|The Kai Monastery|
My name is Julian Egelstaff. I started reading the Lone Wolf books in 1985, after my father gave me Flight From the Dark for a birthday present in December 1984.
The same month that I got Flight from the Dark, I had also been given a copy of book 4 of the Fighting Fantasy series, Starship Traveler. But to a child of 11, who didn't care much for reading in the first place, the long rules sections at the beginning of the books didn't seem to recommend them. Around the same time, my father and I had been reading The Lord of the Rings to each other, though in truth Dad did most of the reading, and in wonderful voices which will always be the way I hear Tolkien's characters. I remember saying at one point in the middle of book 2, The Two Towers, that I wasn't too keen on finishing the story. "Tolkien's boring me," I remember saying. This was not an attitude conducive to jumping into new fantasy worlds. (With some encouragement from Dad, we indeed finished the trilogy and I am ever so glad we did. I think I persevered partly because I didn't want to let Dad down. Of course, I did enjoy the story greatly, but I did find it difficult to stay with it at the time.)
As for the two gamebooks I had in my possession, they sat in pristine condition on my bookshelf for a little while. I still wasn't interested in reading a book where I had to put pencil to paper while thumbing the pages. However, in the middle of that school year, grade 6, my father and I moved from Guelph, Ontario back to Dundas, Ontario. We had lived in Dundas before and my father still owned a house there which he had been renting out while we were in Guelph. (My parents had separated almost three years earlier. My Dad ended up with the house.) When I showed up back at the old school in Dundas where I had gone a few years before, my old friends were pretty surprised to see me. It didn't take long to adjust though, and one thing my friends had got interested in were those Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. No one I had known in Guelph had ever picked one up.
So, I recalled that I myself had Starship Traveler sitting at home. One evening I sat down and actually read all the rules, scalped a pair of dice from some unsuspecting board-game, carefully drew out a character record sheet (or whatever they were called in FF books) and got a little ways through the book before I was vaporised or eaten by something. I don't remember how far I got, but I know I didn't finish it.
But that was enough. The role playing experience had taken hold. As I recall it was only a day or two before I grabbed Flight From the Dark and made my first trek through the world of Magnamund. (I remember distinctly it ending when I was caught by the doomwolves on the highway to Holmgard, with the capital in my very sight!) Well, if reading Starship Traveler had been enough to whet my appetite, reading Lone Wolf book 1 left me hungering for more. Something about the simple story in Flight From the Dark captivated me. Despite its shallow depth compared to later books, there was more than enough history and background developed to betray a world of considerable detail.
There was also, to me at age 11, a very, very compelling character: Lone Wolf, last of the Kai Lords. Recall that my parents had separated a few years earlier; the move back to Dundas was but one of many that had and would happen before I finished growing up; I had left behind friends I had known in Guelph and come back to friends I did not know anymore in Dundas. It became clearer in hindsight that in many ways I identified very strongly with that young Kai initiate who witnessed his monastery come crashing down in a cloud of Darklord spawn.
Another factor that heightened my interest in Lone Wolf was the rarity of the books. In Canada, Lone Wolf books are like gold. It was practically a year or more (I don't remember exactly) before I found a copy of book 2, Fire on the Water. At the height of the gamebook craze in the mid '80s you could find them in some places, but most of my copies have been specially ordered through private or upscale booksellers. Though I have a few books which I bought from mass market chains like Coles, I have generally found mass market retailers in Canada to be about as useful as a dead Ghorka. To this day, I think I've seen only one other copy of book 8 in Canada, apart from the one I own. (In summer 1996 I went on a tour of Europe and my jaw dropped when I found a bookstore in Dublin which had a copy of every Lone Wolf book on its shelves!)
So, between the strong appeal of the main character and his world, and the rarity of the books which made them seem more valuable, I quickly became a huge Lone Wolf fan. By high school, my bedroom wall was papered with blown-up photocopies of my favorite illustrations from the series (a fact made all the more interesting since my bedroom doubled as the TV room in my mother's one bedroom apartment!)
For many years, Lone Wolf was a very strong alter ego for me. For a while, I was so into the character and the world that I was more an alter ego for Lone Wolf. My obsession has cooled considerably since then (I don't recall all the obscure Magnamund trivia I knew, ie: who were the Herbalish?, though I do still have the Story So Far from book one memorized). But despite the passing of Lone Wolf from primacy to latency in my life, he has made his lasting impression. All boys need their heroes.
By the time I was studying Journalism and Philosophy at Carleton University in Ottawa, Lone Wolf was definitely not the first thing on my mind. Besides, by 1993 I had only managed to collect up to book 16. Imagine my surprise then, when I discovered while making a hopeful inquiry at an independent bookstore downtown, that four more books, up to book 20, the conclusion of the Grandmaster series, were now available! Although it took something like six or eight weeks to get them all, since they screwed up the order the first time, I was on the Plane of Light once I finally got them home.
But despite the excellent adventures and storytelling of the later Grandmaster series, it just wasn't the same for me as the first books were, read the better part of a decade earlier. My interest had been rekindled, but in a nostalgic sort of way. The summer of 1994, I joined the Lone Wolf Club. I ordered the first of the New Order series. I started collecting the Legends of Lone Wolf series. It was a patriotic duty. These were all things I had shunned in my earlier days, not wanting anything to intrude on my private world as last of the Kai Lords. Now, however, I felt like the best way to continue enjoying Lone Wolf was to become an ardant fan instead of a fanatic devotee. I even wrote in to the club and had my name and address listed in the penpals section of the newsletter, asking other Kai Lords to write and share their experiences of Lone Wolf and Magnamund. It was the seed of an idea that would germinate for another three years.
A couple people did write to me in response to the newsletter request. From corresponding with them and reading the newsletters, I realized that Lone Wolf had touched other people in similar ways to how he had touched me (the very revelation I feared in my earlier days). It was a testament to Joe Dever's creations that they could evoke such a response.
As I finished university and began working at Corel Corporation, I would periodically search the emerging World Wide Web for material relating to Lone Wolf. There was nothing. Eventually I decided that someone would no doubt create a Lone Wolf website. Knowing my powerful experiences in Magnamund were shared by many the world over, a website seemed like the perfect way to connect everyone. So, I decided I might as well create this website I could never find. I thought about what I had been looking for, what was most compelling about Lone Wolf. For me, the answer was the books themselves.
I devised a website that centered around the books, how they fit into the series, what was fun about them, what bits of Magnamund they revealed, what I liked and didn't like about them. Other information and resources would obviously be included. But it was the books that I loved the most and the books that would be the focus. In March 1997, the Kai Monastery went online, featuring some thoughts on Flight From the Dark. A few months -- and hundreds of e-mails -- later, I knew I had been right about one thing: a website was indeed the perfect way to connect fans all over the world.
You can read about the history and legacy of the Kai Monastery website, and the Lone Wolf Online community, on the History page.