God, how I hated them. By now, I was reading quite a bit at home, and it felt like starting again in a way to me, even at that young age. So I raced through them, quickly becoming rather bored in class. So my teacher told me I could pick any book from the school library to read instead…
I chose Tracker books.
Incidentally, you have no idea (actually you will, as I am about to tell you) the difficulty I just had tracking (sorry) these books down. I couldn’t for the life of me remember what they were called and kept bumping into 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books, which were definitely not the ones I remembered. The ones I remembered were in a landscape format, had strange black and white illustrations on every facing page and were somewhat creepy. Then, just as I was about to give up, my brain spun up the word Tracker books and here we are!
Tracker books were probably the first series of gamebooks on the market. They had an odd landscape format, and the reader chose his or her fate according to either text choices or picture arrows in the strangely stark illustrations that appeared on each opposite page. Their titles are as follows:
1. Mission to Planet L
2. Secret of the Seventh Star
3. The Black Dragon Mystery
4. Treasure of Shark Island
7. Action Football
8. Three Men in a Maze
9. Rugger Final
10. Road Racer
11. Reporter on the Trail
12. Codebreaker International
Although I recall Mission to Planet L, Treasure of Shark Island and Skyjacked – it was the Secret of the Seventh Star that gripped me. The blurb was:
"Will you be able to follow the clues, or will the murderer escape and the house retain its secrets?"
It was scary, the illustrations were dark and menacing, the people drawn were ugly and there was an old shrunken man dead in a bath tub. Also nearly every decision I took seemed to end up with me dying a horrible death.
Thinking back, this does seem an odd choice to be allowed to read. The later 'Choose Your Own Adventure' series seemed a hell of a lot tamer than the Tracker books, although I had a couple of those where my fate always seemed to be being eaten by a minotaur.
I didn’t have much luck with these books.
But I can see why they held my attention.
(Incidentally, I actually do own the Tracker books I mention up here, I liked them that much at the time that my parents bought them for me. So there will be a scan or two appearing here at some point this month.)