Who is John Twelve Hawks? No one seems to know.

John Twelve Hawks’s first novel was published in July, 2005. The Traveler met with good reviews and generally positive press, but it wasn’t exactly a blockbuster. The book is to be the first volume in a series called The Fourth Realm Trilogy. Twelve Hawks’s second book, and the second book in the Fourth Realm series, was released in July, 2007. If anything, The Dark River has met with even better reviews than The Traveler.

A quote from Publishers Weekly about The Traveler:

Twelve Hawks’s much anticipated novel is powerful, mainstream fiction built on a foundation of cutting-edge technology laced with fantasy and the chilling specter of an all-too-possible social and political reality. The time is roughly the present, and the U.S. is part of the Vast Machine, a society overseen by the Tabula, a secret organization bent on establishing a perfectly controlled populace. Allied against the Tabula are the Travelers and their sword-carrying protectors, the Harlequins. The Travelers, now almost extinct, can project their spirit into other worlds where they receive wisdom to bring back to earth—wisdom that threatens the Tabula’s power. Maya, a reluctant Harlequin, finds herself compelled to protect two naïve Travelers, Michael and Gabriel Corrigan. Michael dabbles in shady real estate deals, while Gabriel prefers to live “off the Grid,” eschewing any documentation—credit cards, bank accounts—that the Vast Machine could use to track him. Because the Tabula has engineered a way to use the Travelers for its own purposes, Maya must not only keep the brothers alive, but out of the hands of these evil puppet-masters. She succeeds, but she also fails, and therein lies the tale. By the end of this exciting volume, the first in a trilogy, the stage is set for a world-rending clash between good and evil.

Reviews have compared Twelve Hawks’s stories and his style to the likes of Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code), Stephen King, Michael Crichton, and Tom Clancy.

With his most recent book, Twelve Hawks may have had to deal with the fact that the release of The Dark River came shortly before the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Most books released in July, 2007 had to cope with Deathly Hallows. They were bugs on the windshield of that particular publishing juggernaut.

Whatever the case was in July, The Dark River’s current Amazon ranking is 3,505, and it is the 26th best-selling book in its genre. Not too shabby.

According to Wikipedia’s entry about Twelve Hawks, he lives just like one of the characters in The Traveler — “off the grid.” No credit cards, bank account, perhaps no state-issued identification. The following is from the online encyclopedia’s entry about the writer:

Both John Twelve Hawks and his American publisher state that he has never met his editor and that he communicates using the Internet and an untraceable satellite phone, usually employing a voice scrambler. No photograph of Twelve Hawks has ever appeared and all biographical information about his background is based on four sources:

  • a 2005 article in USA Today

  • a 2005 interview by Rob Bedford in SFF World

  • a 2006 interview published in Germany in Titel Magazine (Der Spiegel)

  • a portion of a 2007 London Telegraph article about popular writers

Twelve Hawks’ initial biography on the Random House website was only one line: “John Twelve Hawks lives off the grid.” At some point in 2007, that line disappeared and was replaced with “John Twelve Hawks is the author of the New York Times bestseller, “The Traveler.”

The Wikipedia entry goes on to say that Twelve Hawks is not Native American. The writer “adopted” his name.

The Wikipedia entry links this interview with the writer, where he tells a (perhaps fictional?) bit of his backstory. To the question, “… What fiction inspired your writing?” Twelve Hawks answered:

During one period of my life, I lived with friends in a large run-down house next to a large university. I was sleeping on the floor in what had once been the maid’s room. My expenses were about $100 a month. Every morning I would go to the university library, “steal” a novel from the shelves, and read the entire book. The next day, I would replace the novel and take another one. I basically worked my way through the entire British and American canon of literature, although I encountered the books as an autodidactic [sic] and not as a student in a lecture hall.

The entire canon of British and American literature?

When did Twelve Hawks truly come into being?

In interviews the writer has said that the Twelve Hawks identity came to him during a particularly rough time in his life. He’s not been much more specific than that.

