Gemmell’s Drenai series has new covers

Orbit have re-released 6 of David Gemmell’s Drenai books with brand new cover art.

You can read the press release here on the Orbit website.

A quote from that press release,

To celebrate Gemmell’s legacy, we’ve reissued the classic Drenai novels that orginally earned him his reputation as a master storyteller. All six novels have gorgeous new covers courtesy of our designer Sean Garrehy and the talented illustrator Tim Byrne, who together have perfectly captured the grittiness of Gemmell’s books. In addition, two of the biggest names in modern fantasy – Brent Weeks and Joe Abercrombie – have given their seals of approval.

I think the covers look fantastic and reflect the gritty realism that David brought to all of his work.  If you’ve never read David Gemmell before, then check out my post on why you should.  If you have read Gemmell and are looking for something similar, check out this brief list.

David Gemmell’s Legend

David GemmellIt’s been five years and a couple of months since David Gemmell tragically died, and a great storyteller was taken from us.  His final two books were published posthumously, with Fall of Kings being completed by his widow, Stella.  Even now writing these words isn’t easy; I was lucky enough to consider David a friend, and to spend time in his and Stella’s company.

I haven’t read any of David’s books since Fall of Kings, in fact I’ve read very little since completing Fall of Kings, and anything I have read has been distinctly not heroic fantasy.  I don’t think I’ve been avoiding it intentionally, but there’s definitely a small part of my reading soul that doesn’t want to accept David is gone and doesn’t want to move on.

I read a huge amount of fantasy literature in the late 80’s and throughout the 90’s but eventually I struggled to find anything fresh and enjoyable, with the sole exception of David Gemmell’s work.  His books were always entertaining, always enjoyable, and always emotional.  People can discuss style and prose as much as they want, but in his heart, David was a storyteller and that shines through in everything he wrote.  His ability to engage you, to show you the hearts of the people in his stories, to embroil you in their lives and their emotions is unparalleled in modern fantasy literature.  I struggled to find that engagement anywhere else in the genre, and although I’m sure it exists, not finding it left me jaded and put me off fantasy fiction for a long time.

While helping Grete sort out the book collection and get them all onto Good Reads, we went through all my David Gemmell books and it was the first time in a long time that I’d seen them all lined up.  I resolved to start reading them again, and there’s no other place, no better place to start, than Legend.

I picked it up last night, and put it down a hundred pages in and a couple of hours later.  It’s still as good as I remember, instantly engaging and enjoyable.  I hadn’t realised, or had forgotten, just how much of the world Druss inhabits is described in the first few chapters, and how many of the later books are based on short throw-away lines or character names in Legend.  David’s style is just so easy to read, and that’s because it’s like being there with him, listening to him tell you the story.

Legend is about honour, courage, fear, duty, age and faith.

It is as poignant and as relevant now as it was when he wrote it.

I would have sat in the darkness and listened to David tell stories to hold back the night, without that chance, I’ll re-read all his books and share my life with him again.

Recommendations: David Gemmell

David Gemmell was pretty unique as an author, and it’s not easy to find good quality books that are similar to his.  However, there are authors which write good quality stuff which share some aspects of David’s books, so if you enjoyed Gemmell you might well enjoy the following authors / books.

James Barclay

James’ Raven series share their action packed nature with Gemmell’s work.  They’re quick paced with plenty of combat played out by interesting characters.  James can be found here, and you can read plenty of information about the Raven books by starting here (and scrolling up!)

Conn Iggulden

If you liked the historical fantasy side of David’s work, you should check out Conn’s historical fantasy books.  At the time of writing they are his Emperor Series and Conqueror Series.  You can check out information about the books on Conn’s website (and specifically the first Emperor and first Conqueror books).

Stan Nicholls

Stan’s has written one series and is working on a second series of books about a fighting band of Orcs.  While they have a more obvious fantasy slant than David Gemmell’s work, they are also gritty, fast paced and action packed, with plenty of humour to break up the combat.  You would do well to take a look at them.  You can find Stan’s site here.

If you have any other authors or books you feel would be enjoyed by people who loved David Gemmell, feel free to comment on this article with your recommendations.

The David Gemmell Legend Award For Fantasy – 2010

Stan Nicholls just sent over this press release, for next years (2010) David Gemmell Legend Award for Fantasy.

