Tuesday 8 July 2008

Character of the Week: Mark Chadbourn

It's been too long since the last character of the week feature, but fortunately British author Mark Chadbourn - author of, most recently, the Kingdom of the Serpent series - has come to the rescue with a piece about why he loves Solomon Kane...

"Like many people, I found my way to Robert E. Howard’s astonishing cast of characters through Conan, specifically through the Marvel Comics adaptations of the late seventies. Some of his heroes were variations on the two-fisted man’s man transplanted into different time periods, but some of them were barking mad – Skullface! – so off the register you couldn’t fail to be intrigued.

And the most barking mad of all was Solomon Kane. A Puritan adventurer setting out to bring a little God-fearing justice to the world, this was not a sympathetic character. Let’s face it, Puritans are not known for their gut-wrenching sense of humour, but Kane was beyond sombre, a miserable git who hated fun, drink, probably women – although that was left to the sub-text – and, apparently, life in general. He put the loon in gloomy (okay, that doesn’t quite work, but you get my drift).

So why do I love Solomon Kane? For a start, he looked cool. Slouch-hat like the Shadow from the pulps, a pair of death-dealing flintlock pistols, a rapier, and a pair of cold, dead eyes. The truth is, by any modern standards, this hero is the villain. Then there’s the setting: the 17th century, with its inherent romance, and the wildness of a world still half-explored, with mysteries lurking around every corner. Kane was a man who had left the civilised world behind and travelled to the source of mystery and supernatural terror. There was a constant tension between his rigid Puritan world-view and the chaos of the shadowy places to which he found himself drawn. But like many religious obsessives, there’s a sense that he rails against the things he fears most within himself, the part that is really not pure at all.

The stories, frankly, are filled with all sorts of psychological craziness, and they say a lot about the very troubled Howard himself. That adds an off-kilter feel to the adventuring that you don’t get in Conan or Kull. They’re dark, conflicted, and really, really not well. I love them."

Many thanks to Mark for his contribution! If you missed Mark's recent big announcement, you can check out my post about it here. In addition, be sure to drop by Mark's website here and his blog here.

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