David Gemmell

Whether it’s reading books, watching movies, binging on TV shows, or playing video games, I often struggle to find something new to quench my thirst for entertainment, so I end up falling back on my old favourites to see me through.

That’s all well and good, but as a writer I’m always looking for new ideas and interesting ways of telling a story to help keep my creative juices flowing.  So I thought I’d share with you some of my biggest inspirations.  Whether it’s a particular author, a movie, or a TV show, I’m going to feature the kind of writing that I love, and which inspires much of my own work.

Hopefully, if something catches your eye, you might be able to offer a recommendation that helps me discover storytellers I’m not so familiar with.

First up, I’m going with a guy who’s been mentioned a few times on the Cave, mostly because he’s my favourite author of all time and has inspired both my reading habits and my writing style.  The master of heroic fantasy, David Gemmell.

I think it’s fair to say that without David Gemmell, I may not have decided to write a book myself.

Where Tolkien gave me a love for fantasy, it was really Gemmell’s work – gritty and believable, littered with flawed characters and just a spattering of the fantastical – that fired my passion for reading and inspired me to write my own stories.  My writing style owes quite a lot to Gemmell too.  His preference for third-person, multiple-character POVs definitely influenced how I like to tell my own stories.

If you’re familiar with the fantasy scene in novels, it’s unlikely you’ve never heard of Gemmell.  Most popular authors in today’s scene mention Gemmell as one of their influences, and there is good reason for that.  His brand of heroic fantasy is entertaining, thought-provoking, and usually packs an emotional punch.  I’d recommend any of his books, but in particular:

The Drenai Saga


A collection of stand-alone titles set in the same world, some with recurring characters.  The novels are about the Drenai nation, a powerful and proud people, and follows various heroes throughout the ages of its history.  Highlights include Druss the Axeman, first introduced as a legendary hero called out of retirement to save a doomed fortress from the largest army ever seen, and Waylander the Slayer, an assassin on a quest to find redemption.

The Jon Shannow Trilogy


A post-apocolyptic western set 300 years after the “fall”, in which the planet tilted on its axis causing the oceans to rise up and destroy most of human civilisation.  The story follows Jon Shannow, the Jerusalem Man, on a quest to find the biblical city in the hopes of creating a better world.  Instead, he is drawn into a conflict against those who would use Sipstrassi, the stones of power, to recreate the world as they see fit.

The Rigante Saga


The Rigante series tells the story of the Rigante clan, inspired by the highlanders of Scotland.  The first two novels, Sword in the Storm and Midnight Falcon, tell the story of the clan’s struggle against the threat of a growing empire, Stone, an equivalent of Rome in our own world.  Ravenheart and Stormrider are then set much further in the future, complete with flintlock firearms, as the Rigante struggle to sustain their proud culture and their links with old magic and nature against another powerful nation.

* * *

Before he sadly passed away in 2006, I used to consume Gemmell novels as soon as they were released.  Now there are only four of his older books left that I haven’t read.  Ghost King and Last Sword of Power are a reimagining of the Arthurian legend, while there’s also the Greek inspired Lion of Macedon and Dark Prince.  Officially these are grouped with the Stones of Power series, so act as prequels to the Jon Shannow novels.

As much as I want to read these books, I find myself waiting for the right moment.   I want to savour them in much the same way as Lost’s Desmond Hume is saving Our  Mutual Friend, the last Dickens book he hasn’t read (apologies for the poor video quality, it’s the best I could find; also, how good is that soldier’s accent?).

I don’t think I’ll leave it until my death bed, but it’s sad to think that these last few books will be the last of David Gemmell’s work I get to experience for the first time.  If you haven’t had that joy yet and you’re a fan of gritty fantasy, I highly recommend you take a look.

And please use the comments to let me know of anyone similar, so that I can add their names to by TBR pile.

8th October 2019

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