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"Allen Sharp" was the author of a series of multiple choice fantasy and sci fi books in the 1980's such as The Stone of Badda and The Night of the Comet. The series of books was called Storytrails. All the books had a beautiful clear, economical writing style that would have used a first class editor. The only other author who managed to achieve that level of word economy and style in my opinion was Agatha Christie. Each book had the same layout, graphics style and format. Uniquely, they were all written in the first person which is rare when death can and did occur in possible endings. I loved these books. Even now they are collectors' items for people.

Who was Allen Sharp? A search finds nothing, so it's surely a pseudonym. I don't have the books at hand now, but I did look in the foreword credits once and there was some Greek sounding name as the author. It could be him saying he is Allen Sharp, but I don't want to stop there; I've always had a theory:

Since it was published by Cambridge Press/Children's Press could it have been a group effort, done by skilled, already published authors who wanted to be anonymous while having a go at writing a multiple choice series? I don't see that the homogeneous writing style over the whole series precludes this; people that skilled could adjust their writing to be similar and then with good editing multiple authors would be indistinguishable.

For such a great series as well – a classic – Allen Sharp never to my knowledge got interviewed or had any media articles. That again makes me think of the above theory as a skilled, anonymous group creative effort.

I have pondered the above theory for decades since I read these books, yet my attempts to find sharp answers have all found very blunt results. I've been asked to provide links to the books. Here's The Stone of Badda and here's The Night of the Comet. That one for some reason doesn't show the front cover.

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  • I have posted links.in the OP; I should also give the name of the series - Storytrails. Commented Jun 29, 2019 at 2:41
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    You can format links like this: [display this text](https://example.com) Commented Jun 29, 2019 at 2:52
  • Thank you. Noted. Commented Jun 29, 2019 at 2:55
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    He's listed by Locus Magazine as "Allen W. Sharp"; locusmag.com/index/b423.htm - amazon.ae/…
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 29, 2019 at 6:37
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    There's an Allen W. Sharp co-writing books on English Literature analysis; lib.polytechnic.am/cgi-bin/koha/… - It's a local publication (New Jersey) which suggests that Allen was a yank - Unless it's a different Allen W. Sharp, obvs
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 29, 2019 at 6:40

3 Answers 3

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Allen Sharp is listed in various locations as Allen W. Sharp and flourished as an author in the 1970s and 1980s. At that same time, another (possibly the same) Allen W. Sharp (b.1928?) was writing books about English Literature and working at San Francisco State College as an Associate Professor of English, alongside his frequent co-author, Patricia A. Porter.

We have confirmation on the address of the American Mr Allen W. Sharp from some correspondence that he entered into with another educator and a quick glance at the bibliography of Allen Sharp shows that several of his books, published by Cambridge University Press, were set in San Francisco, which suggests a strong familiarity with the city.

I also found this scholarly reference;

Unfortunately the sole author of the Storytrails series, Allen Sharp, died before I could contact him, and this limited my analysis of that series.

Making a Choice: The Melete Effect and Establishing a Poetics for Choice-Based Narratives - December, 2017

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  • Maybe. Allen Sharp also in the storytrails set books in France and Egypt and Scotland and other places. Commented Jun 29, 2019 at 7:26
  • If I open that I don't seem to get that quote. So which page is it on his thesis? Good find . Commented Jun 29, 2019 at 7:39
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    Section 3.6., p80
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 29, 2019 at 7:45
  • OK, I have read that bit. I am not sure to what extent I shoudl take Nicholas Peter Velissaris' quote at face value. I mean, I would need to know what his basis was concluding that Allen Sharp was the sole author. For instance did Velissaris ask the publshers, Cambridge Press, and just get a short response of "sorry he passed?" In which case that not being who he was/pseudonym or multiple authors haven't been eliminated as outcomes. Commented Jun 29, 2019 at 7:50
  • Im going to tick your answer as being as close as we are going to get. I don't think that everything is settled here. Great work though! Commented Jun 29, 2019 at 8:02
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I just randomly found this thread on Allen Sharp. I am Nicholas Peter Velissaris and I did my PhD on "choice-based narratives" at RMIT. I'm based in Australia and during my research, I reached out to the Cambridge Press Offices here in Melbourne to find out more information about the genesis of the Storytrails series.

I was particularly interested as the final book in the series To Catch A Bunyip was set in Melbourne and in the Victorian goldfields and features an extremely accurate period map of the city, something that would have been difficult to source in the pre-internet 1980s without good research. The staff at Cambridge Press Melbourne put me in touch with a lady at the UK offices. She had worked at Cambridge Press since the 1980s and had known Allen Sharp and advised that this was his real name (I too thought it was a pseudonym) and that he had passed away in the early 2000s. I think he died in 2002 if I remember correctly. From the information that I was given by this editor, Sharp wrote all of the books in the series by himself but that they had no copies of the manuscripts (which I was looking to analyse) or any way to get in touch with his surviving family, so I didn't pursue this any further.

I have always assumed that the different offices of the Cambridge Press helped Sharp to write and research his books, which is why he had such good information in his books. I might be wrong on this, but that's as far as I was able to get in researching the series

So many of these authors have vanished into the ether without so much as a biography or photo. If you know anything about John Allen and Kenneth James (authors of the Tracker Books series – and I also suspect pseudonyms.)

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Dropping this here as well: Allen Sharp is a remarkable gamebook author and a mystery - I couldn't find any connection to him - the English authors I am in contact with know nothing about him and there is no one left in Cambridge University Press that worked there back in the days or knows about the author.

All I managed to get from CUP, who replied politely and were as helpful as they could without sharing personal data, is that Sharp lived in Childswickham, England and this was his name. I even tried to ask about him in the facebook group of the town/village, but the owner didn't even approve the post... We need a brave Englishman to go get some info from the local pubs, fantasy style...

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  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. This would be a better answer if you had more than just a single claim as to his town from an unknown source...
    – DavidW
    Commented Apr 24 at 22:39
  • A perilous quest deep into the mysterious Vale of Evesham! Commented Apr 24 at 22:42
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    Consider giving your contact info to CUP and request that they pass it along to any known heir. I'm sure they have an address where they send whatever pittance of royalties that may still trickle in. Maybe even write a letter "to whom it may concern" and ask that they pass that along, In it ask that they contact you if they're willing to share info. Maybe even a link to this question to show that there's still interest.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Apr 25 at 12:33
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    A search for "Childswickham Sharp" turned up Brenda Sharp's funeral notice from 2010, confirming she lived in Childswickham and was the "beloved wife of the late Allan Sharp".
    – TripeHound
    Commented Apr 25 at 13:09

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