Tuesday 8 April 2014

Requiescat in Pace, Miguel Martins

I've typed, deleted, retyped this post a dozen times now. Nothing seems adequate. I'm just so frustrated and sad and bewildered and baffled.

Fabrice Tortey, myself, and Miguel Martins at Greenleaf

What could I say? Copy out the blurb from The Cimmerian website? Talk about the three or four days in 2011 when I actually talked with him in person? Discuss how I got on so well with him on the internet? What the hell does it all matter? Why is this so difficult for me?

Jeff Shanks, Miguel Martins, and me at the first 2011 Howard Days panel

Miguel Martins. Axerules of the Robert E. Howard Forum. A Robert E. Howard fan and scholar, who contributed to The Cimmerian website, was a solid and recognizable member of the French Robert E. Howard fan community. Was. That change in tense is like a lead hammer falling on my sternum.

Three Cimmerians: you pick out who's Athos, Porthos and Aramis

Everyone on The Cimmerian did more than anyone to make me feel welcome to the world of Robert E. Howard - and the confidence I gained from that led to this blog, to comics, to publication. My very bearing, my sense of self-worth as a critic, artist and general human being, was incalculably supported by the enthusiastic support of that troop.

We steeled ourselves for Caddo Peak: hills are one thing, Texas heat quite another

We all started out together, and we all worked together. Whenever I wanted to run past something, Miguel was always there to read. When the first thoughts of the Hyborian Age Encyclopedia started to muster, Miguel was eager to offer his thoughts. And he was always first to know news, be it for new Howard projects, classic adventure, or anything related to Sword-and-Sorcery.

I have to wonder if Leslie Buhler and Keith West ever imagined they'd be climbing up a hill in Texas with a Scot and a Frenchman...

It's memories like that which I always come back to. I remember when Paradox put out their synopses of various Howard film projects four - wow, four - years ago. I couldn't help but write up my thoughts on it, but just as I sent it off for publication, I found Miguel was doing exactly the same thing! Rather than giving way to whoever finished their article first, I think it was Miguel who suggested that we combine our thoughts into a single co-authored post. And so it was. Likewise, us Old Worlders got to see the Solomon Kane adaptation years before the US release, and so we offered complementary reviews - given I was altogether more forgiving of the film then he, I suppose I was the Ebert to his Siskel.

French, Scots, American, no matter the nationality, Howard fans converge on old manuscripts in search of ancient knowledge and forgotten lore

Miguel was there at the second Scottish Invasion. That was a wonderful year for so many reasons, Miguel not least among them. He was to my right as we watched the world premier of the 2011 Conan the Barbarian red-band cinematic trailer. We rifled through a box of Cimmerian journals. We climbed Caddo Peak together. Scot and Frank, Gael and Gaul, the Auld Alliance, climbing an ancient hill in the middle of Texas, in the footsteps of an American author. Hundreds of thousands of miles converged. For a brief moment in time, a Scotsman and a Frenchman cast their shadow on ancient Caddo Peak together.

He may have faded out of our circle over the past few years, but as Jeff will surely attest, he never faded from memory, nor will he.

The Black Prince scowled above his lance, and wrath in his hot eyes lay,
"I would rather you rode with the spears of France and not at my side today.
"A man may parry an open blow, but I know not where to fend;
"I would that you were an open foe, instead of a sworn friend.

"You came to me in an hour of need, and your heart I thought I saw;
"But you are one of a rebel breed that knows not king or law.
"You - with your ever smiling face and a black heart under your mail -
"With the haughty strain of the Norman race and the wild, black blood of the Gael.

"Thrice in a night fight's close-locked gloom my shield by merest chance
"Has turned a sword that thrust like doom -- I wot 'twas not of France!
"And in a dust-cloud, blind and red, as we charged the Provence line
"An unseen axe struck Fitzjames dead, who gave his life for mine.

"Had I proofs, your head should fall this day or ever I rode to strife.
"Are you but a wolf to rend and slay, with naught to guide your life?
"No gleam of love in a lady's eyes, no honor or faith or fame?"
I raised my faces to the brooding skies and laughed like a roaring flame.

"I followed the sign of the Geraldine from Meath to the western sea
"Till a careless word that I scarcely heard bred hate in the heart of me.
"Then I lent my sword to the Irish chiefs, for half of my blood is Gael,
"And we cut like a sickle through the sheafs as we harried the lines of the Pale.

"But Dermod O'Connor, wild with wine, called me a dog at heel,
"And I cleft his bosom to the spine and fled to the black O'Neil.
"We harried the chieftains of the south; we shattered the Norman bows.
"We wasted the land from Cork to Louth; we trampled our fallen foes.

"But Conn O'Neill put on me a slight before the Gaelic lords,
"And I betrayed him in the night to the red O'Donnell swords.
"I am no thrall to any man, no vassal to any king.
"I owe no vow to any clan, nor faith to any thing.

"Traitor - but not for fear or gold, but the fire in my own dark brain;
"For the coins I loot from the broken hold I throw to the winds again.
"And I am true to myself alone, through pride and the traitor's part.
"I would give my life to shield your throne, or rip from your breast, the heart.

"For a look or a word, scarce thought or heard, I follow a fading fire.
"Past bead and bell and the hangman's cell, like a harp-call of desire.
"I may not see the road I ride for the witch-fire lamps that gleam;
"But phantoms glide at my bridle-side, and I follow a nameless Dream."

The Black Prince shuddered and shook his head, then crossed himself amain:
"Go, in God's name, and never," he said, "ride in my sight again."

The starlight silvered my bridle-rein; the moonlight burned my lance
As I rode back from the wars again through the pleasant hills of France,
As I rode to tell Lord Amory of the dark Fitzgerald line
If the Black Prince dies, it needs must be by another hand than mine.


  1. While I only met Miguel that one time in 2011, I liked him immediately and remember him fondly. I'm sorry for your loss, Al.

  2. Thanks. All the family is grateful of your messages

  3. Al,
    This is a wonderful tribute. The photos of you two say it all. No need for words. I remember in Cross Plains 2011, you, Fabrice and Miguel were in the car although I don't remember where we were going. Fabrice sat in front with me and you and Miguel were in the back seat talking a mile a minute with broad smiles on your face. I watched you guys in the rearview mirror and I remember thinking that it was a meeting of two (great!) minds. Like a dam broke and all those thoughts and words were just pouring out! Later you two added Jeff and it was the same.
    Thanks for posting this....

  4. Thank you, one and all. This was tough for me to write, but I'm glad I did.

    Barbara, I remember that ride too - will never forget it.