Wednesday, January 9, 2008

My books #3: Curse of the Mummy

Beware the Curse of Akharis!

Helping an eccentric archaeologist unearth an ancient tomb in the Desert of Skulls seems like an easy task for a heroic adventurer like YOU. But when that tomb turns out to belong to Akharis – a legendary ruler from a previous age – and when you discover some of his followers are trying to return the evil pharaoh to life, YOU must act quickly.

Soon you will have to learn the true meaning of the Curse of the Mummy! It will take a real hero to defeat Akharis and win the treasure. Dare YOU take on the challenge?

I finished university in the summer of 1994 and, turning my back on four years’ of training to become a teacher, I decided that I was going to try my hand at being a writer. I made this bold decision with only one commission to my name, and that was for my third Fighting Fantasy adventure, ‘Curse of the Mummy’.

Do I even need to explain what the inspiration was for this book?

I had been fascinated by Egyptian mythology ever since I was a child, and it was an interest that had stayed with me. My final university dissertation was entitled ‘Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egyptian Art’ (catchy, I know). As part of my Art course, I was lucky enough to visit Egypt for two weeks, visiting everything from the Pyramids at Giza and the Valley of the Kings to the temples of Edfu, Komombo and Karnak. It was a truly inspirational trip and the dedication at the front of ‘Curse’ harks back to an adventurous trek I made with a group of friends, climbing the mountains above the Valley of the Kings to descend to the temple of Queen Hatshepsut on the other side.

I tried to cram in everything I could into ‘Curse’ and loved putting a spin on traditional fantasy archetypes (such as including a Golem, but one made from sand). I created a whole pantheon of Djaratian animal-headed gods which are referenced over the course of the adventure and I think a little bit of Indiana Jones might have snuck its way in there too.

I was delighted to discover that Martin McKenna was going to illustrate the adventure and paint the cover, which (incredibly) was to be his first solo cover for the FF line. It was always Martin’s style that I pictured when I came up with ideas for illustrations. With a number of the illustrations he finally produced they were just as I had imagined them. With several more they were better than I had imagined.

'Curse of the Mummy' has recently been republished by Wizard Books and it is one of only two books which have retained their original cover from the original series, so strong was the image Martin McKenna produced of the risen Akharis. Oh, and for those in the know, the upright sarcophagus you can see behind him is from the Tom Baker classic Doctor Who adventure 'Pyramids of Mars'. (Martin even managed to sneak one of the robo-mummies into the book!)

What was unusual about ‘Curse of the Mummy’, at the time of writing, was that it was the first traditional dungeon bash I had written (and even then, the first quarter of the book is about finding the Mummy’s tomb). This mainstay of the RPG genre had been done to death so many times before, but with ‘Curse’ I felt that I could do something new. I even have the carefully worked out scale maps I drew for this adventure somewhere amongst all my notes...

A small piece of FF trivia: I was told that Keith Martin’s ‘Revenge of the Vampire’ (original FF #58) was to be called ‘Curse of the Vampire’ until my proposal landed on the editor’s desk.


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