Creation of 'The Warlock of Firetop Mountain'

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The following details the creation of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain.


The book was first conceived in 1980, when the authors Jackson and Livingstone met Geraldine Cooke, a Penguin editor, at Games Workshop's annual Games Day. Initially Cooke was interested in publishing a 'how-to-do-it' book on fantasy role-playing games but Jackson and Livingstone became less inclined to write a technical manual. Instead they fused basic role-playing rules and fantasy adventure plots to come up with the gamebook concept. The pair began work on the project in August 1981 and it took six months for them to write the book. Penguin did not know what to make of the manuscript and it was not until over a year later that the decision to publish was finally made. The book did, however, require a second draft as each author had written half of the adventure each (Livingstone wrote the first half, up to the river crossing, which made a convenient hand-over point, and Jackson wrote the climax of the adventure), and the writing style noticeably changed part way through the book - so Jackson re-wrote Livingstone's part of the book in his own style. There was also some internal debate as to whether the book should be published as a Penguin Book or a Puffin Book, with the book eventually appearing in Penguin's Puffin imprint. In August 1982 the first Fighting Fantasy Gamebook, titled The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, finally appeared and went on to sell out its first print run in a matter of weeks. It eventually sold over a million copies in fifteen languages.[1][2][3]

The project was initially titled The Magic Quest. Although both authors disliked this title, after 'endless debates' they could not come up with an alternative. Eventually the two came up with a compromise. Livingstone, who wrote the first part, had mentioned in the opening paragraph that the whole adventure took place in Firetop Mountain. Jackson, who wrote the final part, had created a climatic battle with a powerful Warlock. On the day the book was handed in it was agreed that the two elements would be combined to create the final title: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain.[4]

The finished book was made up of a clean 400 numbered references, which set the standard for the books that followed. This was, however a coincidence. When Jackson and Livingstone combined the two halves of the adventure it transpired that the numbered references, when added together, made a sum of 399. A fake key reference was added to bring to total up to 400.[5]

Cover and illustrations

The original cover of the book was designed and illustrated by Peter Andrew Jones. The design of the cover was unusual for the time, in that book covers usually had the title along the top so they could be read on the 'step' shelves found in stores - Jones, however, left room for the title of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain in the middle of the cover, much to the consternation of the publishers.[6] In later printings Puffin used a different, though very similar, cover illustration, also created by Peter Andrew Jones.

When the book was republished by Wizard the cover was once again re-worked, this time by Martin McKenna, who was asked to use the main elements from the original cover images but make them appear more modern.[7]

The book's interior illustrations were created by Russ Nicholson (who would have also illustrated the cover had confusion over the content of the book and what was wanted from the illustration not required that he begin work on the interior illustrations immediately).[8] The full-page illustrations in the book were accompanied with a caption giving the number of the paragraph depicted and a short extract from the text, a format which was only used again in the next two books, Citadel of Chaos and The Forest of Doom. The Warlock of Firetop Mountain was also unique in that the final paragraph was given an extra full-page illustration.


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