Florin’s Haul of ZX Spectrum Games

Interview with Paul Davies by Peter Ward

“Welcome to Retro Gamesmaster thank you for sparing time from your busy schedule. Let’s get this interview underway”

“What got you into writing books about retro gaming?”

What first got me into writing reviews in general was an opportunity I saw pop up on Twitter from retroyak.com who were after people to write reviews of retro games. I’d not done it before but as I seemed to be more or less alone in my love for old games in terms of friends and family, I saw it as a way of speaking to people who may actually want to listen to what I was saying. I popped my virtual hand up and said ‘Yes, please!’. Luckily Dave Hughes (of retroyak.com) said ok and that was the start of my reviewing ‘career’ I guess. The same thing happened when I started writing for indieretronews.com. Neil Green was on the lookout for contributors so I put my name forward and started writing for him too.

After a few years contributing to those sites, I found I had built up quite a catalogue of reviews and had the idea of collating them all into a book. I looked at self publishing at first but it seemed really complicated so in the end, I sought out a publisher.

“How long has it taken to research for the new book?”

Well, this book isn’t 100% new as it is a reworking of my first book that was published. In all honesty, I wasn’t 100% happy with the first edition for a number of reasons – the layout, lack of and poor quality images were a let down and didn’t do it any favours in terms of popularity. Luckily, I was/am friends with Chris Wilkins of Fusion Retro Books, after having worked with him on the odd Crash annual (and in time, the magazine) – he offered me the chance to relaunch it with him, as he felt it could have been done better and that he was the person who could make it what it should have been. Seeing his previous book efforts, I was keen to work with him on it. We discussed it and decided it needed to be bigger – more reviews, more images and a whole new look, to be what it deserved to be and what my initial intentions were with it. In terms of research, 99% of it came from my head as these are the games that I grew up with and loved. There are a few games that I had to play again for the book, as I’d not played them a lot or at least not for a long time – these were mainly the Ultimate games which were neither JetPac, Atic Atac and Tranz Am (their finest work!). I put it to the people when it came to choosing which Ultimate games would get covered (well, I did a Twitter poll) but ended up doing more than I intended anyway.

If ‘research’ comes into the development side of it, then to get the second edition finished took the best part of a year. I added around 25 more game reviews, brought in doodle king Toby Cooley to work on the Florin doodles that you’ll find in the book (he was a big fan of the original book and I think he did a cracking job). He designed the Florin character and all of the scenarios he finds himself in, relevant to the section they precede. All of the screenshots needed redoing (that took a while), whilst Chris had to work on formatting the whole thing in-between being very busy working on his various other magazine publications. I hit the wall a few times, and I didn’t really help myself as I do like to gabble sometimes, meaning I got a bit over excited with the word count on a few reviews. I don’t think Chris was expecting my Daley Thompson section to be so wordy for example. Sorry, Chris!

“What is in the new book that will tempt retro fans to hand over their cash?”

Some great Spectrum games, first and foremost. Some classics and some that you may not have heard of before or some you may have forgotten about. Everyone knows Chase HQ but how about Viking Raiders or The Tomb of Dracula? It’s a beautifully designed book with the added Florin doodles, the cover by Trevor Storey is stunning also. It’s a light-hearted read and I hope it makes at least one person chuckle, but it’s also rather personal with a few of my own memories thrown in that I hope some people can relate to.

“Tell us more about the Kickstarter?”

The crowd funding was done on the Fusion Retro Books website and there were opportunities to pick up a mug, mouse mat and canvas of the book’s cover, as well as the book itself. The funding started quickly at first but then started to drop after a month or two. After a big push near the end, we managed to get it funded and finished at around 130% of our initial target, which was nice. It was nice to see that people wanted to read it and I was keen for people to read it and share my years of work with anyone who wanted to read it. It was very satisfying.

“When is your book due for release?”

It’s out now and available on the Fusion Retro Books website!


Please go and buy as many as you want. They make excellent Christmas presents for the Speccy fan in your life or anyone who loves a good dad joke.

“How long have you been writing books?”

My first book was released at the end of 2019 so I guess around two years but I’ve been reviewing since 2016. As some of the reviews are taken from 2016, I guess you could say I’ve been writing them for five years. Does that count?

“What are your plans now that the book is published?”

What I’ve been doing is keeping an eye on social media and checking out what people are saying about the book. It’s good to see that everyone seems to be very positive about it at the moment and that makes me feel good. After finishing the book, I can now go back to concentrating on writing for Crash and the other Fusion Retro magazines that I frequent as when I was working on the book, I put very little effort into these. Luckily, Chris didn’t notice.

I’d definitely like to write more books, maybe even expand into other formats and cover the other systems that I love. The Speccy is my number one but that’s not to say there were no other consoles and computers I fell in love with over the years. I have a few ideas bobbing around in my head and hopefully I’ll be able to put them into words and pictures one day. Watch this space, as they say.

“What was your first gaming experience?”

My very first one would be pretty hazy but I know it would have been Spectrum related as it was the only computer in the house. I can’t remember the exact game I played first as I’d only been about three years old at the time. I would think it would have either been Bugaboo the Flea, Jet Set Willy or JetPac. One of those classics. I guess my dad had good taste or he’d got lucky that my uncle had bought the right ones and made him a ahem ‘backup’ copy.

“My favourite computer was my Amiga, and my favourite console the Megadrive. Do you have a favourite?”

Mine are 50% the same as yours. 100% if you swap the Amiga for the Spectrum. After the initial days of the Spectrum (i.e. when it went to silicon heaven) I moved onto the Mega Drive, which I shared with one of my brothers (joint Christmas present). So many classics that I played to death. I remember when I got my Mega Drive and I’d invited my friend over to play on it – he was a Speccy man too, well child – and the first comment he made? ‘No, colour clash?’. Spoken like a true Speccy person. Haha.

I do love the Amiga and I still have the one from my parent’s house that my dad dug out a few months back. ‘Do you want to have this in your house?’ he said. Flicked through the games – Sensible Soccer, Premier Manager and Monkey Island? Yeah go on then, dad.

“What is your favourite retro game?”

Aaahh, that’s probably the toughest question you could ask me! I’d narrow it down to Spellbound (for obvious reasons), Starquake and Renegade for the Speccy. Mega Drive I’d probably go Sonic 2, NHL ’93, Desert Strike and FIFA 95. Amiga I’d plump for Sensible Soccer, Walker, Moonstone and Premier Manager 2. If I carry on with the rest I’ll be here all day so I’ll stop there. Actually, one more for you – Spy Vs Spy for the Atari 800. The first game I spent my own money on and it just so happened to be one of the best games ever. Lucky me!

“Do you still game on the current consoles and if so what is your favourite game?”

I don’t do a lot of current gen in all honesty. The last I played all the way through was Red Dead Redemption 2 on the PS4. A beast of a game, amazingly well done and it has one of those elements that I always look for in a game – the ability to just go up to someone and punch them in the face for no good reason.

“What’s the worst game you have ever played?”

Another tough question. I tend to forget the bad ones and move on. The one I do remember though is Terminator Salvation on the PS3. AI allies who took great pleasure in just standing still watching you get killed, rather than helping you by killing an odd Terminator or two. They generally just stood in your way aswell rather than moving so that you can get some cover. Argh! I didn’t choose it by the way, it came with my PS3 bundle which included the film Terminator 3 on Blu Ray. That was a bundle to forget.