The demographics are creakingly in evidence over at REH Inner Circle, where various knights of doleful countenance are bemoaning the absence of anything fast-paced or elephantiasis-free to read, pining for mass market Tros of Samothrace or Elak of Atlantis editions, and decreeing, in the case of one poster, that fantasy had better return to a supposed “original rush of adrenaline and action” PDQ.
The thing is, although midlife crises are part of the package they’re no reason to go into a fugue state or don homemade blinkers in Borders or Barnes & Noble. Twenty-six David Gemmell sword-and-sorcery outings can now be impulse-bought or if need be ordered online in the U.S., all of them starring lethal blademasters or axe-wielders who would carve Elak or Tros like Easter hams. Gemmell’s novels zoom (an alternate ‘szum” spelling is strictly verboten) by faster than the novellas of almost anyone save Howard himself, and although characters like Druss the Legend, Waylander the Slayer, Connavar the Demon Blade, Skilgannon the Damned, and the Jerusalem Man continue (despite the sincerest efforts of their many enemies) from book to book, potential readers can pick up any single novel without needing to worry about whether they’re getting in on the ground floor. Charles Gramlich is the latest in a long line of REHupans to undergo a Gemmellian conversion experience, and when I see the Englishman go unmentioned in they-don’t-write-’em-like-they-used-to keening sessions, or get frozen out at a site that is otherwise a resource-a-rama like Howard Jones’ Swordandsorcery.org, it’s hard not to shake my head and think, none are so blind as they who will not read. Not every work of heroic fantasy trafficking in thrills, chills, and kills has to have originated in a prewar pulp or a 70s paperback with a Frazetta or Jeff Jones cover. Gemmell is more than just a phenomenon—he’s our favorite subgenre’s second wind.