The Call Of The Wild

After the moles of Duncton Wood and the riverside animals of The Willows In Winter, William Horwood is tackling something altogether more awesome in his latest series of novels The Wolves Of Time.

William Horwood can tell you precisely when his new novel, Journeys To The Heartland, first took root in his imagination. It was the moment when, as he was trekking high in the mountains of Scandanavia, he first encountered wolves.

"I'm normally quite an experienced walker," he explains, "but this time I misjudged how long it would take me to reach the road, and I had to camp for the night. And as I lay there, hungry and alone under the Northern Lights, I suddenly heard wolves howling nearby. I know enough about wolves to know that they wouldn't attack me, but my natural reaction should still have been fear. But as I sat there watching the Aurora Borealis, all my anxiety left me completely. It was as if the wolves were saying, 'You don't have to worry about anything.'"

This extraordinary and very personal encounter proved an inspriation to Horwood, and led him to research and write his spellbinding new novel. The first in a dramatic new trilogy entitled The Wolves Of Time, the book traces the adventures of some of Europe's last remaining wolves as they set out on a journey to Czechoslavakia's High Tetra mountains, the mythical heartland of wolfkind.

Horwood has always excelled at writing gripping and involving animal adventures--his Duncton Series has won him a legion of devoted fans--but this new trilogy is something of a departure even for him. Full of stirring action, compelling characters and engrossing animal mythology, the book can be read not just as superb escapist literature, but also as a powerful comment on our attitude to the environment.

"We in Europe," he explains, "are very good at telling everyone else to save their forests, but we've already spent the last 1,000 years destroying our own. Because of this, it's virtually impossible now to go anywhere in Europe and see the real, wooded landscape our ancestors would have seen."

For Horwood the wolves of Journeys To The Heartland have become more than just characters in a novel: "Wolves have traditionally been the personification of all we fear about nature, but they actually do a better job of looking after themselves in their own communities than we do in ours. I wanted readers to understand this, and to see that wolves are in many ways more worthy than man."

Already busy on the next book in the trilogy, Horwood is also hard at work on the second book in yet another animal trilogy, his sequel to Kenneth Grahame's The Wind In The Willows. Toad Triumphant, his follow-up to The Willows In Winter, is due later in the autumn; together with Journeys To The Heartland it should make 1995 something of an annus mirabilis for Horwood's massive army of fans.

This article appeared in Bookcase in 1995. It was put online by Suzy Jackson, and I have reproduced it here since her website disappeared.