lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


I am in mourning.

In less than a week I learn that the two men I regularly abandoned my husband to frolic with have, in PG Wodehouse speak, handed in their dinner pails.

I learnt that David Gemmell is dead - the misdiagnosed cancer that he battled to survive as he wrote his first novel came claiming dues, interest and more. That first novel he wrote, Legend, was just an appetizer; he developed and enlarged Druss, painted him in splendid hues. He created a hero like none other:

Druss the Legend. Invincible Druss. Captain of the Ax. Deathwalker. Silver Slayer.

Gemmell developed Druss as a role model. Warrior and veteran of a thousand battles though he might be, he was also an old man fighting battles that should not have been, shoring up lost causes and undertaking last ditch quests.

"Never violate a woman, nor harm a child. Do not lie, cheat or steal. These are things for lesser men. Protect the weak against the evil strong. And never allow thoughts of gain to lead you into pursuit of evil."

That was the code Druss lived by. I could advocate it to our politicians and leading lights. Druss is what all men and women should aspire to be. Perfectly in harmony with himself and the world, and ever striving to set things right. Druss might be a fictional character, but he is the best crusader I ever met.

"You don't drink. There are no women. You eat no meat. What do you do for recreation?"

"We study," said Serbitar. "And we train, and we plant flowers and raise horses. Our time is well occupied I assure you."

"No wonder you want to go away and die somewhere," said Rek with feeling.

A temple of warrior monks being recruited for a lost cause. A snippet from 'Legend.'

There are more gems than I can quote at you. The subtle humour was always there and got better and better. Now Gemmell won't finish the tales of Troy. Lord of the Silver Bow might well be the last novel that came out. I mourn him.

Bob Smithies a k a Bunthorne is no more too.

Bunthorne gave me such pleasurable hours of cerebration, because he was definitely a "compiler's compiler." A scholarly man, his crosswords were always challenging and they broadened my GK Quotient when I managed to complete them or tried to fathom how the solutions were arrived at, the next day.

He introduced me to words like odalisques and more; a deeper knowledge of Gilbert and Sullivan, Rudyard Kipling and the just plain strangeness of English language. He was just the ticket for somebody who uses English as a second language to learn it better.

Solvers would throw up their hands and quit before giving battle when they saw Bunthorne's name. But he was scrupulously fair and you could always solve his crosswords, by and by. For me the 'by and by' became fairly regular and my husband would groan when I announced gleefully, 'it is Bunthorne today, honey.' I just had to see his name, to rub my hands in anticipation of a battle. Sometimes I'd win it; sometimes not. Solving Bunthorne was somewhat like undertaking a quest.

There were many gems of clues he set. Some seem ironic now. Albion and Death seem interchangeable here, to me.

Albion's treachery, according to French mind. Why speak of it? (7) Perfidy

But I take comfort from one of the best clues he ever set, his own favourite, admittedly .

Amundsen's forwarding address (4) Mush!

It's so typical of Bunthorne. He expected you to know chapter and verse about the name mentioned, and get the joke.

Not any more, though. I wish I had taken my appreciation to the point where I actually wrote and told him how much I relished the challenge of his crosswords when I had a chance. Now he won't be reading any letters and I am writing this post of bereavement.

Uncompromising they both were, Bunthorne and Gemmell. Entertainers they were, too. They gave me hours of pleasure, years of company. Now they are no more.

"Goodnight, sweet Prince. And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."


Blogger katnuk said...

"Never violate a woman, nor harm a child. Do not lie, cheat or steal. These are things for lesser men. Protect the weak against the evil strong. And never allow thoughts of gain to lead you into pursuit of evil."

This is a beautiful passage... the code of manhood my father taught me. :-) katnuk.

5:25 pm  
Anonymous Ash said...

Gemmell's dead? This is bad news. I was rather looking forward to the Troy series.

My condolences.

8:18 pm  
Blogger db said...

"Never violate a woman, nor harm a child. Do not lie, cheat or steal. These are things for lesser men. Protect the weak against the evil strong. And never allow thoughts of gain to lead you into pursuit of evil."

If only better sense prevailed among mankind *sigh*

9:25 pm  
Anonymous Rajesh said...

Perfidy I got, but Mush!? How?

Sorry to hear you are in mourning.Though you wrote a good tribute to both of them.

Cheer up, Lali.

9:50 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Katnuk- Hi. It is a code worth adopting, yes.

Keep visiting.

Ash- I hear that the second novel of the Troy series will be out in September. But after that we'll be reduced to re-reads.

Ram- Yeah! why don't our politicians read the books we do?

And I'm sorry I never addressed the points you raised commenting on my last post. I was devastated by Bunthorne's death.

You can't get dehydrated if you drink some three litres of water in a day. heh!

Rajesh- I know Amundsen is South Pole, but polar expeditions conjure up immediate visions sleds and dogs. The get moving command for the huskies is 'Mush.' Ergo.

11:00 pm  
Blogger Rimi said...

an excellent tribute, but we wouldn't except an iota less of you. I would have let this post pass, Lali, but I had to tell you that you're capable of making me miss men I wasn't aware existed.

11:11 pm  
Blogger db said...

I was shocked for a second .. and then laughed at my own carelessness in reading ... I mis-interpreted your statement as drinking "3 litres of beer a day" ... Hahahah ...

2:54 am  
Blogger Generally_Speaking said...

Haven't heard of either of these two, but they seem to be pretty interesting men!

Btw - how have you been? Thanks for your email, was in hibernation for a while

4:47 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Rimi- Thank you, dear. I will miss them both.

Ram- *sniggers* Thought so. And rituals adapt to changes in circumstances because, we as a species are so adaptible; we wouldn't have survived otherwise. Think on that.

And thanks, Ram, for gifting me a smile when I was feeling blue.

gen- Welcome back, gen. Yes, they were both wonderful men, in as much as I knew of their works. Gemmells novels and Bunthorne's crosswords.

9:07 pm  
Blogger db said...


Most welcome ...

11:31 pm  

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