Saturday, March 14, 2009

Author Spotlight: David Gemmell

"Probably the finest living writer of heroic fantasy" - Time Out

Alas this is no longer true as David Gemmell passed away on July 28th 2006. However I still regard him as one of the best heroic fantasy writers of the last century. 

David Gemmell's first book entitled "Legend" published in 1984 is regarded his best novel, and while Gemmell stated that perhaps it is not the best written of his books, it is his favourite. "Legend" was an instant commercial success and now had to juggled between writing and his journalism job. After Waylander (1986) was published he started to write full time, but not before he was fired from his journalism job because he used colleagues names in his book. (Gemmell later said that his Managing Director had regarded it "a poisonous attack on his integrity.")1

The Drenai Saga is perhaps Gemmell's most well known series in which 'Legend and 'Waylander' fall under, however he has also written many other series, stand-alones and historical fiction.

Criticisms of David Gemmell's books are that many of his works are too similar and quotes of "read one Gemmell book, you've read them all" is widely considered true. However, just like the band AC/DC, why change from the tried and true? If people like it and are willing to buy it why not produce the same product? Perhaps evidence to support this is his 'Black Knight, White Swan' book.  On one occassion Gemmell wrote under a pseudonym Ross Harding. His book: 'Black Knight, White Swan' (1993) was a Crime Thriller and was his first book not to become a best seller. 

Because of the similarities of his books, I think that his historical fiction series: Troy, was under read because too many of Gemmell's fringe fans would not risk and delve into this series. Perhaps if there wasn't such a plethora of excellent books written these days Troy would have gotten the attention it deserved. Gemmell did step outside of his tried and true formula and gave a very well written story of Troy. Not only was it well written but kept the writer guessing at what is to many a familiar story. 

David Gemmell died of coronary heart disease before Fall of Kings was finished. 70,000 words were already written and Stella, David's wife, decided to take up the mantle and finish the book. She had to re-read what was already written and the exoskeleton of what David had etched out. Her influence in the book is noted for those that take care when reading but ultimately a very good job of it. 

What I find I will miss most are those simple stories of friendship, loyalty and redemption. Many stories published today are complex and have many dimensions (which isn't bad), but it means those up and coming David Gemmell's won't have much chance of surviving the dog eat dog world of Fantasy publishing. One day I will have read all of Gemmell's works and will miss being able to enjoy a well written book for what it is, regardless if I had read it under a different book title. 

If you have not read any of David Gemmell's works, start with "Legend". You won't be disappointed. And if you have read Gemmell before and haven't read Troy, I urge you to do so.


warren farrell said...

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And I have many collections also especially I love read books of warren farrell.

Anonymous said...

For a decade or more I used to look forward to buying one, or even sometimes two, books by David Gemmell every year. When Mr. Gemmell passed away this pleasant ritual ended and I really cannot put into words the great sadness I felt when first told of his tragically premature demise.

The most wonderful things about Gemmell was that none of his characters were perfect; not perfectly good, not perfectly evil. Some became flawed heroes and others, bent out of shape by circumstances, bad luck, or forces beyond their understanding or control became villains, but all had sparks of light within them as well as shards of darkness. None of them were wholly good or completely bad and it was this fallibility, this humanity, which made them compelling.

Although I never met David Gemmell in real life I will miss both his iron presence in this plastic world, and books of his stories to look forward to reading every year, for the rest of my own life, however long that life might be

Rest in Peace, David Gemmell.

Thank you.