I did my usual rounds on the REH/Conan forums this morning.
I was pleasantly surprised to find this note awaiting myself and other enthusiasts on our discussion thread concerning The Twelve Children of Paris by Tim Willocks.
(I believe you can read the post without being a member. But, for convenience, I am assuming the author won't mind my repost here.)
Dear Fierro, Deuce, PaulMc, et al,
I am Tim Willocks. I registered on this site to thank you guys for your support, which I greatly appreciate. I am honoured that you should give Tannhauser a place in Valhalla with Conan himself.
REH's Conan was one of my great inspirations when I was but a lad. Along with Sergio Leone's 'Man With No Name', the western novel character 'Edge' by George G. Gilman (the first ten were amazing; I don't know if they are still available but worth looking for), and the novels of Sven Hassel (again, the earlier ones are best - Wheels of Terror in particular).
T's body count, by the way, is over 150 in Twelve Children, all individual deaths. The only wound he receives is from a boy with a sling. I based his fighting attitudes and style on the great karate masters I have trained with over the last thirty years. I achieved a respectable level, 2nd Dan, and won a minor competition here and there, but whenever I came across the real virtuosos I was completely stunned, dazzled, overwhelmed, by their speed, insight, foresight and above all decisiveness. A different dimension, almost supernatural. I felt like a two-year old. And no matter how hard a modern martial artist trains, he sleeps in a bed and his life is not at stake. So how much more extraordinary must the fighters of the past have been? When not just their lives were at stake but also notions of honour that are now incomprehensible.
Unlike in The Religion, where he had the janissaries to contend with, in Twelve Children he is facing, essentially, volunteer policemen and street thugs.I couldn't bring myself to let them lay a glove on him - or rather, I just didn't believe that he would let them. Personally, it often annoys me in movies when the hero gets wounded just for the sake of making his life a bit more difficult, a fake tension. If you are that good, you don't lose a single point. Why wouldn't you kill them all? Why would even cross your mind to show mercy? My main frustration in writing the action was that it takes sixty-seconds' worth of words to describe a move that would take only two seconds (or less) to execute.
I think some readers will doubt the realism of all that, but to me it is true realism. I have absolutely no doubt that such men existed. Shakespeare is full of them. I once saw a former New York state tennis champion play a former Polish national champion and Grand Slam contender. There are a lot of really good tennis players in New York State; but the Polish guy crushed him - he didn't concede a single point, let alone a game. The local crowd fell into a kind of horrified silence. The Polish champion just lived, breathed, perceived in a different dimension. Tannhauser is essentially a kind of five-times Grand Slam champion of combat. It's not that there are not others in his league, it's just that I couldn't imagine any of them being in Paris at that time - or certainly not among the packs of rabid murderers.
Anyway, thanks again for your generous and thoughtful comments.
I will sign off with this REH quotation, to which I often return for reassurance when I worry that Tannhauser is going too far (which is often):
“Let me live deep while I live. Let me know the rich juices of red meat and stinging wine on my palate, the hot embrace of white arms, the mad exultation of battle when the blue blades flame and crimson, and I am content. Let teachers and priests and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion. I know this: if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content.” Conan in 'Queen of the Black Coast'.
All the best
The extra insight into the believability of Tannhauser and his actions is very spot-on.
Anyway, this was a great post to read first thing in the morning. The Internet/Web can still be a very neat place where cool things happen.