Notice: Undefined offset: 1 in /home/linweb28/c/ on line 31
David Drake –

David Drake

Sunday , 17, December 2023 3 Comments

David Drake died this past Sunday on December 10th at age 78. I had read that he had Parkinson’s disease a couple years ago. He mentioned in his November newsletter of having mini-strokes.

He has been a part of my reading life the past 40 years. I first heard of him looking at the Tor/Pinnacle paperback From the Heart of Darkness in Fall 1983. The reason I had looked at it was Karl Edward Wagner wrote the introduction which I read in the old Atlantic Books on Forbes Ave in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh. I had read the Warner reprints of Wagner’s “Kane” paperbacks in the summer of 1983. My limited discretionary income as a college student limited my taking a chance on an author I had never read before despite Wagner’s introduction.

I did read Drake around two months later. I had picked up a copy of Sword Against Darkness (Zebra Books) which contained “Dragon’s Teeth.” It was one of my favorite stories from the anthology (along with Richard L. Tierney’s “The Ring of Set”). I got From the Heart of Darkness used around seven months later. I also read more of the Vettius and Dama stories in Swords Against Darkness III, Nameless Places, Giants, Year’s Best Horror along the way.

I remember eagerly waiting for Killer to come out and bought it as soon as it was on the shelves at the University of Pittsburgh bookstore (which had an excellent science fiction section). I bought any of his Roman related novels- Birds of Prey and Ranks of Bronze. My edition of Hammer’s Slammers is the original Ace version. That sold well enough that it had four printings including two in 1984!

I had to wait until early 1989 to read his Arthurian novel The Dragon Lord. I could not find the 1982 Tor paperback. That’s O.K, as I like the Steve Hickman cover better. It is Arthurian fantasy with a sword & sorcery delivery. It started out as as a Cormac MacArt pastiche of Robert E. Howard. Andrew J. Offutt was writing Cormac MacArt novels for Zebra in the late 1970s. David C. Smith told me that Offutt would use plots by would be authors. There was a sliding scale on pay depending on how much Offutt had to do. There are the two books with Keith Taylor and I have heard Sign of the Moonbow was based on a Geo. W. Proctor plot. Drake later told me that Offutt got very patronizing with him so Drake decided the yank the novel and make it his own. It works as a great example of pastiche escaping the confines of imitation.

I read very little science fiction written after around 1960. Drake was one of the few that I did read. He did not always click. I tried the Northworld books and did not care for them for some reason. I loved the Raj Whitehall novels co-written with S. M. Stirling as I saw Procopius given a science fiction rewrite.

He also edited some anthologies and collections. Cthulhu: The Mythos and Kindred Horrors by Robert E. Howard (Baen, 1987) edited by Drake had three printings. It gave us Robert E. Howard at a time there was very little REH out there.

Somewhere along the line, I contacted David Drake through the e-mail at his website. He supplied me with the cover for Bran Mak Morn novel never written by Karl Edward Wagner. I scanned some dinosaur stories from pulp magazines for him. He thought “Rocketeers Have Shaggy Ears” by Keith Bennett (Planet Stories, Spring 1950) was the first military science fiction story, disagreeing with my claim that Philip Francis Nowlan’s “Armageddon 2419 A.D” was the first military science fiction story. I was surprised when he wrote me in an e-mail that he did not like H. Beam Piper’s fiction. He was also a big Clark Ashton Smith fan. You can see it in his “Lord of the Isles” series.

Drake’s fantasy and science fiction had a hard-boiled delivery. Wagner’s introduciton to From the Heart of Darkness mentioned the influence of the prose style of Dashiell Hammett. The Vettius and Dama stories rise above due to the direct prose in comparison to others.

Thanks for the great fiction cavalry trooper David Drake.

  • Terry says:

    Astonished that you never read —or even mention—Hammers Slammers and the Belisarius books.

    • Morgan says:

      I never said I did not read either Hammer’s Slammers or the Belisarius books. I mention Hammer’s Slammers in the piece. I read the Belisarius books. I did mention Procopius.

  • bruce says:

    I think the ‘Old Nathan’ (Appalachian magic, Manly Wade Wellman influence) collection might be his best.

    Or maybe it’s the ‘Lacey and his Friends’ future surveillance society stories.

    Or maybe ‘Birds of Prey’, Ancient Rome secret agent time travel novel.

    Or the first Slammers collection. Or…

    In the intro to ‘From the Heart of Darkness’ collection you mention, Karl Wagner said Drake was equally proud of his complete Sven Hassel collection and his complete Weird Tales collection.

    When I was young and believed what I read, I read Norman Spinrad saying writers who call other writers pornographers are admitting they themselves can’t write sex scenes. Compared to Drake, most writers can’t write fight scenes. And I love his stuff. But if ‘war porn’ means anything, he wrote it.

    He was almost the last living writer out of the group I grew up obsessed with- Poul Anderson, Drake, Heinlein, Niven, Pournelle, Zelazny. Niven alone remains. End of an era.

  • Please give us your valuable comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *