Vincent Davis III and ‘Bodies in the Tiber’ (Part 1)

John FarrellBy John Farrell11 Minutes

John Farrell: Tell me a little bit about Bodies in the Tiber as it plays individually and as part of the bigger series.

Vincent Davis III: It is the third in the series and it picks up with the protagonist who has been away fighting in some of Rome’s toughest wars. He’s been sent on some very specific missions in the books previously. He was involved in several major defeats and several major victories.

He’s come back. He’s got battle fatigue. What some might call today shades of PTSD. His general, a man named Gaius Marius, who was actually uncle to Julius Caesar, essentially has some big plans. He’s already won all of his military glory and now he wants the political power. He brings in one of his top lieutenants, Sertorius, as a Senator. Sertorius, just home from the battlefield, quickly finds himself part of political coups and he witnesses the bribery, the greed, the lust for power, and the violence that’s partial of that process.

JF: What is the timeline of the series and this book in particular?

Vincent: It starts in 107 BC and when it ends, it will be the 70’s BC. Right now, this one ends in 99 BC.

JF: How rooted in historical accuracy is this book or is it more so historical fiction?

Vincent: Everything within the books is historically accurate to the best of my ability. Now there’s certain things, such as Quintus Sertorius, the main character. We know a lot about his life, but there’s also been a lot buried and lost to the sands of times either on purpose or by his enemies. But everything that we know for the most part I’ve maintained the context and the message of the real history. I’ve changed facts here and there or dates here and there to fit the broader narrative. For the most part, I really try to focus on getting everything the way it is in history.

Who Is This Sertorius Guy You Speak Of?

JF: What about this time period spoke to you that made you want to write, not only one book, but several books about it?

Vincent: Sertorius really grasped me from a very young age. I read Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans in high school and as soon as I heard about this Sertorius guy I was like, “Absolutely, it’s done.”

I feel like the modern man in America doesn’t have a whole lot of really strong role models. The role models that are presented by society as the typical man are really, in some ways, weak. I wanted to find someone that I could look up to that was strong in character, courageous, selfless, willing to sacrifice. That kind of thing.

There wasn’t a whole lot of places to find that quality. Certainly, there is throughout history, but I found in Sertorius, a man who lived in a time much like our own, where greed and excess and selfishness are bounding and yet he stands in opposition to that. So, I found, in Sertorius, kind of a role model for how to chart the waters and stand firm in the face of, you could say evil, or you could say opposition or whatever it is. It’s not just one history lesson.

He endured the kind of combat that it’s hard to even fathom. His entire life is a story of perseverance, endurance, and sacrifice. Over and over again, as I read the story I thought, “This story needs to be told in a fresh, invigorating way,” because most people, in general, do not know about him at all. They know about Julius Caesar, but they don’t know about him.

JF: What was the inspiration behind diving into this one character in particular?

Vincent: Outside of history majors, I doubt anyone would really recognize the name at face value. Part of it was altruistic. I want this guy’s story to be told. I almost felt I owed it to him. I discovered his story, and it impacted me in such a way that I feel that I owe it to this man, who it’s hard to imagine him as a real person 2,000 something years ago. But he was a real person. I want his story to be told because it never was. It was essentially buried by his political enemies after his death.

It was also exciting to be able to chart new waters. There’s so many crazy wars and political turns and revolutions happening during his life, but really all of the main movies and books start right after with Julius Caesar, where Julius Caesar is just being born in my books. Julius Caesar’s father is actually a player throughout the series.

It was uncharted territory, so I got to write about some times and some figures, that maybe were mentioned elsewhere, but had not actually been delved into. I do plan on moving into Caesar and Brutus and Mark Antony in the future and I still want to tell it from a unique point of view.

JF: Would those be part of the same series, or would those be separate series?

Vincent: It would probably be another series, but it would be an immediate continuation. When this series ends, it’s right where that one would pick up. I want there to be a lot of threads interwoven, so it’s almost like I’m creating this universe where all of my characters within my various series are interacting.

I plan on doing a lot of Roman Republic. I think its’s so valuable for people to learn. So many lessons that we can take away from it for today’s day and age.

The Biblical Connections and Today’s Applications

JF: What kind of biblical connections do you find between this book in particular and in the series overall?

Vincent: I remember a particular verse. The message of it was that essentially, if you want sin, if you want this, then I’ll give it to you. And you can have so much of it that it will come out of your nose and it will make you sick. And I think that is something that we see both in America where we find ourselves today and in ancient Rome – the time that I’m writing about. Everything is about personal ambition and personal satisfaction.

The ultimate goal is just to make the best of yourself in terms of achieving the most happiness or the most wealth or the best job. Certainly, there’s something intrinsically wrong with that, but should that goal be the ultimate good? Probably not. There might be something bigger than the self-unit. Maybe it’s the family, maybe it’s the community, maybe it’s the church, maybe it’s the nation.

People have different standards of course, but that’s something that we see embodied in the late Republic, when they lost a sense of collective identity. They essentially turned to the individual and focused on the individual. We saw essentially the entire fabric of the Republic breakdown. I think that it’s inevitable that the same happens to us if it’s not already happening. I’m not talking about political prophecy of doom. It’s just throughout history when a nation loses its collective identity, what unites us all, it’s difficult to chart the difficult waters, which are surely ahead as they always are in any nation.

It was interesting that a couple days after the storming of the Capitol there was a bunch of articles about the main event that happened in my book Bodies in the Tiber. It’s interesting because at the climax toward the end of the book, they do storm the capital, the political revolutionaries, and there were some parallels there.

Why weren’t we looking at this in advance? It does us no good to say those things were similar. It’s about what we’re doing in advance to make sure that our nation is united and together so that there isn’t civil strife. Looking at it and using the examples because our forefathers, the founding fathers specifically, they constantly referenced the classics. And there’s a reason. We see so much of the human condition on display that we are not referencing history. We think that in our industrialized, technologically advanced age that none of that’s relevant anymore.