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JON SHANNOW

Of the many characters I have created over the years, few have 
captured the imagination of readers as powerfully as Jon Shannow, the 
Jerusalem Man.
Alan Fisher, the award winning author of 'Terioki Crossing', and a fan
of the film Casablanca, has a phrase that sums up characters like 
Shannow. "They walk out of Rick's bar, fully formed and real. The 
author doesn't have to work on them at all. There is no concsious act 
of creation. One moment they don't exist- the next they stand before 
you, complete and ready."
I remember the moment Shannow walked out of Rick's bar.
It was at the end of a miserable, wet day in Bournemouth at the 
start of autumn in 1986. I was the group managing editor of a series 
of newspapers stretching from Brighton to Portsmouth on the south 
coast. The previous week I had a call from my father to tell me that 
my mother was in hospiatl and that the surgeons feared she had 
terminal cancer. They were right. A year before she had suffered the 
aputation of her right leg, and fought back to make a dramatic 
entrance at the Christmas dance. This time there would be no 
fightback.
I had visited her in London, and then driven to Bournemouth for a 
business meeting, concluding it at around ten that night. I was 
staying in a small hotel of remarkable unfriendliness. The kind of 
place- as Jack Dee once said- where the Gideons leave a rope! I hadn't
eaten since the previous evening and I called the night porter. He 
said the kitchen staff had gone home, but there was a plate of olives 
someone had left at the bar. Nursing the olives and a very large glass
of Armagnac I returned to my room and opened the Olympia portable 
typewriter.
I was at the time preparing a Drenai novel, featuring the Nadir 
warlord Ulric, which my publishers had commissioned. According to the 
contract the book was to be called 'Wolf in Shadow' and was, lossely,
a prequel to Legend. I had completed around sixty pages. They weren't 
good, but I was powering on as best I could.
Sitting by the window, looking out over Bournemouth's glistening 
streets, I tried to push the events of the week from my mind.
My mother was dying, I was waiting to be fired, and staff, who had 
joined my team in good faith, were facing redundancy. After the fifth 
large Armagnac I decided to continue work on the book. I knew I was 
drunk, and I also knew that the chances of writing anything worthwhile
 were pretty negligible. But forcing my mind into a fantasy world 
seemed infintely more appealing than concentrating on the reality at 
hand.
The scene I was set to continue had a Nadir scout riding across the 
steppes. The intention was to follow him to the top of a hill and have
 him gaze down on the awesome army camped on the plains below.
I focuse dont he typewriter keys and typed the folowing sentences...

'The rider paused at the crest of a wooded hill, and gazed down at 
the wide, rolling ampty lands beneath him. There was no sign of Jerusalem...

The walls of the mind came crashing in as I typed the word 'Jerusalem,
' thoughts, fears amd regrets spilling ver one another, fighting for 
space. There followed a bad hour, which even Armagnac could not ease.
But after midnight I returned to the page and stared down at it. It
 called to me. Who is he, I thought? What is he looking for, 
the Jerusalem Man?
And suddenly he was there. Tall and gaunt, seeking a city that had 
ceased to exist three hundred years before. A lonely, tortured man on
 a quest with no ending, riding through a world of savagery and 
barbarism.
The story flowed in an instant, and I wrote until after the dawn.
Through all the despair that followed in those next painful months I
found a sanctuary in the company of Jon Shannow. Through his eyes I
 could see the world clearly, and understand how important it is to 
be strong in the broken places.
As a result Shannow will always be one of my favourite characters.
For a while back here he was the best friend I'd ever had.
                                             1995



THE HERO WHO WOULD NOT DIE

~The following was written by David Gemmell as a foreword to 'The Last
 Guardian,' his second Jon Shannow story. It's about Jon Shannow's 
 refusal to stop living and breathing- despit anything David might 
 have planned. Here he explains...~

There was no doubt in my mind about what happened to Jon Shannow when 
he rode into the mountains, wounded and alone. He was dying. And 
Jerusalem beckoned.

Yet once the novel was published, reader reaction was immediate. How 
long to the next Shannow story? The answer was simple: Thankyou for 
your letter, and I'm glad you enjoyed Jon Shannow's tale, but he is 
dead. There will be no more adventures.

