
making money. beating wives. becoming a film superstar. Through a heart attack. quadruple bypass surgery. a suicide attempt that ended with him suffering third degree burns on halfof his body. and his ongoing battle with multiple sclerosis — ‘God's way of telling me to slow down . . . sniffthc ﬂowers rather than the coke.‘
Straight autobiographical sections are interrupted by snippets from his stage routines. showing how life developed into material. but the two are so interdependent that each is as funny and as revealing as the other. Pryor insists that comedy isn‘t telling jokes. it‘s telling the truth. and that’s what his . book is: raw truth about a man who knows he‘s self-destructive to himself i and a bastard to others. This isn't self- } pity or an apology or a macho boast —
; it'sjust the way it is. (Alan Morrison)
I Under My Skin Doris Lessrng (Flamingo £7.99) Volume one of the remarkable. prolific and rnultH‘aceted author’s autobiography. Under My Skin provides many clues as to the source of her talents. Born in Iran and raised on a Zimbabwean farm. we follow her childhood observations. adolescent realisations and on into adulthood. ending in I949 with her first novel and expedition to England.
I Vinland George M ackay Brown (Flamingo £5.99) First published in I992. this is the fourth novel from the Booker shortlisted author. Set in the Dark Ages. as ()rkney shed its Viking past to embrace a Christian future. Vin/mid documents uncertain times through the eyes of a young boy. Possessing fairy-tale qualities guaranteed to evoke childhood literary awe. this is splendid.
I It All Adds Up Saul Bellow (Penguin £6.99) The debut work of non-fiction for the Nobel and Pulitzer prize-winning American author. these essays represent a tnelting pot of topics: culture. politics. profiles. personal observation and beyond. Bellow proves a consistently capable. if occasionally undynamic essayist. most entertaining when in anecdotal mood.
I In Pharaoh’s Army Tobias Wolff (Picador £5.99) The sequel to This Boy's Life. subsequently a film. this follows Wolff’s time in the US Army. Having trained as a paratrooper. he volunteered for the Special Services before Vietnam. where he found himself in the Mekong delta. disillusioned and disappointed by his preconceptions of war. Humorous. moving. informative: an immediate read. (Susan Mackenzie)
Sultan of swinge
Writing his autobiography was one vice Gore Vidal found impossible to resist. David Harris discovers why. ’
It was guaranteed to be a perfect
marriage of author and subject: a crack literary essayist and acute political
observer surveying the life and times of 5 a prolific novelist and screenwriter who i once stood for Congress. Gore Vidal on
The autobiography he vowed never to write. I’ulimpsesl is a brilliant. barbed patchwork of memories covering his first 40 years in the high society of authors. actors and statesmen.
Growing up in Washington. Vidal chose literature above ‘thc family business‘ of politics. writing the wartime novel Wil/irr'urr' while still in his teens. The choice was a difficult one and he continues to watch over the White House. his increasingly radical analysis making him the here noire of right-wing ranters like Rush Limbaugh. who last year declared: ‘Thc age of Lenin and Gore Vidal is over.‘
Equally familiar with Hollywood Heights and Capitol Hill. he went on to write plays and film scripts such as The Left-Handed Gun and The Best Man. The supporting cast here reads like a
. roll-call of postwar American culture:
Gore Vidal: crack literary essayist and acute political observer
Tennessee Williams and Paul Bowles. Norman Mailer and Anais Nin. Paul Newman and Brando. the Beats and the Kcnnedys. Sexually rapacious. he includes a blow-by-blow account of the night he and Kerouac spent in the
Chelsea Hotel — ‘classic trade meets ' classic trade‘. But alongside the droll
stories and revelations. there are tender
. personal reminiscences. of his blind
grandfather. Senator T. P. Gore. and of his one genuine love. a schoolfriend killed at Iwo Jirna.
The ﬂow of anecdotes and asides is constant. He is like an emperor laconically condemning combatants in the Colosseum — no one is spared his waspish wit. from Bobby Kennedy (‘lt
has been reported that the two men he most hated were Jimmy Hoffa and me') to the diminutive Truman Capote ('1 saw him only once again. in I968. when. without my glasses. l mistook him for a small ottoman. and sat on him').
Some targets have tried to fight back. When the gladiatorial Mailer hurled a glass at him. the Sultan ofSwinge responded coolly: ‘Once again. words failed Norman Mailer.‘ Judging by this candid and absorbing book. not once in his life has Gore Vidal experienced such a failing.
Pulimpsesi: A Memoir by Gore Vidal is published by Andre Deutst'h a! £20.
QU'l'te l.is12()()cl-3 Nov I995