Gamebook store

Sunday 4 August 2013

All fired up

If you're a real gamebookwyrm (see what I did there?) you may be familiar with the cover below, but probably not the one on the left. It's the Danish cover for The Temple of Flame, my second-ever gamebook, published all the way back in 1984.

Oliver Johnson is co-credited but actually he had nothing to do with writing the book. I think the original plan was that he and I were to work together on both The Temple of Flame (for Golden Dragon) and The Lord of Shadow Keep (for the Fighting Fantasy series). Then, following a drunken evening in a Soho bar between Oliver and Angela Sheehan of Grafton Books, the Golden Dragon contract was extended from two to six titles. So I volunteered to write Golden Dragon 1 and 2 while Oliver delivered The Lord of Shadow Keep, then he and I would split writing duties on the other four.

Yeah, plans... What actually happened was that Shadow Keep got moved to being Golden Dragon book 3. I didn't know, and more importantly neither did Philippa Dickinson, the editor at Puffin in charge of Fighting Fantasy. The first I heard about it was an irate phone call. Luckily Philippa and I smoothed it over and went on, of course, to work together on Dragon Warriors, Heroquest, Knightmare, Captain Scarlet and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

I prefer the Danish logo. The dragon actually looks dangerous and reptilian, in contrast to the cute li'l puppy look on the British version. But Bruno Elletori's cover painting captures the spirit of the text better than Peder Bundgaard's more comic-booky depiction of Damontir the wizard.

People say Temple is a tough adventure. I have tweaked a couple of the combats to make them less punishing, but the biggest bone of contention has always been the fight with the hero's mirror-self. Surely a fifty-fifty duel? Not if you're smart - and that's all I'm saying.

The Temple of Flame is being re-released by Fabled Lands Publishing as part of our big republishing program. This time we've kept all of Leo Hartas's original illustrations, which means extra pages and so a slightly higher cover price than The Castle of Lost Souls and Curse of the Pharaoh. But well worth it if you want a classic example of a "dungeon adventure" gamebook from the heyday of the genre. Of course, I would say that.


  1. Every time I see that cover I come to the immediate conclusion that a whole army of Skullghasts are going to seriously mess with my day, and that I need to find my ship and get the hell out of this Mungodian jungle ASAP.

    +1 for the original Leo Hartas artwork, which is definitely the right choice for this fun adventure in the Lands of Legend.

    Tweaked combat? Interesting...

    1. I would have been tempted to keep that old cover, except I don't have a copy of the image without lettering and in any case I don't have the rights. I did contact an artist friend about getting a new version done that would have been a reworking of the original, but he never got back to me - so it's Frederick Catherwood or nowt.

      *Was* that jungle in Mungoda..? I guess it must have been.

  2. Oh. That cover art of the Temple of Flame is so memorable that it is one of the very few game books outside the Fabled Lands I can recalled. Just shows how good cover art helps!


    1. Goddammit, you guys are making me wish I'd tracked down Bruno Elletori and got the rights to use it again :)