Creator / David Gemmell

"Some of the other children had no father, but their lack was honourable. Their Dad died in the war, you know. He was a hero. This boy's lack was the subject of sly whispers from the adults, and open jeering from his peers. This boy's mother was, the boy heard so many times, a whore. The word was less hurtful than the blows that would follow it. Most of the blows came from other children, but sometimes adults too would weigh in."
David Gemmell

Possibly the most prolific (he was known to write an entire 500 page novel in one weekend) Heroic Fantasy writer of all time, David Gemmell was born in West London in 1948. He had a harsh and violent upbringing in a tough urban area, and was raised alone by his mother until the age of six. His stepfather, Bill, compelled him to take up boxing to learn how to stand up for himself, rather than run away or hide behind a wall. This philosophy would later colour a great deal of his writing. He was expelled from school at the age of 16 for organising a gambling syndicate and was arrested several times throughout his youth, mostly for ending fights. He was once described by a psychologist's report as a psychopath. note 

He made his first attempt at writing, a novel by the name of The Man from Miami, while working as a lorry-driver's mate. The response from the publishers informed him that he had "absolutely no aptitude for creative thought" and "wouldn't get published if he lived seven lifetimes" (the seven lifetimes was apparently a reference to the main character of the book); Gemmell himself later admitted the novel could "curdle milk at 50 paces". He later got an interview for his local newspaper; despite being the least qualified applicant his arrogance was mistaken for aptitude and he got the job. He later worked as editor for several local newspapers.

In 1976 he was diagnosed with, supposedly, terminal cancer. Partially to take his mind off things and also in the hopes of fulfilling his dream of become a published writer he composed a novel called The Siege of Dros Delnoch. In many ways the story of a ragtag group of defenders fighting off a siege of overwhelming odds acted as a metaphor for his own mental battle with cancer. However he later learned that he suffered a misdiagnosis and set The Siege of Dros Delnoch aside until 1980 when a friend read the manuscript and convinced Gemmell to attempt to get it published. Two years later the much sharper and considerably expanded version was pitched to a publishing house under the name Legend (although it was released as Against the Horde in the USA for a year).

Following its immense commercial success he went on to write a sequel, of sorts, The King Beyond the Gate in 1985. Although that was also successful he found himself wanting to explore the past of what was becoming his Drenai Saga. Thus was born Waylander in 1986. The Drenai Saga ended up being 11 novels.

Another epic series is the Stones of Power series, consisting of seven books set in three widely-separated time periods: two in Ancient Greece; two in Dark Age England, featuring the people who became mythologised as King Arthur and his knights; and three featuring The Gunslinger Jon Shannow in a Wild West-style post-apocalypse wasteland. There's also Time Travel involved, mixing in a couple of other time periods, including The Present Day and the golden age of Atlantis (where all the trouble started); there's even a character for whom the events of the Jon Shannow novels occur before those of the Arthurian ones. And, somehow, it all works.

He also wrote two other heroic fantasy series (the Rigante series and the Hawk Queen duology), a half-dozen standalone fantasy novels, and a crime thriller (which was published under the pseudonym Ross Harding to avoid confusing readers). At the time of his death he was working on a Demythtification trilogy set during The Trojan War; he had completed the first two parts, and working on the third, which following his death was finished by his wife, Stella Gemmell from his detailed notes.

Works by David Gemmell with their own pages include:

Other works by David Gemmell include examples of:

