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And well met....
“The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.”
Such a simple line, a great hook, and the beginning of a book about one of my favorite literary characters. There’s magic in that line. And that’s where we’re going this morning. Magic. That ethereal thing that pulls you into a book and makes it one of your favorites. And the characters who take you along for the ride.
Roland Deschain is the gunslinger. He’s the prototypical knight errant reborn as Clint Eastwood’s “Man with No Name”. Instead of a sword and a shield, he carries two worn six guns with sandalwood grips. He walks damn near everywhere, leaving a trail of bodies behind. He is the last remaining form of Justice in his world. And I don’t mean “six gun justice” or some such crap. He’s a man of honor, a diplomat, and when need be, an executioner. He’s far from perfect. His original band, called a ka-tet, have all been killed during his journeys. He sees most people as a means to an end, as opposed to friends or confidants. He has no qualms about killing women and children in the name of Justice. And he’s kind of a dick. But as bad as he is, there’s always something worse around the bend.
He’s also the last of his kind. The gunslingers of his world were wiped out due to the machinations of the Man in Black. Only he and his group remained and when the gunslingers went away, Roland’s world “moved on”. Justice and Order were relegated to the backseat, while Chaos took the wheel and floored the motherfucker. Cities and civilizations crumbled, mutants pillaged and ran rampant and time stopped working the way it should. But none of that mattered to him. The only thing that mattered was The Tower.
The Tower exists as the nexus of all possible worlds. And it said that if one reaches it, he might be able to enter. And if one does enter, and is of quick wit, he may survive the long journey to the top of The Tower. And from there he may speak to the Gods. What Roland wants to ask them, we’re not exactly sure. But I was damned if I would put the book down until I found out.
I was instantly drawn to the character, if for no other reason than I’m a sucker for the loner types who don’t know when to say die. A half dead antihero walking through the desert, chasing the man who killed his world. There’s so much richness and detail in this almost dead place. And the book becomes not just a story about a man looking for another man, but about the journey itself. The places and people he encounters, the obstacles he must overcome on his long journey and the multitude of things that attempt to do him in. It all came alive in my mind. And it’s something I still reread every year or so.
So, how about you ? What characters can you just not let go of ? When was the last time you got fully sucked into a book and didn’t let go until you were done ?