I’m about 10 years old, the year is about 1985. It’s a cold and rainy spring weekend and my family have made their way down in our old campervan to the New Forest in the South of England, UK. My step-father loves windsurfing so we park up at Avon Beach car park in Mudeford, just outside the New Forest. He disappears off on the board into the choppy seas, and the rest of the family sit it out while wind and rain pound the poor campervan exposed to the elements.

I’m bored, so when the sun shows itself for a short time I wander down to a bookshop at the end of the carpark. The bookshop also doubles as a beach-shop selling buckets and spades, and small flags you’d put on sandcastles. The floor is slightly gritty with sand brought in from holiday-makers, and has that strange seaside smell mixed in with an inky newspaper smell. Tucked away around the corner is a bookshelf which changes my young life.

I bound back to the campervan, cradling my book purchase under my coat as the rain begins spitting again and I worry it may get wet. Sitting down to the makeshift table that doubles up as a bed when collapsed, I open the fresh pages of a book called “Deathtrap Dungeon” which is apparently called a Fighting Fantasy adventure. The next few hours I am whisked away to fantasy world and meet creatures that I would have never dreamed about, and have to dodge deadly traps to keep my character alive! I don’t have dice so can’t fight the monsters properly but that changes when we get home that evening and I raid the Monopoly box. I’m reading a book, but actually controlling the story! This blows my 10 year old mind at the time. We continue travelling down to Avon Beach carpark for a number of years as a family. At some point the campervan got upgraded, and at some point I learned to windsurf myself, but when we get back to that beach I return to the bookshop and buy out as many of these books as possible, including trying out other series such as Grail Quest and Lone Wolf, which I also love.

I’m 34 years old. It’s a windy and rainy July day and I’m sat in a car at Avon Beach carpark in Mudeford. I’ve come down to the New Forest with my family. Sadly this does not include my Mum who passed away two weeks earlier of stomach cancer – I miss her so very much. My step-father wanted to come here with the family, now with three young nephews, to think of the good times, and to find ways to grieve. The bookshop is still there so I have ten minutes to myself and walk down. The floor is still slightly gritty, and still has that strange seaside and inky newspaper smell. I walk around to the section which used to house all the gamebooks. It has now been replaced with racks of wetsuits and bodyboards. I feel sad but understand its time for me to move on with life in lots of ways. I walk back to the car and begin making notes about a gamebook I want to write called “Siege of the Necromancer”.

– Neil Rennison

5 comments so far

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  1. I remember Deathtrap Dungeon! Wow- reminds of getting these from the school library, and playing them while at lunchtime “computer club” because they were better than almost anything you could do with those things….

  2. Good words, Neil.

  3. Nice piece Neil. I can relate to pretty much everthing in the first three paragraphs, including the years, my age at the time, thoughts about first reading one of the genre (although for me it was Lone Wolf – for some sad reason I relished the fact I was devoted to that series than the more popular FF series).

    If you dont mind me asking – are you a Brit? (i thought you were an Aussie). Feel free to ignore this personal question.

  4. Hi Andy. I don’t mind personal questions at all! Yes I am a Brit, but currently living in Melbourne, Australia with my wife and young daughter – been here about 3 years.

  5. Lovely story Neil.