Word spread on Facebook last night that Charles Saunders, author of Imaro, has passed away. It is being reported he died in May. Odd that an obituary search turns up empty.
Let's hope it may be a rumor, but it does not appear that way. Author Milton Davis, who continued in Saunders' "Sword-and-Soul" tradition, broke the news, and many authors, friends, and peers have chimed in since.
Imaro and its subsequent volumes deserves a longer post than I have time for at the moment, but I consider these terrific works of sword-and-sorcery. If not at the level of Howard/Leiber/Moorcock/Anderson, they rank up there with Henry Kuttner, Karl Edward Wagner, David Drake, and many other fine authors.
I regret not contacting Saunders when I had the chance to let him know how much I enjoyed his work. Nyumbani, Saunders' fantastic parallel of Africa, is a rich and sharply realized setting worth exploring, and Imaro is a memorable character with a dark past whose relentless search turned inward, far more than most sword-and-sorcery heroes. As a black author working in a largely white field, Saunders was a pioneer and penned many thoughtful essays on his complex relationship with fantasy fiction and sword-and-sorcery ("Die Black Dog!" is worth seeking out). His stuff absolutely deserves a bigger following. The late Steve Tompkins of The Cimmerian website was one of Saunders' biggest champions and found a rich, mythic layer to the Imaro cycle.
Rest in peace.