I sent just such a response to a fan in Liverpool. He knew better and
wrote back immediately. "No he's not! No way!"

It was a real shock- as if he knew something I didn't. I showed the 
letter to one of my test readers. Her amused response was, "Hey, maybe
he's right. you don't know everything David: You're only the author."

From that moment I started wondering about Shannow. Could there have 
been some miracle on the mountain?

At around the same time I recieved a number of reviews for 'Wolf in
Shadow.' Some were very good, some were indifferent, but one was
downright vile. One of the lines struck me particularly. "I dread to
think of people who look up to men like Shannow." The writer was
named Broome.

Twenty years of journalism had taught me not to overreact to 
criticism. A writer's work is not his child. It is just work. A work 
of love and passion, but work nonetheless.

Even so, I wanted to react in some way. All my characters in my novels 
are based on real people, and I thought it would be a neat response to
use a character named Broome- a man passionately oppossed to violence
who would loath the hero, but be drawn into his world. It was in my 
mind that he would be a cannon-fodder character, of little consequence
who would die early. But, as with so much in the magical world of 
creative writing, events did not- as you will see- turn out anything 
like I had planned.

It took only one more little nudge to push me into a second Shannow
novel. I was driving home one night, listening to the radio, when the 
haunting lyricof a new song struck home like an arrow.

The singer was a brilliant new American artist named Tracy Chapman,
and the song spoke of racism and riots and the appalling violence
that has sadly become commonplace in the impoverished inner cities of
the USA. One line had immense power for me...

"Across the lines who would dare to go..."

I knew who would dare.

I got home around 2am and immediately switched on the word processor. 
I had no idea how to get around the apparent death of my hero in the 
first book, and I did not wish to write a prequel voevel. In the end 
I used the simplest device there is. I began with the words...

'But he did not die...'

THE END OF THE JERUSALEM MAN?

   There is something about the character and personality of Shannow that
leaves people loving or loathing him. Sometimes both emotions are
aroused simultaneously. It is hard to pin down the reasons. 
   There is an iron quality about Jon Shannow that is admirable and 
worthy in a lone knight riding though a savage world. The decisions he
makes are based solely on what he sees and experiences. He lives with 
a code of honour that refuses to allow evil to rage unchecked. He will
always seek to defend the weak against the predators.
   Offset against this is his capacity for violence, and his certainty
that his actions are right. It is just such certainty that can lead to
horrors like the Spanish Inquisition, the butchery of the Aztecs, the 
burning at the stake of Catholics and Protestants, and the vileness of 
the Holocaust. When ruthless men are certain then the gulags and the 
concentration camps follow.
   I have tried to present Jon Shannow as a flawed man in a flawed 
world. There is more to him than the nature of his deeds, just as I
hope there is more to the stories than simple adventures of good versus
evil. The tales have a spiritual centre not based exclusively on any
recognised religion or creed. For me the message is simple, though I
know from conversation and correspondance with fans that the 
underlying sub-text is very often- though not always- misunderstood.
   But what is of enormous value to me is that 'Bloodstone' sprang 
from the inter-action between myself and the readers. For some years 
the weight of mail was light, and I was able to respond to every fan
who took the time to write. Increasing letters meant I could reply 
only to first time writers. Now even that has become difficult. But
every letter is read by me, and often the points made will find their 
way into subsequent stories. This is especially true of 'Bloodstone.'
   The questions from readers that prompted the novel were many. One
young fan wrote to ask whether Shannow was a symbol for the way I 
thought society should behave, as Forrest Gump is said to be a symbol
for America. Others talked of the nature of legend, or the lack of
spiritual centre in politics. One wrote saying that, while he enjoyed 
the novels, he hated Shannow because he was the epitome of men like 
the Ayatollah Khomeini. Can you imagine, he asked, what any society
was like if a man like Shannow ever had power?
   Could I imagine that? Yes I could. 'Bloodstone' is the result and
concludes the story of Jon Shannow.
   I do not believe there will be another. Though I don't doubt 
there's a fan in Liverpool who knows better.

                                         David Gemmell (1995)