As a kid, I loved everything Star Wars. The characters, the drama... Those movies planted seeds for the expanded adventures I had with Han, Luke, & Leia wherever my stubby little legs could carry me and my Darth vader helmet full of Kenner action figures.
But just as much as I loved the movies, I loved the books. That's right, the books.
"Han Solo at Star's End" and its sequels ("Han Solo's Revenge" and "Han Solo and the Lost Legacy") blew my little kiddie mind.
First released in 1979, they were windows into full adventures just like the ones that I'd had with toys, but fully fleshed out, and introducing a full cast of characters beyond the ones I'd grown to love through the films.
The trilogy covers Han & Chewie's adventures before the films began. It'll probably come as no surprise that they're depicted as smugglers with hearts of gold. They may complain along the way, but when push comes to shove, they always set aside their own interests to help out those less fortunate than them.
I can't objectively say how well these books are written, as I haven't revisited since childhood. But I can say this: as a kid, they were friggin' magical. I read and re-read them, bringing them along on family vacations and into all my favorite secret reading spots tucked away in the backyard, where I felt I was in a world of my own.
Today, I cite these books as the reason I have a goal of some day writing tie-in fiction. As a kid thrilling along to Han and Chewie's adventures, the author's name didn't mean anything to me -- I had no idea who this "Brian Daley" guys was -- but I did know that he had the coolest job ever.
The chance to play in someone else's sandbox is pretty irresistable. To dive into the thoughts and feelings of your favorite characters, to tell new stories that explore deeper questions... and then to share them with other fans? That's like having the best action figures ever.
And I wasn't the only one who felt that way. Brian Daley's Han Solo novels were embraced by the later Star Wars writers, leaving a thumbprint on the wider "expanded universe" of novels, comics, and short stories. Later books made mention of the events in this trilogy, and their influence has trickled down to the current batch of films and stories.
Not too bad for a few books about a smuggler and a wookie up to no good.