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Paul Barnett

Paul Barnett is the real name of John Grant, co-author of the Legends of Lone Wolf series with Joe Dever. In the fall of 1997, I met Paul via e-mail and there was an initial flurry of e-mail back and forth. Here you will find a conversation with Paul constructed out of the various e-mail messages exchanged over a few weeks. Following the conversation is an unpublished Foreward for Legends of Lone Wolf book 9.

Q: How did you and Joe hook up in the first place to start the Legends project? Does it have anything to do with the fact that you are both musicians?

A: No, not at all. Nancy Webber -- a first-rate editor and now a long-established friend -- headhunted me to take on the novels.

Q: Why did Random House pull the plug on the Legends series? The information I heard says it wasn't making money. My guess is, they weren't supporting it enough.

A: The books weren't selling. You're right that Random were being sluggish about supporting them.

Q: Is it likely that Random House will publish more Legends books later? For that matter, do you know if Random House will publish more gamebooks beyond the ones they are currently under contract for?

A: I think it unlikely Random will do any more Legends; once a publisher has decided they can't sell a series, it's impossible to change their minds. I guess it's possible that Joe and I can get reversion of rights and flog the books elsewhere, but it'll be a few years before that happens. I don't know about any plans Random might have for the gamebooks.

Q: Will anything beyond Hunting Wolf ever be published in the US? Why were only 5 books published there? And why was Sword of the Sun split up into two books?

A: The Sword of the Sun was split into two because it was regarded as too long; the original (much better) The Sacrifice of Ruanon was ruthlessly cut on the same basis. It'd have been about 100 pages longer; I was damn' lucky (i.e., I protested like hell and for once won) that the same didn't happen to The Birthplace.

I don't know why the Americans dropped out after Hunting Wolf; again, it might be interesting to try to regain the rights and resell the series, this time marketed towards grown-ups rather than kids. That'd be interesting, because there are, as it were, cross-references between the Legends and other novels of mine which are regarded as "too difficult" for the US market: the standard response I get from US editors is, "I've enjoyed this book thoroughly, but those dumb punters out there won't understand it so we won't be able to sell it." Most of the "dumb punters" I know consistently complain about the fact that the vast majority of the fantasy churned out by the publishers is derivative crap.

Q: Do you know which Legends books (or gamebooks) are currently out of print?

A: I think all bar two of the Legends are still in print, the two being The Rotting Land and one of the other late ones. If Random have put the others out of print then they haven't told me. You know, I got a bunch of royalty statements from Random just the other day, and they're still selling a trickle of copies of Legends. For more info, the best person to write to might be Gail Reebuck. She's the boss of the whole company. I dunno who's in charge at Red Fox these days.

Q: Do you have a favorite or least favorite book?

A: The Birthplace -- by a long way. The Rotting Land is pretty good as well, and I have a soft spot for The Tellings (because I had a free hand) and The Book of the Magnakai (because it's a romp). The Secret of Kazan-Oud, despite the bloody awful title (that was a battle I lost), is possibly a deeper book than you might think. I regard it as one of the best. The worst, certainly, is The Claws of Helgedad.

Q: Who's idea was the epilogue at the end of Sacrifice? In general, how did you and Joe go about the process of writing a book? Were the books that aren't part of the gamebooks' storyline your idea?

A: The epilogue was all mine. It was in fact struck out by the editor and by Joe, a fact I didn't discover until I got my proofs; I insisted it went back in, but, as you'll see, whoever did the final proofread on that little section did a bad job of it. If you look at my dedication of that book, to Mary Gentle, you'll get a further take. It reads: "For Mary -- who will recognize the story that should have been told here . . ."

Joe gave me, in each instance, a route through the gamebooks for Lone Wolf himself to follow. As you know, I then messed around with this. Eclipse of the Kai was Joe's idea, and I drew heavily on The Magnamund Companion for elements of the back-story. I can't remember who came up with the notion for Claws: as you know, I don't like the book, and so I have a sort of mental block about it. The Tellings was my notion; Joe sketched out the idea for "Lone Wolf's Telling." "Banedon's Telling" was constructed from hints within the gamebooks.

Q: There is a lot in the novels which is not in the gamebooks, most notably the characters. Are some of the characters your own creations?

A: Alyss is entirely mine, and has appeared in other novels and some short stories. Alyss is integral to Albion and The World; Thog the Mighty is mine too. He makes an appearance in The World; He makes brief appearances in other works of mine. Qinefer makes off-stage appearances in the The World. Viveka, too, is essentially mine: she has a bit part in one of Joe's gamebooks, but it was me who built her up. Petra is entirely mine.

Thog has also gained a secondary life, as it were, in fandom: check out the regular Thog's Masterclass feature in Dave Langford's Ansible. Dave and myself are currently hoping to flog the book-length collection of this. Thog has also been a "Virtual Guest of Honour" at one UK national convention, and will be so again at the 1999 event. Dave, myself and the actor Mike Cule give live presentations of Thog's Masterclass.

Q: How long did you typically spend writing one of the novels? My guess is no more than four or five months. Am I giving you short shrift?

