E-mails from Martin Oliver

 -----Original Message-----
From: 	Martin Oliver
Sent:	09 November 2008 18:06
To:	'Richie B'
Subject: The mystery of AA's Mountain Mission

Hi Rich

Many apologies for emailing you out of the blue but a friend of mine
recently told me about the Puzzle Adventures Facebook group and then
yesterday, she sent me a link to this:


As you may have guessed from the email address, I’m Martin Oliver and in a
past life, I had the great pleasure of being the author of the Agent Arthur
puzzle adventure books.

I’ll share a little more about my experiences a little later but before
going any further, I’d like to say how impressed I am by the ingenuity and
resourcefulness you’ve shown in your efforts to track down Agent Arthur’s
Mountain Mission. It’s an amazing quest and one worthy of Arthur (or perhaps
the brains of the outfit, Sleuth).

I’d also like to ‘clear my name’ and let you know that no one at Usborne has
ever got in touch or forwarded any of your correspondence to me at any time.
In fact, your webpage was the first I had heard of your search. I assure you
that if anyone had contacted me, I would have replied promptly.

Anyway, enough preamble as I suspect you want to get to the heart of the
matter – the mysterious Mountain Mission. Before continuing, I do want to
check that you are absolutely sure that you want to discover the outcome. I’
m only asking because sometimes the searching is more rewarding than the

If you are sure, please scroll down towards the bottom of the email...

So, here we are...

... and I hate to be the bearer of bad news, the crusher of hopes and
memories but the fact is that Agent Arthur’s Mountain Mission was never
written and never published – although I did produce a detailed plot outline
and a cover was commissioned from Paddy Mounter.

The reason that it appeared to come into existence with its own ISBN and
catalogue listings is due to the somewhat unusual way that Usborne
Publishing conducts its business.

When I worked for Usborne, they used to develop titles and commission covers
for books that they then took around to trade fairs. If a title got a good
response and a certain number of pre-orders, then the actual book would go
ahead. This method reduced the financial risks involved in creating a book
(writing, illustrating, printing etc) then attempting to find an audience
for it and was used throughout the development of all the puzzle adventure

After the success of my first title (and Arthur’s first appearance in Jungle
Journey), I was asked to come up with new titles and write further books.
After producing the first three, I then continued to think up new missions
for Arthur - and Mountain Mission was one of the titles I suggested.

It was well-received and I enjoyed planning out what I think would have been
the most ambitious books in the series. Incidentally, it was inspired by the
comic book adventures of one of my heroes at the time – Tintin - and the
most visually stunning of Herge’s books, Tintin in Tibet.

So what went wrong?

Unfortunately, for various reasons, I became disillusioned with the way
Usborne conducted some of its business, especially with regards to its
writers. As a result, I found myself leaving the company and, very sadly,
leaving poor old Agent Arthur. I must confess that I was surprised by the
appearance of the fifth and final title featuring him and the characters I
had developed but as I had no rights or say in the matter, there was nothing
I could do.

Where now?

Well, I guess that after about 15 years, I do wish that some of my other
books had a) been as much fun and b) as popular as Agent Arthur. Although I
haven’t written a puzzle adventure book during that time, I would welcome
the opportunity to complete Agent Arthur’s Mountain Mission and perhaps your
fantastic letters to Usborne just might persuade Jenny Tyler to bring him
(and myself) out of retirement for one last outing...

Until then, I’d just like to echo what I wrote earlier – that I am
enormously impressed by your dedication to the search.

I am also absolutely delighted that the books I produced with Paddy all
those years ago have brought so much enjoyment to so many readers. I just
wish that I was able to bring you better news as it strikes me that if
anyone deserves a copy of Agent Arthur’s Mountain Mission, it’s you.

With best wishes


So...what happened then? Did I imagine it all? I distinctly remember some of the illustrations. A scene of the baddies' operations HQ deep inside a mountain, Arthur and Sleuth hiding behind barrels outside.

After all that, the thing never existed.

It seems the only thing left is to campaign to Usborne to get the book written and published!

 -----Original Message-----
From: 	'Richie B'
Sent:	17 April 2009 12:34
To:	Martin Oliver
Subject: RE: The mystery of AA's Mountain Mission

Hi Martin,
    Wow, I never expected to get an e-mail from you, let alone get the
answer to my longstanding quest!  Sorry it's taken so long for me to reply.
I've had some trouble with the server my AAMM pages were on, so I've moved
the site to http://sites.google.com/site/agentarthursmountainmission.
This should keep the info available permanently, and also gets lots of
coverage since it's hosted on Google and linked to from Wikipedia.
The information you've given is a great addition to the story.  It gives a
real insight into the work that goes into creating a book and the whole
process - and the things that can go wrong.
You mentioned you did "a detailed plot outline and a cover was commissioned
from Paddy Mounter".  Do you still have a copy of your outline, and I know
it's a longshot but do you also have the cover?  Are you still in contact
with Paddy and he may have his original?  If I could put either of those on
the site that would be fantastic - any "prep work" you did for it, like
notes or doodles, would be a real treasure.
I've just found Paddy on the internet, so if he replies to my message I might
get lucky!
It's a shame you never got to continue further with the book as it sounds
like you had a real treat planned.  Agent Arthur could do with coming out
of retirement for his most exciting mission yet.
I hope you've read the "Readers letters" section of the website - you've
got some real praise from readers worldwide who enjoyed the series and
characters as much as me!
Thanks and take care,

 -----Original Message-----
From: 	Martin Oliver
Sent:	27 April 2009 20:44
To:	'Richie B'
Subject: RE: The mystery of AA's Mountain Mission

Hi Rich

It's good to hear from you and I'm very impressed with your site.
Does it get many hits, I'd love to know.

Unfortunately, I suspect that the trail may well go cold from here
on in. I think that my book plan was on a very old computer that is
either mouldering in the loft or in a landfill site somewhere. As
for Paddy, he may have a copy but of the artwork but I would suspect
that it went to Usborne and most probably vanished.

Of course, I'd absolutely love to be reunited with Paddy and have one
last hurrah with Agent Arthur but I imagine that cold, hard cash may
put an end to that. I am back writing children's books again so it may
be worth one more letter to Usborne... What do you think?