As an author with a book in the offing, John Twelve Hawks was first mentioned in the traditional media in the Spring of 2005. An article about Twelve Hawks and his then-upcoming book can be found here, courtesy of USA Today.

Some quotes from the article, selected to also give some of the back story on why Twelve Hawks’s first book received a good deal of attention:

“Twelve Hawks is a very mysterious fellow,” says Jason Kaufman, his editor at Doubleday who also edited Dan Brown’s mega-best seller The Da Vinci Code a few years ago.

“I’ll tell you what I can,” Kaufman adds. “We talk quite frequently, and I believe he always speaks with a satellite phone … and a satellite phone is virtually untraceable.”

[. . .]

[Twelve Hawks’s] agent, Joe Regal, won’t discuss financial arrangements. “But I’m not sending wire transfers to a bank in Dubai.”

Regal, however, had no trouble selling the book to Doubleday.

“It came at a time when I was absolutely craving something that felt different and unique,” Kaufman says. “I had been reading so many submissions and hadn’t found anything I really loved. And obviously, in the wake of The Da Vinci Code, I was just looking for something that would be genuinely exciting to work on.”

Joe Regal runs the Regal Literary Agency. The agency’s website:

http://www.regal-literary.com/.

One of Regal’s agents is Bess Reed.

“Regal Lit” was listed as the administrative contact for JohnTwelveHawks.com when that site was registered in March, 2005. The URL TwelveHawks.com was registered almost exactly one year before, on March 17, 2004, and Bess Reed was the contact.

Was that first “TwelveHawks” URL — not in use, by the way — created when Twelve Hawks’s book was greenlighted for publication? Or was it reserved when the idea for John Twelve Hawks first came into being?

All we really know from the info above is that John Twelve Hawks’s agent(s) were in contact with him over a year before his first book came out. Not a big revelation.

What else has the author said about himself?

Enough.

In this message board discussion about Twelve Hawks and just who he might be, a woman named Janet Rice posted some guesswork about the writer’s real identity. Others had suggested possibilities such as brilliant physicist Stephen Hawking, but Rice disagreed:

I don’t read much fantasy or many thrillers, so I don’t recognize many of the names mentioned. But I happened to read The Traveler in close proximity to Michael Cunningham’s Specimen Days, and developed the theory (illusion? delusion?) that Cunningham was Hawks, mostly from thematic commonalities. Social criticism, science fiction, a character who wants to disappear, reference to The Family (like The Brethren?), focus on a character learning to feel love, even use of the expression “off the grid” at one point. Yes, I know Cunningham is supposed to be great with language, and I know his book came out at about the same time. Still. Maybe similar ideas (like inventions) just crop up at the same time. –Or maybe an acclaimed author, like a college professor, might get off on writing under an assumed name.

A link was added to the quote above — follow it if you want more information about author Michael Cunningham.

Ms. Rice’s post prompted much discussion. Eventually she received what appear to be a reply from John Twelve Hawks:

Janet Rice, this really is John Hawks. If you want to contact me do it directly — simply write John Twelve Hawks c/o my agent Joe Regal at Regal Literary. They will forward the envelope to another address and so on until it eventually gets to me (this may take some time).

I don’t answer all letters, but I will write back to you. To verify ID, simply go to Ebay, search for “signed John Twelve Hawks” and compare my signature to those placed in the books currently being offered for sale.

[. . .]

No, I’m not a bestseller committee or a member of some cult. I’m simply an ordinary person who likes Spanish wine, drives a car that belongs in the rubbish bin and happens to have some strong feelings about the end of privacy in our modern society. If you read my Amazon short, HOW WE LIVE NOW, you’ll get a fairly accurate view of some of my ideas.

Janet Rice may have taken him up on the offer. Months after these posts, “regalliterary” posted a message to Janet stating that they had “been trying to forward you a letter from John Twelve Hawks, and it has been sent back to us twice. Please send us a new address and we’ll pass it along.”

