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John Maddox Roberts: RIP –

John Maddox Roberts: RIP

Sunday , 9, June 2024 2 Comments

The word arrived this past week that author John Maddox Roberts had died on May 23, 2024 at age 76. There was a period when I read a steady number of Roberts’ novels.

He might be best remembered today for having written eight Conan pastiche novels for Tor from 1985-1995.

The first thing I ever read by him was one of the Crusader novels under the pseudonym Mark Ramsey back in the mid 1980s. Those are eagerly sought after books now. I have them all. I did not know at the time Mark Ramsey was John Maddox Roberts. Then again, in 1985 the name John Maddox Roberts would have not have mattered anyway.

I think the next thing I read by him was The Black Shields, the second book from the Stormlands series in 1991. This was a post-apocalyptic world returned to barbarism series. One of the best Desmond Killstar type series written. I am not sure if he ever finished that series. I noticed it was running out of steam by book four.

It was at this time in the early 90s, I read Cestus Dei which was a rewritten version of his first novel The Strayed Sheep of Charun. The novel that really appealed to me was King of the Wood. This was an alternate history where both Christian and pagan Norse settled North America. There is also Mongols and Aztecs in the novel. If you read one novel by Roberts, read King of the Wood.

I am not a reader of mysteries though I do enjoy Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett (and Ivy Frost). I decided to try SPQR, a mystery set in Rome in the time of the Republic after Sulla and the rise of Gaius Julius Caesar. I was hooked. These books were filled with lots of historical detail and witty comments. I bought the next three SPQR paperbacks as they came out. My favorite historical mystery series by far.

I read a couple of his Conan novels. He was probably the best or second best writer for the Tor batch of novels. I have one or two lying around un-read. Roberts was good at weapons and fight scenes. He was weak with the supernatural element.

The last series that held promise was the Hannibal’s Children series from 20 years ago. An alternate history where Hannibal won the Second Punic War and exiled the Romans to the north. Time goes by and the Romans are back. There were two books. I had asked him on the old Conan forum on if there would be any more Hannibal’s Children books but did not get a response. My guess is the series fell victim to changing publishing trends.

Roberts was a reliable writer for the most part. The SPQR novels were a cut above. If you stumble across King of the Wood, give it a read if you like Vikings, swords, and Mongols.

  • JohnnyMac says:

    Damn, another good author gone. I was a fan of his SPQR novels. May he rest in peace.

  • Les says:

    Interestingly, KotW was also my single favorite JMR novel. Read through it a few times between ’85 and ’88.

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