A: How long the novels took depended on other commitments, and also on my own strategy. There are two ways of writing novels: (a) to work slowly and meticulously, so that the result is a perfectly formed pearl; (b) to work very quickly, doing nothing else during one's waking hours except grab the occasional sandwich and, when necessary, go to the lavatory or have a bath. The results from both (a) and (b) tend to be distressingly similar, and I usually prefer (b), because it's great fun becoming totally engrossed in the novel at the expense of the outside world. I used (b) on some of the Legends, with the result that The Birthplace took a month and The Book of the Magnakai a mere three weeks. Some of the others took up to six months, but of course I was doing other work at the same time.

Q: If the information in the about the author blurbs in the Legends books is accurate, then judging by your age you've written a fair bit. Has it always been fantasy? How did you get started (interested in writing I mean)? How did you first get published?

A: Answers: (a) Yes, 50+ books. (b) No, I used to be snooty about fantasy, believing sf was the only true quill (to use Bruce Sterling's phrase). Then, when I was commissioned to work on Legends, I slowly began to realize there were things I could do in fantasy that were impossible in sf. I am now a very strong supporter of Good Fantasy and a very strong opponent of regurgitated crap fantasy -- see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy for various expressions of this.

(c) The first story I wrote was called "The Ghost of Horror Mansion" and fortunately it was thrown out at some time when the family moved house. I was aged sevenish when I wrote it, but I still cringe whenever I think about it. (d) My first professional story was "MT (and hence to be filled)," as by Eve Devereux, in the back of Aries 1, an anthology which I edited as by John Grant. The production staff had bleated that the text of the book was overlength, then discovered -- after typesetting -- that it was a few pages short. Typical bloody production staff. So I rattled off a story to fill the blank space. Oddly enough, the story was well received by the reviewers.

My proper first story was "When All Else Fails", in Maxim Jakubowski's Lands of Never, but by then I'd published a few books. My bibliographical history is actually a bit complicated, because there was some earlier stuff as well; and there have been rewrites and ghostings along the way, most of which books I (probably wisely) forget. If you want to see the kind of stuff I'm up to now, get hold of either Mike Ashley's Shakesperean Whodunnits (an unpromising title for an anthology, I grant) or issue no. 1 of the mag Odyssey.

Paul Barnett was also kind enough to provide me with an unpublished Foreward from The Tellings, which was the ninth book in the Legends of Lone Wolf series. It builds on the epilogue of The Sacrifice of Ruanon, but was cut by the editor. Here it is for your reading pleasure:


It may come as something of a surprise to the lay reader to discover that, until no more than a couple of decades ago, the stories of our Sommlending hero Lone Wolf and his stalwart associates were widely regarded among academic historians as of no more than legendary status: it was agreed that there had indeed been such a figure as Lone Wolf, but it was generally assumed that he must have been just some early chieftain whose charisma in life had attracted to him, after his death, myths out of all proportion to his true, minor historical importance. That this attitude should have changed in recent years is, I can say without undue self-aggrandizement, in large part a result of my own researches, sparked off by a fortuitous encounter at the ruins of the Temple Deep near the ancient city of Maaken. Those researches, at first greeted with incredulity by my colleagues, are now regarded as "pioneering works", and others have followed in the footsteps of this reluctant "pioneer".

The present collection of reconstructions of events in our nation's history is based upon fewer original sources than would normally satisfy me. That the four meetings around the campfire by the Kai Monastery occurred at the four successive equinoxes, as described, is a matter beyond doubt: they are recorded in all three of my primary sources -- the sketchy accounts set down at the time by Petra and by Jaan (then only a child), and the later and more detailed memoir penned by Banedon.

As for the stories themselves, I have to confess to the use of a little more poetic licence in their reconstruction than I would customarily permit myself. Lone Wolf's own telling of the loss of the Book of the Magnakai was incomplete in all three of the sources referred to above, and there were also inconsistencies in detail with several historical facts which I have been able to determine from other and generally more reliable sources, notably the Vassagonian Epic of the Desert. Where such discrepancies occur -- and I stress that they affect only trivial details -- I have followed the orthodox accounts, reassuring myself somewhat uneasily that Lone Wolf was recounting events to which he himself had not been a witness. At the opposite extreme, Banedon's telling is here reproduced almost verbatim from his own memoir, with the obvious exception of the rendition into modern Sommlending and, as is the custom, the use of the third person rather than the first. Banedon's memoir likewise gave a very full, rich version of Carag's telling -- a seeming paradox, given Carag's well attested inarticulacy. It is impossible for us now to determine whether Banedon simply invented the additional details -- this would be far from the only instance of his fleshing out an original -- or whether, as I like to think, he later had the patience to quiz Carag more thoroughly for a fuller account than the Giak could possibly have given during the course of a single night. Viveka's telling is given at great length in all three of my primary sources, especially that of Jaan, who, we can guess with some confidence, was at the time experiencing something of an adolescent crush. It can certainly be no coincidence that her later career should be so strong an emulation of Viveka's.

Further notes on sources and procedures can be found in various issues of The Bulletin of the Sommerlund Folk Archaeological Society, notably in vol 16 nos 7-11, especially in the correspondence columns.

Prof S.C. Kaarlen
University of Toran

The above excerpt is copyright Paul Barnett. It is presented for the pleasure of Lone Wolf readers around the world and under the condition that no financial gain may be made from its publication or republication.

© Julian Egelstaff 1997-2000
Lone Wolf © TM Joe Dever 1984-2000