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Friday, 2 December 2016

Joe Dever (1956-2016)

Joe Dever died this week. I'm not greatly familiar with his work, but if you're a fan of gamebooks then you will already know much more than I could say anyway. He wrote what must be the most epic gamebook saga ever, and he was probably the first to use an original and fully detailed campaign setting and an ongoing character across multiple gamebooks. A true pioneer of the medium.

We didn't know each other very well. He wasn't part of the roleplaying social circle that included me, Jamie, Oliver Johnson, Mark Smith, Paul Mason and Steve Williams. Joe and I chatted a couple of times back in the '80s about gamebook ideas, but our paths had never crossed before that at Games Workshop, where he and Gary Chalk were working when they came up with Lone Wolf.

Gamebooks were big business then and every publisher was desperate to have their own series or three. I admired the solid design that Joe and Gary put into the underlying mechanics - the clear rules for where inventory was listed on the character sheet, things like that.

There's a tribute to Joe Dever over on Stuart Lloyd's blog and Paul Gresty has written this fan's-eye view of Joe Dever's work, a heartfelt paean to the priceless gift of fantasy that a good author can bestow.


  1. That's a surprise, and a most unwelcome one. Very sad news. Him and his work were a huge part of my childhood, so he'll always be a legend in my eyes.

  2. That's very sad to hear. It's surreal with all the atrocities happening in the world, which we become somewhat immunized to, that news like this comes as such a body blow. Partly lost childhood memories, partly an awareness of mortality I suppose? Lone Wolf wasn't my favourite gamebook series in truth, nevertheless it's still there on my shelf after all these years and I was looking forward to completing the collection with books 29 to 32. Books 1 to 6 were very good. I brought Caverns of Kalte around the same time or even on the same shopping trip as The Eye Of The Dragon, Usurper and some early FF. I especially liked his Freeway Warrior series (obvious Mad Max influence/overtones). I also remember a very funny review of one of his Combat Heroes books in Warlock, with Derek the Troll playing one of the characters! Anyway, happy memories. Thanks Joe. RIP.

  3. Such sad news. I loved Lone Wolf and some of his other creations and found his writing and the worlds he created was amazingly vivid and evocative. RIP Joe Dever and thanks for creating work which fuelled some fantastic times and memories with my brother in our youth.

  4. R.I.P. Joe Dever, thanks for your magnificent contribution to the gamebook world...

  5. I'm advised by Richard S Hetley that it's quite contentious to say, as I did above, that Joe Dever and Gary Chalk jointly came up with Lone Wolf. So I'd better add that I have no inside knowledge, I just assume that's the case because it's how the books were credited (see the first cover above) and marketed when they originally came out. As for who actually devised what, you'd have to ask Mr Chalk as he's the only person now who knows for sure.

    1. I certainly do not know for sure whether the two of them jointly created the series or was Gary Chalk "just" the illustrator. However, his drawings, as I first saw them as a teenager, have greatly contributed to the overall gritty, dark, medieval atmosphere of the series. And the maps! I really loved them... I have several of the books in polish translation - re-printed from the Mongoose edition, if I remember well - with illustrations by somebody else... they just don't feel the same.
      Anyway, what sad news... Joe Dever was one of my two favourite gamebook authors, the one whose books I turned to when I wanted something that felt like a real RPG... RIP.