Yay, Arthurian thread.
I would second (and third, fourth, etc) the comments about Bernard Cornwell and Helen Hollick. And Rosemary Sutcliff (god, that was so wonderful), and TH White (yes, whimsical but I love his version of Lancelot) and Parke Godwin.
What is it about Arthur? I was raised on Steinbeck (which I still love) and I have to admit I lost the passion when I grew up for things more fantasy driven. But 2004 brought Clive Owen's terrible and wonderful King Arthur and I fell in love all over again. I searched out any kind of "realistic" Arthur books I could find, (that's how I found Helen and Rosemary) and so far I have devoured as much as I could in the genre, also starting my own novel featuring Lancelot and writing fanfiction for ages based on the movie (I wrote my own modern day spin on it, making Arthur into a cop and Lancelot into the son of a mobster, Guinevere his sister, and dealt with the tragedy of their relationship. It morphed from a one shot piece into a 300+ page "novel" lord help me
I still love the myth idea - although I have become a bigger fan of the "realistic" stuff versus the fantasy. I will read almost any version, though.
Guy Gavriel Kay also springs to mind; what a different, tragic and well written way to tell the story (I love his Arthur and Lancelot so much).
And yet why am I still obsessed? When I started writing fanfiction it was in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer universe (laughs) which I still like a lot...but I've written and read in Arthur now for almost seven years. Is it the timelessness of it? The romance? The idea of a fallible, lovable yet by god do I want to punch him sometimes hero - he is self righteous, hurtful, selfish and a fool who does what he wants despite the consequences for others sometimes. And yet he engenders loyalty and love from not one or two but many hundreds of people his entire life.
And then there's the idea that Ms. Hollick spoke of in one of her books - why would any king allow himself to be cuckolded the way he was in the myth?
My idea of that whole triangle...Lancelot is in love with both Arthur and Guinevere, and because he's human and also flawed...he cannot choose and the story ends the only way it can, in tragedy.
There's a woman, a Canadian singer, who does albums based on the story called Heather Dale. She has a song called May Queen and one called Exile that just break my heart, but also represent the triangle perfectly.
Yeah, I ramble.
What do you guys think? What do you love/hate about Arthur? Did you see the movie - let me know what you thought as it's my greatest passion. *laughs*
Thanks for letting me ramble.
ETA: forgot to mention Peter David's modern day Arthur stuff. Lots of fun.