New Award Categories

When we established The David Gemmell Legend Award For Fantasy it was with the intention of subsequently introducing further award categories to cover other aspects of the fantasy genre. We are now pleased to announce two new, additional awards, to be presented at next year’s ceremony. They are –

The David Gemmell Morningstar Award for Best Newcomer


The David Gemmell Ravenheart Award for Best Fantasy Cover Art

The Morningstar Award will give recognition to emerging talent in the field of fantasy fiction. As David Gemmell always took a keen interest in new writers, and helped many onto the path to publication, we regard this as an appropriate category to add, and one we feel sure David would have approved.

The Ravenheart Award will honour the best fantasy book cover art. The importance of fantasy cover art deserves admiration, as do the artists who produce it, yet there is no major UK award acknowledging this. The Ravenheart Award will fulfil that role.

Like the Legend Award, the winners of these new awards, for best debut author and best cover/artist, will be decided by popular vote. The first Legend Award, for best fantasy novel of the year, presented at a ceremony in London in June of this year, garnered an incredible 11,000 votes from around the world. We are confident that the Morningstar and Ravenheart awards, which are being created with the full approval of the Gemmell family, will be greeted with no less enthusiasm.

Details of the process whereby these new awards will be administered can be found on our website.

Our aim is to establish, over time, a set of awards covering all aspects of the fantasy genre. Launching this pair of new awards takes us a step nearer to that objective.

The 2010 David Gemmell Awards ceremony will again be held at The Magic Circle headquarters in London, on Friday 18th June.

Please feel free to contact either of us if more information is needed.

Stan Nicholls (Chair)

Deborah Miller (Awards Administrator)

Why you should read – David Gemmell

David Gemmell wrote tales about flawed heroes.  He wrote them in settings which are fantastical in nature, but generally low in magic and high in spiritualism.  However, the settings are secondary to the characters, and it is those characters and their nature that drive the underlying narrative in David’s books.

It could be argued that the range of characters in a David Gemmell book are limited and that the same themes crop up again and again, and I don’t disagree in principal.  I just don’t think this is a negative aspect of his work, but simply an aspect of his work.  David revisited the same themes with different characters, different viewpoints and sometimes different results.  He often looked at themes of redemption, the nature of evil, growing old, true heroism, loyalty and honour.

There is also no denying that David’s prose is simple and his style is sometimes accused of being ‘macho’.  However, the other side of those coins provide us with a fast paced story which never gets bogged down in its own style, and an easy to read prose which delivers a raw emotional punch.

So why should you read David Gemmell?

His tales evoke deep emotional responses.  You are drawn in to the story through the realistic and flawed characters, and once there you are pushed along by an emotional and moving story towards an often bitter sweet climax.

His stories are full of humour, but not humour delivered in a comic manner, rather humour drawn from the reality of life, the situation and David’s thorough appreciation of people and their motivations.

The books are both personal and epic in nature.  It’s difficult to expand on that comment in a reasonably short number of words, but I will try.  While the story might focus on a single person or small group of people and their emotional and heroic attempts to stave off some great evil, you have no choice by to find yourself questioning the very nature of heroism, good, evil, redemption, honour and loyalty.  What is it that makes one person’s actions heroic and another’s evil?  What is bravery, and how can you be brave without ever feeling fear?  These questions are driven from the core of the personal emotions in the stories, but their scope is epic.

David’s journalism background, his innate story telling ability and his very nature means the books are rich with life and honesty.  The stories evoke a feeling of ancient legends and myths told around a blazing fire, fighting to keep the darkness away.  They are rousing tales of honesty, truth and loyalty in the face of almost absolute despair.

You might not be a fan of fantasy, but don’t be put off by the book store labelling.  Quite apart from his historical fantasy (for example, the three Troy books), the rest of the books have a solid grounding in reality and there are no elves or dwarves, just a rich mythology and spattering of alternate-history.

To finish though, the reason why you should read David Gemmell’s books is that the tales in them are alive, demanding to be read, trying to be free.  These are more than just stories, these are legends and myths brought to life by a master story teller.

David Gemmell

David wrote a fair old number of novels over the years, and produced a couple of graphic novels (collaborating with Stan Nicholls and Fangorn), his publishers have released a number of compilations and finally, David has written one book under a pseduonym. This is a list of the main publications, it doesn’t attempt to include all the regional publications, or different editions of each publication.

The books are split into sections based on the world in which they are set, or on their shared theme. Within each section, the books are listed in publication order (when I know what that was!)

