Monday, September 27, 2010

10 Books A Day: #152

All titles are by Neil Hancock.

Greyfax Grimwald

Faragon Fairingay

Calix Stay

Squaring the Circle

Across the Far Mountain

The Plains of the Sea

On the Boundaries of Darkness

The Road to the Middle Islands

Dragon Winter

The Fires of Windameir

The Fires of Windameir

The Sea of Silence

The Wanderer's Return

The Bridge of Dawn

Neil Hancock is an author toward whose books I have a peculiarly ambiguous attitude. He began publishing them and I reading them in the late Seventies, right before the huge tidal influx of Epic Fantasy began. At the time you kind of had to take what you could get, but that also meant there were fewer simply "genre" writers clogging the river. In other words, I think you could find more fantasy writers dedicated to their personal visions rather than simply writing in a lucrative genre. And Hancock certainly has a highly individual approach, so much so that you sometimes wonder exactly what he's getting at.

That being said, I have to say I find Hancock (technically) a rather poor writer, but he has an enthusiasm of storytelling and a certain love for his characters that carries him through. But in all fairness I can only say this with personal certainty about his first "quadrology", The Circle of Light (comprising the first four books on this list); I read less of the second quadrology, and almost none of the third. Perhaps his skill has improved through the years; he seems to have been able to get his books published up into the Nineties. A projected new book, The Brandigore Gate, returning to the original characters from the Circle of Light series, has been announced as of at least four years ago, but has yet to see the light of day.

One of the things I always enjoyed about these books was the weird covers; they always gave off a rather Gervasio Gallardo-ish vibe, but I find them ascribed in a Wikipedia article to Hancock's wife. Beginning with the Questar release of The Fires of Windameir the covers were by the late Tim Hildebrandt, furnishing another reason for me to keep buying the volumes.

Hancock is a Buddhist and a Vietnam War veteran, and these philosophies and experiences infuse his work. He is also a Texan, which puts him in the company of Robert E. Howard, (immigrant) Michael Moorcock, and (er-hem) yours truly. At the risk of any future repercussions I must admit that two of his characters in the Circle of Light books were a definite influence (however unconscious) on the two main characters in the one book I've managed to finish writing.

And so Neil Hancock remains in my archive, a sentimental and nostalgic presence, a writer I can't quite whole-heartedly endorse for everyone, but whose books I can't just yet do without.
Book count: 1824.


John said...

I always liked those early covers a lot, too, a particular fondness for "fantasy animals" being the main reason. I tried to read the first one way back in the day and didn't make it too far. Greg was the Hildebrandt twin that passed on though, no?

Brer said...

No, it was Tim, in 2004, due to complications of diabetes.

AlanDP said...

I read (and have somewhere) the "Wilderness" set. It never really grabbed me though, and didn't make me want to read anything else by him.

Great cover art, though.