  • Always Chaotic Evil and Always Lawful Good: Averted to a triumphant extent. There are evil individuals and even the occasional Big Bad amongst his most classic 'good-guy races', the Drenai and the Rigante. On the other side, even marauding Mongol-equivalents, mutant beast-men or a nation of Satan-worshippers either contribute heroes to the story or pull off a full Heel–Face Turn.
    • The only exception to this rule seem to be the assorted Viking-expies (Vars in the Rigante series, Aenir in the Sigarni duology) who mostly come off as murderous assholes bent on conquest with precious little depth to them.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: A very common dynamic is a young, talented but relatively untested fighter who is (wrongly) convinced that he is capable of beating the older, less flashy hero. He almost always has a more experienced friend who has a more accurate idea of the hero's capabilities and warns him not to bother.
  • Big Book of War: Several fictional examples (with military academies to disseminate their teachings).
  • Clarke's Third Law: A one-shot book, Echoes of the Great Song, features a magical form of energy which shares many functional similarities with electricity. These include zapping you if you touch a container of it without insulating yourself, and causing an Electrified Bathtub if discharged into water.
  • Creator Breakdown: Interestingly, this was what started his literary career.
  • Creator Thumbprint: Boxing contests feature in many of his major works. Also rock climbing and long-distance running.
    • Another recurring motif appears to be boat on a hill. Interestingly enough, while in The Wolf in Shadow it's a symbol of arrogance, in Dark Moon it symbolizes an improbable but nonetheless admirable dream.
  • Demythtification: In his reimagining of The Trojan War, at least. Elsewhere, magic of various forms is a standard.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Verging on Bittersweet Ending sometimes. The forces of evil (such as they are) are defeated but the losses are so great and the heroes so exhausted that no one's too keen on celebrating.
  • Familiar: Prudent demon-summoning mages use a "familiar": someone through whom the summoning spell is cast. Such a precaution means that, if something goes wrong, the demon will attack the familiar and not the spell-caster.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Generally played fairly straight in his works, but far from universally. For instance, when we first meet Waylander he exclusively visits prostitutes for sex because he's terrified of emotional involvement after the death of his first family. He initially turns down his eventual second wife for this very reason (she can only persuade him to sleep with her by accepting a token payment beforehand) and returns to his old ways after her death.
    • A more precise message, found throughout his books, is "People who care about their partners have good sex" — many otherwise sexually accomplished characters, hero and villain alike, find that their manifold previous experiences pale before those with someone they genuinely trust and care for.
      • Druss phrases this quite bluntly in Legend, referring to his wife: "I had a real woman once, and since then I've never needed another."
  • Groin Attack: Given how many extremely capable female warriors and chivalrous heroes his stories feature, anyone perpetrating or attempting rape (and there are a lot) might as well paint a target on his crotch. Sometimes it's knees or fists, sometimes it's not.
  • Heroic Fantasy
  • Historical Fantasy
  • Humans Are Bastards
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Many, many of his villains are rapists or attempted rapists.
  • I Am A Humanitarian: The Daroth from Dark Moon find humans rather tasty.
  • The Magic Goes Away: The one-shots Dark Moon and Echoes of the Great Song.
  • Marked Change: In Dark Moon, Tarantio's eyes change colour depending on which of his two personalities is in control.
  • Rated M for Manly
  • Same Face, Different Name: Gemmell wrote one crime thriller as Ross Harding because he was trying something different and didn't want his readers to mistakenly think it would be the same genre.
  • Shrouded in Myth: A pervasive theme in his works is how the deeds of 'heroes' (and in many cases the inverted commas are necessary) are passed on in stories.
    • In the one-shot Echoes of the Great Song, the main characters actually become the gods of an unspecified future civilisation, extracts from whose scripture form the chapter introductions and the epilogue.
  • Stable Time Loop: In Morningstar, the legends of Morningstar inspire a thief to become a hero, before he goes back in time to become the hero who inspired him.
    • The ones that it inspired were his companions, who in turn taught him the value of restraint and good PR. HE was still a sociopath.
  • Stout Strength: His more physically powerful characters tend to be realistically described as having weightlifter's physiques, rather than bodybuilder's.
  • Superpowered Evil Side: Dace to Tarantio in Dark Moon, although he's more like a superpowered Id - the two are the extremes of the split personality of their traumatised childhood progenitor.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The Daroth from the one-shot novel Dark Moon are huge, fearsomely strong and almost unkillably tough by conventional means, but 'burn like wax'.
  • What the Hell, Hero?? Helikaon, on more than on occasion.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The final page of each of his novels always tell what happens to the characters after the story.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Cruelly subverted by antagonists several times and even the protagonist at least once. The most cruel example being Helikoan's nine year old brother, Dio, who is set on fire and thrown off a cliff.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: In Echoes of the Great Song, (dyed) blue hair is used to make the ruling Avatar class stand out.