Drenai Tales

  • Legend
  • The King Beyond The Gate
  • Quest For Lost Heroes
  • Waylander
  • Waylander II – In the Realm of the Wolf
  • The First Chronicles Of Druss The Legend
  • The Legend Of Deathwalker
  • Winter Warriors
  • Hero in the Shadows
  • White Wolf
  • Swords of Night and Day

Hawk Queen Tales

  • Ironhand’s Daughter
  • The Hawk Eternal

Sipstrassi Tales

  • Wolf In Shadow
  • Ghost King
  • Last Sword Of Power
  • The Last Guardian
  • Bloodstone

Rigante Tales

  • Sword In The Storm
  • Midnight Falcon
  • Ravenheart
  • Stormrider

Greek Tales

  • Lion of Macedon
  • Dark Prince


  • Lord of the Silver Bow
  • Shield of Thunder
  • Fall of Kings


  • Dark Moon
  • Echoes of the Great Song
  • Knights Of Dark Renown
  • Morningstar


  • The Complete Chronicles of the Jerusalem Man
  • The Drenai Tales
  • Stones of Power: A Sipstrassi Omnibus
  • The Drenai Tales – Volume 1
  • The Drenai Tales – Volume 2
  • The Drenai Tales – Volume 3

Graphic Novels

  • Legend: The Graphic Novel
  • Wolf in Shadow: The Graphic Novel


  • White Knight, Black Swan (as Ross Harding)

David Gemmell, 1948-2006

David GemmellDavid Gemmell, Hero, Legend and Friend

Eight days have passed since David Gemmell died at his home on the 28th July 2006. I’ve written and deleted hundreds of words in attempt to describe my loss, or to recount my meetings with David, or to try and give you a sense of the man I was lucky enough to be friends with.

I can’t do it, the words seem shallow or inadequate. I can’t express how much life David carried with him, how much presence he had in the same room, nor how much generosity he displayed to those he cared about. I keep trying.

Some fans have asked me which of his characters David was most like. All of them, none of them, he was unique. However, he was born to tell stories, whether one-on-one recounting some part of his life, or to people at a book signing or to the many thousands that read his books. So when Odysseus recounts his tales for the sailors in David’s Troy I am reminded of David himself. He could captivate an audience no matter how small or large with a few small words and hold their attention to the end. He brought you into his story, made you live it, feel it and breath it.

If you were lucky enough to spend any time in David’s company you will understand what I mean. His books were just one reflection of his great ability to tell stories. To talk about life and take you with him, no matter what the topic or subject or location.

David loved his fans, he never once took his skill, success or his fan base for granted. He wrote with honesty, passion, sincerity and integrity. I’ll remember him most for those four qualities. He was honest with himself and with those around him. He had a passion for life, his writing and those he loved. He was sincere, doing everything he did for the love of it and without cynicism. And his integrity was beyond doubt. He’ll be laughing at me now, no doubt, for painting him a hero when he spent his writing career describing the flaws that heroes have. Some might not think a parting word like this is a place to talk of flaws; but David has his share. But he knew what they were. He didn’t hide from his flaws, nor pretend to be better than he was. He shouldered it all, stood up regardless and continued with the honesty that those of us who loved him, loved in him.

You will be missed David Gemmell, your stories, your laughter, the life you brought to a room. You were a man to look up to, to share a fire, a tale, a life.

I will miss you David Gemmell.

Tony, August 5th 2006

David Gemmell was born in London, England, in the summer of 1948. Expelled from school at sixteen for organizing a gambling syndicate, he became a laborer by day, and at night his six-foot-four-inch, 230-pound frame allowed him to earn extra money as a bouncer working nightclubs in Soho. He has also worked as a freelance journalist with the London Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, and Daily Express.

His first novel, Legend, was published in 1984 and has remained in print ever since. He became a full-time writer in 1986.

On July 28th 2006 David Gemmell died, two weeks after undergoing heart surgery. He was 57 years old.

David Gemmell 25 Questions

This is a set of 25 questions that David Gemmell answered, set by the readers of the Gemmell Fantasy mailing list.

1. Have you any plans to write a book centering around ‘the two twins’?

I rarely have set plans for future novels. I know that if I live long enough there ‘ll be one more Druss story, but I really don’t know whether the twins will surface. On the other hand I’ve probably had as much mail in the last five years about the twins as I have concerning Waylander or Druss, so perhaps its time to start the grey cells working on it.

