I can still remember the book. Back in high-school, the library had a surprising wealth of fantasy and sci-fi in the offing.
It was a story of a character who was the second-best swordsman in the land. They fought against an enemy who could send giant melded beast-men into battle. And one of the characters claimed to be the descendant of some fellow named Druss.
It was The King Beyond The Gate, and my young mind revelled in the action and simplicity of the story-telling.
Of course, while I will always love that first book, the character of Druss stands out amongst Gemmell’s characters, amongst his worlds.
Druss is truly indomitable. He is a fighter like no other, but what separates him out from the wave of 80s action heroes (when Legend was published) is the moral fibre of the man.
From reading about Gemmell, this was obviously very important to him. He created simple characters, they weren’t all that complex, and they mostly followed stereo-types.
But you know what, that can be said of any character really. It’s how well you deliver, how deep you go, how much flesh is put on them.
But also, sometimes, a character is in their simplicity far more powerful.
This is Druss. And to me, Gemmell will always be Druss. His other stories are often fantastic (Waylander especially), but every book with the giant axeman saying “Laddie” and belting obnoxious drunkards across a bar will always be his best. Because Druss always won, because he never backed down.
I do not idolise nor look up to Gemmell.
But I would have gladly had him around for a barbie and got to know this man better. He wrote heroic fiction very well. He wrote the kind of book that you can read in an outing. And these books are as important as the trilogies and wheels .. err big long epics.
And he created Druss, who really stands out amongst characters in today’s fantasy stories for his strength, purpose, will and general awesomeness.