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Thursday, 25 July 2013

Necklace of Skulls

This is one of my very favourite Russ Nicholson illustrations for one of my favourite gamebooks. It's a Maya nobleman who tries to commandeer your boat to evacuate his family after the fall of Teotihuacan in Necklace of Skulls.
Two days' sailing brings you to Tahil, a busy trading settlement on the far coast. The others squint warily as they bring the vessel in to the harbour. You can see at once there is trouble here. Instead of the stacks of trade goods that would normally be piled up along the quayside at a port like this, there are milling crowds of refugees carrying everything they own on their backs. As you tie up at the quay, a man whose elegant clothing marks him as a lord of the Great City comes striding towards you.
We're currently formatting this book, along with three other titles from the Virtual Reality series, for re-release in the autumn. These were originally supposed to come out as part of the Infinite IF gamebooks we planned with Osprey, but that turned into a digital-only venture and I think readers prize these books enough to want to own physical copies.

Fabled Lands LLP's agent is talking to other traditional publishers, because it would be great to get proper bookstore distribution - for as long as high street bookstores survive, anyway. If those talks go nowhere, Fabled Lands LLP will publish the books, the only difference being that you'll have to order them from Amazon.

The four books have all-new covers by Jon Hodgson and if Fabled Lands LLP publish them I'm going to spend some of my spare time cleaning up some crisp 600dpi scans of Russ's original drawings. After twenty years, the VR books are a bit yellow and blotchy (just like Jamie) so getting a good scan involves razor-blading them apart, followed by far too much time in Photoshop - and me an author, not a graphic designer, after all.

If you just can't wait, Russ has put up all the Necklace of Skulls images on his blog. And thanks to the magic warehouse robots of Amazon, you can still buy the original mid-90s edition.(That's UK; US readers go here.)


  1. Wot no comments yet?

    A reprint of Necklace Of Skulls is very, very good news indeed - especially with Russ Nicholson artwork intact and Jon Hodgson(!) cover - and well worth the care and attention to bring it back to life. A must-buy as far as I'm concerned.

    In a way it's a shame that the Osprey deal didn't work out, but this new printing actually sounds like it will turn out better, anyway, so I guess it was for the best!

    1. Absolutely, as the Osprey deal would have meant no print edition at all - and surely gamebook aficionados are going to want a book they can put on their shelves?

      I wish I could've got Jon Hodgson art for the new Golden Dragon covers too, but I'm funding those myself (it's a spare-time, labour-of-love type deal for the handful of fans who want them) so just doing my best with some public domain artwork.