2. Have you ever written a book, not been happy with it, but had it accepted and published anyway?

Every time. Authors always feel they could do better given more time, more money, more praise, more cuddles. The truth is that mostly we can’t. When we’re given too much time most of us over-edit the work, or make it too wordy. Mostly the author is the worst judge of his/her own work. I use a number of test readers, then a professional editor. I rely on them to give me honest criticism. Have you ever noticed how many of your favourite authors start of with a cracker of a book and then slowly slide downhill. Mostly this is because they become too ‘big’ to accept criticism. Now we’re even beginning to see the ‘Author’s Cut’ of some major works. One fantasy author recently published such a version of his biggest hit. In my opinion he should have remembered the useful adage ‘Less is more.’

3. Did you write when you were young?

Yes I did. I tried to copy my heroes, Tolkien, Louis Lamour, Peter Cheyney, Raymond Chandler and [shrinks in embarrassment] Mickey Spillane. The work was poor. But I persevered. Always strikes me as strange that would-be writers expect to hit the mother lode immediately. Louis Lamour once said: ‘Writing is like gold mining, you have to dig through a millions tons of dirt before you hit the yellow stuff.’ In 95% of cases this is true. It certainly was in mine.

4. Do you start a book with a complete story plan in mind, or just with a few ideas and develop it as you write and ocassionally get new ideas half way through and veer off?

I start with a character and follow him. The book then springs from the subconscious. I veer all the time. This means that I never know who is going to live or die, and I am just as surprised and excited as – hopefully – the reader will be.

5. What does your writing space look like?

Some days – and this is one of them – it looks a mess. Papers are scattered around, there are two swords, one on the floor another leaning on the wall. The study is small, ten feet by seven. As I look around I see several cuttings from newspapers, three CD covers – where the Hell the CDs are I have no idea – an over flowing ash tray [this writing business is killing me] a stack of shelves groaning under the weight of foreign editions that I cannot read, but cannot bring myself to throw away. Hanging from the wall beside the window is a holster containing one of the pistols I used for the Shannow series. Druss’ axe is leaning against the leather topped writing desk. It has scuffed the mahogany, I notice. Oh well… .

6. Have you any plans to base a book on the Dragon? (i.e. fill in the gap between Legend and TKBTG.)

Not at the moment, but it’s a nice idea.

7. Will you be doing any book signing tours when Falcon is released? If so, where?

Been there, done that. I didn’t have a lot of time to tour this year so I did a week, London, Bath, Bradford, Portsmouth, Hull and Stoke. I also signed a mountain of stock in Birmingham and Manchester.

8. What really makes you laugh? Good TV? Good Radio? A good book? Good stand up comedians? People falling over on banana skins?

All of those – bar the banana skins. I like Frasier, Cybill, Cheers, Fawlty Towers, and Friends. Mostly though I get the most laughs from politicians when they talk of honour and integrity. Plankton understand more about honour than any politician I ‘ve ever met. I once spent an entertaining lunch hour chatting to Michael Howard, the former Home Secretary. He was just a junior minister then, and MP for Folkestone in Kent. At the time I was the editor of the local paper and had been running stories on the proposed Channel Tunnel. My paper printed a coupon so that readers could vote on whether they wanted the tunnel coming through their town. We had thousands of letters and had to draft people in to collate them. More than 85% of readers said they did NOT want the tunnel. I asked Mr Howard if he would raise their objections with the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. He responded by asking me if I was naive. He then told me that since Thatcher wanted the tunnel that was it. No arguments. Unsurprisingly Mrs Thatcher promoted him.

9. Which Fantasy Fiction cliche do you dislike the most and why?

I get tired of the constant Tolkien rip offs, singing elves, dwarves with broad belts and black beards. But then I dont read much fantasy these days so I don’t expose myself to what Moorcock once described as ‘pixieshit novels. ‘

10. Do you listen to music when you write (i.e. specifically listen to it, rather than just have it on in the background), or do you prefer silence?

Not when I write, but I do use music to get into the mood for certain scenes. There’s a track at the end of the Titanic movie album which I used when writing the final scene in Sword in the Storm, where Ruathain is sitting watching his sons. Now when ever I hear that track there’s a tear in my eye.

11. Is criticism from fans in a forum like this, any different to that of literary critics when you release a book?

My work does not receive literary criticism. It never has. ‘Quality’ newspapers rarely review fantasy in any depth. I had a review once in the Daily Telegraph which read: ‘The only thing I liked about Waylander 2 – imitation Tolkien with no characterisation – was the butch girl on the cover.’ That was the full review. Did it help to know that the writer was a failed author? Not a lot. Criticism from fans is another matter entirely. I take that seriously. It is not easy to act on such criticism, because it is never universal. I have had many letters from fans who did not like Echoes of the Great Song, and several from readers who thought it was my best for years. I tried a more lyrical style for the story. It did not work for the majority of my fans and I probably wont try it again.

