I’m reading a brilliant book at the moment called The Whale Road by Robert Low. It’s a fabulous, gritty saga of a Viking band known as the Oathsworn who are on a mission to find Attila the Hun’s treasure hoard, and I’m absolutely gripped. It’s violent, authentic and very exciting; it’s been been described, accurately, as The Dirty Dozen for the 10th century. And one of the best things about discovering this novel is that I know there are at least three more books in the series. Yay! (For more about The Whale Road and Robert Low’s work go to his website: www.robert-low.com )
Thing is, the author has real balls. I don’t mean physical courage – though he undoubtedly does possess that having been a war correspondent for yonks, dodging shot and shell from Vietnam to Bosnia – but what you might call “authorial courage” or “writer’s pluck”. What I mean is, I’m only halfway through the book and he has already killed off the two best characters: a skinny little guy who is an unstoppable maniac in a fight; and a huge bad-ass who reminds me a little of Obelix.
It’s always difficult, when you’re a novelist writing about battles, to know who to kill off. Obviously, some people have to die – it’s a dirty great big battle – and, if none your band of heroes ever gets killed, you start to believe they are invincible and it detracts for the jeopardy they are in. Ho hum, you say to yourself, Robin Hood is hanging by his fingernails above the scorpion pit, and the evil Sheriff of Nottinghamshire is standing above him with a huge axe. Supressing a yawn, you wonder vaguely how our boy is going to get out of it, but you don’t for a moment believe that Robin is going to kick the bucket. And you’d be right. I can’t kill off Robin, it would be career suicide. But someone has to get it, and, I confess, I do spend some considerable time working out who’s going to hand in their lunch pail, and when.
I’ve just decided to kill one of my main characters in the big battle scene at the end of Holy Warrior – I’m clearly not going to tell you who – but it was quite a wrench to decide his fate. And so hats off to Mr Low, who has done in two of his finest creations before I’ve even got one eighth the way through his series. (Maybe there’ll be a twist and they’ll come back from the dead as “fetches” or something . . . Nah, it won’t happen, sadly.)
Anyway, this blog is a salute to the “authorial courage” of Robert Low – and now I think I’d better go and finish his wonderful book.