Of the two books resting on my accordion in the picture above, you may have read the one on the left: The Cave of Time, the very first book in the Choose Your Own Adventure series, first published by Bantam Books in 1979. The one on the right is Escape from the Haunted Warehouse, which hits the shelves on April 15th.
(The copy of The Cave of Time featured in the photo belongs to my wife Anitra, and yup, it’s an original 1979 edition.)
Today, in the age of ubiquitous internet, smartphones and tablets, where it’s unusual for a home or office not to have a computer, interactive entertainment is commonplace. But back in 1979, when desktop computers were rare and the most powerful ones had 48K of RAM (not even enough memory to store one of the photos in this article), Choose Your Own Adventure books were a new, exciting idea to eleven-year-old me. The series led me to computer “text adventure” games (these days, they’re called interactive fiction), which in turn led me to programming, and eventually, my career.
Until last week, I thought that Escape from the Haunted Warehouse was an urban legend. Between 1979 and 1998, the story goes that 185 Choose Your Own Adventure books were written, but only 184 were released. Escape from the Haunted Warehouse, which had reviews that called it “the scariest one ever”, made it out in the form of a few promotional copies, but was never made generally available.
ChooseCo now publishes the series under new titles, with revised artwork and text (but using the same typeface — Souvenir!), and they’re releasing Escape from the Haunted Warehouse in a couple of weeks. I was sent an advance copy because one of their people found an old article of mine that featured a montage of 66 classic Choose Your Own Adventure covers:
I’m flying to Boston next Sunday, and as a special treat for myself, I plan to not fire up the iPad or laptop, or read the in-flight magazine. Instead, I’m going to pull my copy of Escape from the Haunted Warehouse and see if I can get out alive. I’ll post a write-up once I’ve finished it.
Full disclosure: I got contacted by ChooseCo and was offered a promotional copy; they told me that they’d love to be “featured by me in the future”. And hey, I loved these books as a kid.