1 2. Is there any book you’ve written in which the main charcater began to appeal to you less and less until by the end you didn’t really like him/her and had to force yourself not to let your dislike transmit to the page?

Once. In the novel Ironhands Daughter I set out to write a ‘dislikeable woman ‘. I wanted her to be selfish, self centred and hedonistic, in order for the subsequent personality changes to be more contrasted. I did far too good a job. I disliked her throughout. Many readers utterly hated her. I learned a lot from that book.

13. I know you don’t read a lot of fiction nowadays but what are your favourite authors of the different genres?

Rob Holdstock is a wonderful writer. Lavondyss is one of my favourite books. Geoff Ryman is also magnificent. ‘WAS’ is one of the finest novels I ‘ve read. Thomas Harris, with ‘Silence of the Lambs’, had me sitting open mouthed in admiration. A master of narrative drive and characterisation. Stephen Pressfield’s ‘Gates of Fire’ is a fabulous work.

14. Has anyone ever been offended if you based a not-so-nice character on them? In partcular I’m thinking of the reviewer (is this right- I could have the story wrong) you based ‘Broome’ on in the Jon Shannow books, did he ever write to you about it?

The man who was the basis for Karnak in the Waylander novels once described it as a ‘poisonous and malicious attack on his integrity. ‘ Sadly he was also my boss. Curiously I was made redundant soon after. The reviewer named Broome never wrote to me. Using him taught me a great deal. It was my intention to make the Broome character an idiot. The reviewer, a man of pacifistic leanings, had hated my novel Wolf in Shadow. So I created the pacifist Broome, in order to show that in a world of violence such men are about as useful as rubber nails. But the more I wrote about him the more I realised that civilisation is born from the beliefs of such men. Yes the warriors have their place, but warriors do not create caring societies. Men like Broome do.

15. Do you read your books once they’re published?


16. The short bio of you circulating the internet says you were expelled from school at 16 for ‘organising a gambling syndicate.’ Is this true? If so, what was it all about?

A friend and I organised a betting shop in the school. Other students could lay bets with us. Some of the larger bets we offloaded at a betting shop. It was a lucrative business. Doing the accounts one day I noticed that we were starting to suffer from a series of bad debts from students who had placed bets, but not paid up. So – always the businessman – I brought in a guy named Freddie. Freddie was – not to put too fine a point on it – a natural leg breaker. This was not surprising since he came from a family of leg breakers. Anyway, Freddie got to keep half of the money he collected. Within days a stream of angry parents arrived at the school complaining about ‘Jimmy’s black eye’ ‘John’s terrible bruises’ ‘Henry’s chipped tooth.’ The betting shop empire collapsed and within two weeks I was working as a labourer.

17. If you could give one piece of advice to want-to-be writers, what would it be?

Writing is an acquired skill. No-one walks in to a hospital and says: ‘I want to be a brain surgeon, so give me a saw and a sick patient.’ The skill has to be learned. So… never quit. Just keep writing.

18. Which series do you plan to do next? Do you think you’ll ever do another historic fantasy like Lion of Macedon?

I’ve hired a reviewer to research Constantine the Great. I’d love to do a big historical novel on him. But the research alone will take two years, so I won’t be starting for at least another three years.

19. What- if anything- are the strangest rumours you’ve ever heard about yourself?

Back in 1984 when Legend was first published it followed a novel called the Horse Lords by Peter Morwood. Both books had the same cover artists, the same agent, and Morwood’s hero was called Gemmel. For about two years people were convinced that David Gemmell didn’t exist and was just a nom de plume used by Peter Morwood. A few years ago, while suffering from a particularly unpleasant illness, the rumour went around that I was dying, which I quite enjoyed because so many people started being nice to me. After that someone put out on the NET that I was gay, which caused embarrassment to those young men who approached me at conventions or signings.

