Today is a sad day, or rather February 5th was, the day that Brian Jacques suffered an aortic aneurysm and passed away unexpectedly. The Liverpool native is the creator of the popular Redwall children's fantasy series, a set of novels which have sold more than 20 million copies in 28 languages.
The first "real" book I ever read was Martin the Warrior, a 384-page tale about a young mouse who breaks free from captivity to become a badass warrior and protector of Mossflower Wood. I bought the paperback in 3rd grade at a weekday night book fair, you know back when book fairs were still kind of cool. This book was my first introduction to the long narrative form and it eventually spurred me to read a full dozen of the Redwall novels. I loved these books and thoroughly enjoyed every one of them. I salivated over descriptions of English-inspired woodland feasts, marveled at the battle prowess of badger lords, and no joke literally cried when some of my favorite characters died.
Rest in peace Brian Jacques, thanks for all the stories.
From Brian Jacques' wikipedia page:
Brian Jacques was born in Liverpool, England, on 15 June 1939 to James (a truck driver) and Ellen. He grew up in the area of the Liverpool docks. He is known by his middle name 'Brian' because both his father and one of his brothers are also called James. His father loved literature, and passed it to him, having him read stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Jacques showed a knack for writing at an early age. At age 10, he was given an assignment of writing a story about animals, and he wrote about a bird that cleaned a crocodile's teeth. His teacher could not believe that anyone could write that well at age 10. He was called a liar and caned by a teacher for refusing to say he copied the story. He had always loved to write, but it was only then that he realized he had a talent for writing.
He attended St. John's school until the age of 15 when he left school (as was the tradition at the time) and set out to find adventure as a sea merchant sailor. His book Redwall was written for the children of the Royal Wavertree School for the Blind, whom he refers to as his "special friends". He first met them when he delivered milk there as a truck driver. He began to spend time with the children, and eventually began to write stories for them. This accounts for the very descriptive style of the novel and the ones to follow.
His work gained acclaim when Alan Durband, a friend (who also taught Paul McCartney and George Harrison), showed it to his (Durband's) own publisher without telling Jacques. Durband told his publishers: "This is the finest children's tale I've ever read, and you'd be foolish not to publish it". Soon after, Jacques was summoned to London to meet with the publishers, who gave him a contract to write the next five books in the series.
Jacques has said that the characters in his stories are based on people he has encountered. He based Gonff, the self-proclaimed "Prince of Mousethieves", on himself when he was a young boy hanging around the docks of Liverpool. Mariel is based on his granddaughter. Constance the Badgermum is based on his grandmother. Other characters are a combination of many of the people he has met in his travels.
His novels have sold more than twenty million copies worldwide and have been published in twenty-eight languages.
Until recently, Jacques hosted a radio show called Jakestown on BBC Radio Merseyside. In June 2005, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by the University of Liverpool.
Brian lived with his wife in Liverpool. Jacques and his wife had two adult sons, David and Marc, and grandchildren Hannah and Anthony. Marc is a a carpenter, and bricklayer. David is a contemporary artist.
Jacques was admitted to the Royal Liverpool Hospital to undergo emergency surgery for an aortic aneurysm. Despite the efforts to save him, he died on February 5, 2011.