This review originally appeared in Scrolls of Legendry #2.
Calgaich the Swordsman
Gordon D. Shirreffs
Playboy Press Paperbacks, 1980
Did you know Playboy used to publish novels? Don’t get the wrong idea; this isn’t like Demon Bitch’s Punishment or The Man From S.T.U.D. in the Orgy at Madame Dracula’s. This is an excellent historical novel dealing with the clash between Celtic barbarians and Roman civilization during the fourth century A.D.
Calgaich mac Lellan, son of the chief of the Novantae clan, was driven from his homeland Albu (Scotland) after slaying his cousin over a matter of honor. Three years later, he returns to set matters right, as his uncle Bruidge of the Battle-Axe has betrayed Calgaich’s father to the Romans. Calgaich’s rescue attempt goes awry, and the Romans capture him. The second (and even more exciting) half of the book takes place in Rome, where Calgaich is forced to fight for his life in the arena.
There’s quite a bit of profanity in this book, but only spoken by the Roman characters, never the barbarians. I assume Shirreffs did this to make a point on the theme of civilization vs. barbarism. With such a philosophical perspective and numerous suspenseful battle scenes, I would think that Calgaich would satisfy any fan of Robert E. Howard. (Which includes everyone reading this, right?)