20. What do you feel about your ‘star status’? Have you ever had fans find out where you live and just turn up?

Yes I have. I try to be polite, but I rarely ask people in who arrive unannounced. The star bit is at best annoying. I do what I do because I love it. I am also acutely aware that people pay for my books and I feel very strongly that they deserve the best I can give. But – when all’s said and done – it is a job. No more than that. It is certainly no more important that that of a dustman, or a cab driver, or a clerk, and far less important than that of a nurse or a doctor. I don’t live like a ‘star’. I live in a small house in Sussex, drive a normal family saloon and shop at Tescos. I like to work in my garden and chat to my neighbours. As a story teller I have an ego the size of Everest. As a man I try to hold to a sense of self mockery.

21. Have you ever contracted a fantasy artist to portray any of your creations? If not do you have any plans to do so, for say a book cover?

The one artist I have always wanted to see commissioned for a book cover is John Bolton. We finally got him for Midnight Falcon and the new Waylander novel.

22. Do you work with maps?

Mostly I have a rough map to work from. I’m thinking of commissioning someone to prepare a map of the Drenai world, because more and more fans are asking for maps to be included.

23. Are any more books about any of the Feragh in any sort of planning, or even in basic idea form?


24. Have you ever considered a Drenai (or anyother of your creations) as a RPG game or Computer game?

Legend was produced as a game for the Sinclair Spectrum back in the Eighties. The first half of the game involved trying to recruit all the heroes to come to Dros Delnoch. I never got through the first half. Druss kept killing me. There may be other games soon. But I can ‘t say too much about that at the moment.

25. Do you think you’ll ever stop writing ?

Sure. One day I’ll die.

* david gemmell
* interview

David Gemmell 20 Questions

A list of 20 questions set by the readers of the Gemmell Fantasy mailing list, which David Gemmell kindly answered.

1. Do you have any hobbies?

I used to have a hobby. I used to write fiction for fun, while working as journalist. By the end of my journalistic career I was running seven local newspapers, organising budgets, overseeing sales drives, appointing editors. In the evenings I would set aside time to fool around with a story or two. Now I still write for fun but I get paid for it.

2. Is there any particular film’s that have influenced your work? e.g. . “The Wild Bunch”

I tend to write in a ‘filmic’ way, in that I see the story as a movie in my mind, so, yes, films have played an important part in my style. The Wild Bunch is a classic and – as with so many of Peckinpah’s films – was criticised unfairly because of his violent images. For me Straw Dogs remains his great masterpiece for all sorts of reasons. First and foremost it illustrates beautifully what happens when society no longer has the balls to tackle evil. Modern history continues to show the truth of the message. When UN peacekeepers in Bosnia were not allowed to fight to protect the people under their care we witnessed the result. Massacre.

Other films that touched a chord in me were The Outlaw Josey Wales, Zulu, Rocky, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Searchers, True Grit, The Shootist and Unforgiven.

3. What annoys you most about your profession?

This is a tough one, because there are any number of pet hates to choose from. Poor reviewers would be one. Most authors sweat blood to make a story work, rewriting, re-editing, worrying endlessly that the work will be the best they can produce. Then some prat with access to a newspaper or magazine will dismiss it in a few sentences, calling it ‘crap’. Anyone who finishes a novel – published or unpublished – should get a medal.

Another gripe is marketing. In many cases the amount put aside to promote a novel is based on a percentage of the advance. This means that a new author, who has received – say – 10,000 will get a publicity budget of around 1000. This supplies a few ads in local papers plus one small display in a genre magazine. An author who gets an advance of 500,000 will get a budget of 50,000, allowing for national advertising, cross-track posters at railway stations, and big BIG cover age. The question that should be asked is: Which author NEEDS the big budget?

But probably the main hate is the pressure on new authors to supply fantasy trilogies. It is unnatural. Most writers come up with stories that will make for one really strong book. Publishers see the opportunity to milk the market and coerce the writer into stretching the story out. Often it doesn ‘t work. This means that a few years down the line the author is unpublished and struggling.

4. What is your worst reaction to a book, chapter or paragraph you have written yourself?

Not quite sure what this means. If I write something bad I ditch it. For the last few months I have been struggling with the writing. I tried to quit smoking and found that the years of polluting my brain with nicotine meant that I couldn’t string a reasonable sentence together without filling my lungs with smoke. I went three months without a drag, took a good look at the crap I was writing and lit up.

5. Do you lose your rag like the rest of us mortals? Have you ever grabbed old Snaga from the wall and chopped up a crappy manuscript?

