I came across the Piccolo edition of “The Three Musketeers” and was impressed with the distinctive artwork for the cover. It didn’t take long to find that it was the work of Tom Barling and that there were another seven titles in the Adventure Series. Tom Barling was also an author of several books and wanted to retell the stories for this series himself but looking at the authors I find he only did two. Three were rewritten by Alan Robertshaw, a retired headteacher and author of several books in his own right details of which can be found on his website here. I managed to contact Alan in France and he sent me the following information which could explain why only two titles were rewritten by Tom. I also found an article in ‘The Times’ for 5th November 1977 saying very much the same.
“Tom Barling and I never met, though in an odd way it was thanks to him that I got involved with the project. Edward Blishen, who was by way of being a friend as well as a former tutor (he taught a “Children in Literature” course for the late, great Harry Rée, Prof of education at the (then) new University of York) had been kind enough to look at some children’s fiction I was writing in the early 1970’s, and knew I was keen to try my hand at more. When Pan asked him to edit the Adventure Library he commissioned Tom Barling to illustrate the series, and evidently Tom wished to write one as well. It seems that the writing was perhaps not quite up the the very high standard of his comic-book style illustrations, so Edward found himself with a 20,000-word version of one of the books (it was either Last of the Mohicans or King Solomon’s Mines – I forget which) that he couldn’t use, tied very closely to illustrations that he certainly could use. So he kindly asked me to have a stab at the text, being sure to include the captions of Tom’s illustrations in my text. Quite a tall order, especially as, at that point, I had not even read either book!
I was both surprised and delighted that Edward was not only very happy with the result, but also promptly commissioned two more books. I seem to remember that the Yorkshire Post latched onto the series and I had a rather dour conversation with a reporter, who really wanted me to say that I was rather ashamed at having reduced classics of English Literature to comic-book status! Needless to say I gave him short shrift. The series was, I thought, ground-breaking and excellent.
A codicil: The last book I attempted was A Tale of Two Cities, which I found immeasurably harder than the other two – simply because Dickens was much, much more than a simple story-teller. Reducing him to 20,000 words was an object lesson in the great craft of his writing.”