The quote about wine from Mr. Twelve Hawks may seem a minor detail, but his reference to Spanish wine was quite specific — the sort of detail included by someone who truly knows wine.

References to Twelve Hawks liking his wine have come up before. Consider this quote from an article published in June, 2005 in the Ventura County Star (found in archives not available online without a subscription or paid service):

[Agent Joe] Regal [. . .] said he’s been able to glean that Twelve Hawks may be about 50 years old, enjoys wine and is a Radiohead fan…

John Twelve Hawks may be in his fifties, and he likes his wine. From a sidebar on the USA Today article, one could also learn that Twelve Hawks “lives in New York, Los Angeles and London,” and that he “is a first-time author, not an established author who is writing under a pseudonym.”

An interview with Twelve Hawks at BookBrowse.com, revealed some other tidbits. In the following quote, Twelve Hawks referenced one of the main characters in his books, Maya. The interviewer said, “The scenes of violence in the book also seem very real — not Hollywood fantasies.” Twelve Hawks responded:

I studied martial arts for several years and have fought both in tournaments and on the street. Maya and the other Harlequins have been trained since childhood to fight, but they’re not super human; they can be hurt or killed. Readers have told me that they’ve found the scenes of violence in The Traveler to be incredibly exciting because they’re not sure what’s going to happen. This duplicates my own experience creating the book. Every time I began to write a scene that involved fighting I had no idea if my characters were going to survive.

At the risk of being redundant, we know now that Twelve Hawks:

* may be in his 50s;

* is a knowledgeable wine lover;

* may have lived in LA, NYC, and London. Twelve Hawks may still have residence in all three locations;

* is a first time author. Nothing about him being a first-time writer.

Conjecture based in part on research that cannot yet be made public suggests that the real man behind John Twelve Hawks has done a considerable amount of professional writing prior to the The Traveler. Screen writing. Therefore it might make sense that a number of reviews for The Traveler contain passages like the following, which was found here: “John Twelve Hawks knows how write chase scenes that are suspenseful and cinematic.” Emphasis added.

This screenwriter, sometimes referred to in the business as a real “hitmaker,” has been involved in creating numerous Hollywood hits since 1981.

This man has numerous lead writer credits on movies with martial arts themes. One of those movies was so popular that it has become a true pop culture touchstone. He has also been credited in connection with numerous action movies, not to mention at least one particularly bizarre and baroque sci-fi/action movie made in the late ’90s.

The screen writer in question is in his late 50s, lives in New York and works a great deal with a collaborator based in the European Union.

The man who may very well be the mysterious John Twelve Hawks also happens to own a vineyard located in Sonoma, California. The vineyard burned in 1996, but was apparently not a 100% loss.

If this “hitmaker” is John Twelve Hawks, he is a prolific and gifted writer. However, given a few of the movies this man has on his résumé, it is no surprise that he might want to establish an entirely separate identity to write books. Not because the movies were bad, but perhaps because he wanted to create an independent identity, one not freighted with expectations from having scripted “hit” movies.

John Twelve Hawks may not be the screen writer in question. They share an age range, interests in the martial arts and action movies, locations where they’ve lived, and wine. It could be that John Twelve Hawks is acquainted with the screenwriter and has dropped hints to throw anyone trying to sleuth his identity off the trail.

Because disclosing one connection made between the unnamed screenwriter and John Twelve Hawks would make it very easy to find out the screenwriter’s name, that particular connection is not being revealed. Because the evidence of parallels between the men is only circumstantial at the moment, the screenwriter is not being named.

John Twelve Hawks, in at least one interview, seemed disparaging of those who were seeking his real identity. If the mystery man truly is critical of those trying to sleuth him out, he may have only himself to blame. Whoever he is, he seems to have a gift for creating intrigue.

(This is the Reader’s Digest version of a blog entry first posted at Random Lunatic News.)

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