Yep. But I don ‘t tend to lose my rag in life as much as I used to. I’m over fifty now, and carrying a lot of old injuries from days when I boxed or played rugby. My right shoulder is arthritic and I have two prolapsed discs in my neck from a car crash. A couple of years ago I found myself the victim of road rage, which was pretty surprising. Some young men travelling on a coach made obscene gestures at me as I slowed my car to let the coach go by. Red mist descended. I followed the coach, pulled in front of it, got out of the car onto the coach and whacked one of them. Afterwards I felt the double hit of both shame and pride. The shame was the result of losing control and acting stupidly. The pride came from still being able to lose control and act stupidly.

6. What was your favourite cartoon/cartoon character from childhood?

Wily Coyote. Despite all the terrible setbacks the sucker never once gave up on his quest to eat the road runner.

7. What made you decide to write a third Waylander story?

I felt Waylander’s story was somehow incomplete. And I loved meeting up with him again and following his latest adventure. I can ‘t say too much more as it would mean putting in bags of SPOILER space, which might look odd in a question and answer session.

8. What period of history would you most like to have lived through (even if it’s longer than a normal life span).

Many years ago, when I was a local journalist living in London, I was sent to the Acacia House Spiritualist Centre in Acton, West London. I was writing a feature about a clairvoyant who operated there. The clairvoyant told me incredible stuff about my own life that she couldn’t possibly have known and then told me that I was an ‘Old Soul’ and that I had lived in Ancient Rome. This, she said, was why I had such instinctive ‘knowledge’ about the period. I have always had a fascination for Greek and Roman history, so maybe she was right. There is still enough of the romantic in me to say that, given the choice, I would have lived in Sparta at the time of Leonidas.

9. Do you think your characters’ essentially violent response to injury to themeselves and loved ones, while something we can all identify with, is hard to reconcile with Jesus’ injunction in the Bible to turn the other cheek to injury?

No. I do not see Jesus as a gentle pacifist. He was a rebel and a revolutionary. He took a whip and drove the money lenders from the temple. I think the ‘turn the other cheek ‘ injunction has more to do with arguments between friends. If a friend – in anger – strikes you, then you should turn the other cheek in order to defuse the situation. But if a stranger, seeking to rob or humiliate you, strikes you, then you should – as the Bible also exhorts ‘smite him hip and thigh.’ For me the Bible needs to be read as a WHOLE book. The laws laid down in it are very harsh. An eye for an eye, a life for a life. Jesus himself told his followers that he did not come to change one jot of the law. However, this isn ‘t the place to pound on about my view of Christianity. My views can be found in every novel I write.

10. Was the child of Miriel fathered by Angel that is referred to in LEGEND OF DEATHWALKER actually Druss’s grandfather (Bardan) or was Nosta Khan’s reference to Angel being Druss’s ancestor a figure of speech?

It was not a figure of speech, but originally I intended the child to be Druss’s great grandfather, and, thus, the father of Bardan.

11. How do you think up the names for your characters and places? Not just important ones but also the ones you only mention once or twice.

Sometimes I take them from history [Prasamaccus, Ruathain, Victorinus] and at other times I create them from mixing the names of the friends I have based them on [ ToNY GORing = Nygor].

12. How do you feel when you read the little compliments about you written by critics? eg “Probably the finest living writer of heroic fantasy” -Time Out.

I get as much satisfaction when I receive letters from fans who have found the work to be either life changing or life enhancing. I’m lucky in that I don’t have a strong reaction to either flattery or criticism. There are people out there who probably consider me the worst living writer of heroic fantasy. They don’t bother me. I was looking at the other day, ego-surfing the reviews for Hero in the Shadows. Several readers think its one of the best things I’ve done, but one reader thought it was terrible and boring. David Gemmell is no more, he writes . As long as I feel I’ve given a book the very best I can produce then I take the plaudits and the criticism about evenly.

13. David, you’ve declared your commitment to Christianity on a number of occasions. In addition, your books are full of references to “Sources”, witches and warlocks, etc. Do you yourself really believe in supernatural phenomena, such as ghosts, horoscopes, an afterlife, Uri Geller …?

