02/13/1995 at 01:00 AM EST
THE DOCTOR IS IN
THERE IS MUCH THAT IS STRIKING about 37-year-old writer Tim Willocks—not just his copper-colored hair, his powdery white complexion or the scorpion tattooed on his left shoulder. Consider that Willocks's Green River Rising was a best-seller in Britain when published last year and that—recently released in the United States—the book has already earned close to $1 million, including movie-rights sales. And, along with this sudden fortune, Willocks gained notoriety after he was briefly linked with none other than Madonna
, with whom he says, he is "still friendly."
Humble beginnings are one thing the two had in common. Willocks, a bricklayer's son, grew up Stalybridge, a mill town near Manchester, and chose medicine as a career, he says, because, "it was the only course that offered total study of being human." He worked as a psychiatric specialist after earning a medical degree in 1983 from London's University College and in the meantime drifted in and out of a childless two-year marriage. Always a lover of fiction, he wrote his first novel, Bad City Blues (1991), during his spare time. "I was not disillusioned with medicine, I was simply more illusioned with writing," says Willocks. The inspiration for Green River came from an article he read in an American medical journal about a psychiatrist's work with prison guards.
These days, Willocks's own work involves seeing patients two days a week at a London methadone clinic and working on the Green River screenplay. He denies a rumor that Madonna
wants a role in the movie as the sole woman behind bars with 2,800 men, but he adds, "She is one of many great actresses who could play the part."