Legend is a good place to start. If you don't like that, OK. It's a very good beginning point, being the first book he wrote and got published. His ideology and sense of the world comes out pretty well with that one. The writing has it's raw spots, but it's still n times stronger and more "there" than almost all other heroic fantasy writers can even dream about.

But again: Gemmell should not be read one after the other after the other. Give him time, savour the tension and grittiness of his books, the shades of grey there. He is definitely a "manly" writer with characters that define manliness. Yet his heroes are not glorified "shining knights" nor are they all good. They are heroes with flaws and some times deep inner demons.

Gemmell is definitely nothing like Forgotten Realms, nor is he a bad writer. And yes, he writes books that have very little excess in them, thank ghod! His latest ones have turned out to be somewhat thicker than his earlier books, but then again every single book published nowadays has to be over 350 pages, preferably 800! Publishers can't sell slim books, therefore authors have to pad them up. Sad is the state of industry...