I have never met Geller, so I have no view about his powers. But, yes, I have met spiritualists and clairvoyants, faith healers and mystics whose powers were beyond question. I learned a lot about human nature when I dealt with these people in London. My boss at the Acton Gazette was a man named Roy Summerhayes. He didn’t believe in what he called the Looney Tunes operating in Acacia House. It didn’t matter how many stories came out about people who were healed. They were all either deluded or fakes. One day I suffered a badly ricked neck. The hospital staff put me in a surgical collar and a specialist said it would take about three weeks for it to heal. Roy Summerhayes was in seventh heaven. ‘Get down to Looney Tunes,’ he said. ‘Get him to heal that. ‘

Reluctantly I trudged down to Acacia House and saw a healer named Karl Francis. He removed the collar, laid his hand on my neck. No massage or pressure of any kind. ‘Move your head, ‘ he said. I did so. All pain had vanished and my neck was completely cured. I went back to Roy Summerhayes who said: ‘Yeah, I knew you were faking it. ‘

Those with eyes to see will see. The others never will.

14. How restricted do you feel by what is expected from you? Do you wish to write different material from what you deliver to us, or are you happy with your tales of slaying and conflicting characters?

There is no pressure from publishers any more. At the moment what I write sells. That’s all they care about. The pressure from fans is great, and I do feel I owe them the best I can produce. However, essentially I write what I want to write, and explore themes that matter to me. I could make more money by writing what Moorcock calls ‘Pixieshit books’ with a few singing elves and bearded dwarves. That doesn’t interest me. Tolkien did that better than anyone else alive. I would like to write more thrillers and I am planning a series based on a British policewoman. I have been working for some time with a working police detective building a series of stories. However I wont start these until I have finished Ravenheart.

15. You’ve often been asked about which characters most represent you, but which of any characters in your books would you most wish to be like?

I don’t write cynically. When I create a hero and put him in difficult situations the first thing I think is: ‘What would I WANT to do in this situation? ‘ ‘How would I WISH to behave faced with these dangers. ‘ Sometimes I find myself confused by life, and in those moments I feel like Jon Shannow. At other times I feel a great and cold rage building, and I know how Waylander felt. I have only ever based two characters on myself, Rek in Legend, and Gellan in Waylander. Who would I really like to be like? Ruathain from Sword in the Storm. Could I ever be like him? Not a chance.

16. Have you ever had problems with am overeager fan?

No. One of the nicest things about my fans is that I have only met one I didn’t like. He came up to me at a convention in Liverpool when Legend was first published. His first words to me were: ‘You really know where its at, Dave. Great book, mate. No niggers in Legend. ‘

17. Which book was the most pleasurable for you to write and which book was the hardest?

Legend was the most pleasureable. Nothing will ever change that. The hardest is always the latest. With each book I write it gets harder to disguise what SFX magazine calls the ‘literary mechanics’ of the plots. In many ways writing is like comedy – the hit comes with surprise. Without surprise there is no punch line. Problem is the more we see a particular comic the more aware we become of his/her style of delivery. It is the same with writing.

18. What qualities do you look for, or rather like to find, in novels by other authors?

I don ‘t have time any more to read for pleasure, but in the past I always required passion and heart from an author. For me books need to have moral centres, and should inspire the reader as well as being entertaining.

19. Do you think the internet has made it easier or harder for new fantasy writers to get published?

If by published you mean posting a story on the Internet then it must have made it easier. As to regular publishing I don’t think its made a difference yet.

20. Do you have a double crossbow like Waylander’s?

No. I have a single crossbow, a longbow, two broadswords, five pistols, a gladius, three bowie knives, a beautiful copy of the Coppergate helm, complete with neck guard of chain mail, and a Winchester .73 from the Wichita City Marshalls office at the time of Wyatt Earp. But I aint got no double crossbow, dammit!

Dark Moon

I loved this book. Throughout his previous books, I believe David has been experimenting with the idea of possessed people, or those driven by need, desire or other overwhelming emotions; we also have the example of Druss’ axe, which appears to be demon possessed.

With one of the main characters of this book, Tarantio, David takes the concept another step further, plays the idea out a little deeper. We learn about Tarantio, and the demon within him, Dace. Throughout the book, Tarantio talks to Dace, and Dace comes alive inside him to fight when danger threatens. We are never really given a clear explanation about the demon Dace, is he real, is he simply something created by Tarantio earlier in his life, is it illusion or reality.

The by-play between the two personalities is gripping and good reading, and to be honest, for me, the underlying story in the book came second. Which isn’t to say it’s a bad story, it had all the right elements, the bad guys, the good guys, heroes and heroines, lost worlds and civilisations. But for me, Tarantio and Dace were what this book was about. The darkness inside all of us. That which keeps us alive in those moments we live by our instincts. In Tarantio, his instincts would appear to be alive and well, and called Dace.

(This review was written sometime in the late 90’s for the original Gemmell Mania website)

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: David Gemmell
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)