I was cleaning out some shelves and pulling some books to put in boxes (ah I have too many books!) and I pulled out Death Angel's Shadow by Karl Edward Wagner. Oh well I had to read that again. Then I had to dig out Bloodstone and Darkness Weaves as well. I also realized I'm going to have to look out for a copy of Dark Crusade and the rest of his short stories some time - something I forgot to do the last time I read these books a decade ago.
If there is a feeling I wish I could convey at the game table it's the feeling I get when I read Wagner's Kane books. There are great and terrible things in the world and the rumours you may have heard are true - just not quite as you imagined them to be. I like the Kane books because even though you get the impression that there are terrible elder gods and powerful forces at work in the world - these stories focus on the human scale. Kane may be immortal but he's as gritty and real as it gets when he is sweet talking a monarch or dropping a stone cornice on his enemies below. This makes them a good fit for inspiring the proper level of oppression and fear in a game without going too far and making things seem either unreal or hopeless. It's also great fodder for planning out your own adventures as these stories cover a lot of excellent ground. From a creature stalking a lonely winter keep, to a terrible slog through deadly swamp, to a deadly game of cat and mouse in a plague scoured city, Wagner's Kane can deliver the goods.
*update: Apparently there's a Kane movie in the works based on Reflections on the Winter of my Soul the first story in Death Angels Shadow - with the idea to do the other stories as well. Wow that could be a good movie, and I would like to see their take on Cold Light too.