Brian Jacques, author of 21 'Redwall' books for children, dies at 71

By Robert Barr
Wednesday, February 9, 2011; 8:23 PM

Brian Jacques, 71, author of the best-selling "Redwall" adventures for children, died Feb. 5 at a hospital in Liverpool, England, where he was being treated for an aneurism on his aorta.

Mr. Jacques was a milk deliveryman when he wrote the first "Redwall" story for children at the Royal Wavertree School for the Blind in Liverpool, one of the stops on his route. The book's hero was a timid mouse, named Matthias, who found the courage to protect his home, Redwall Abbey.

"I wanted to write something visual that I could read to the children," Mr. Jacques said in an interview published on the Web site of publisher Random House. "This was when I created the idea of Redwall Abbey in my imagination. As I wrote, the idea grew, and the manuscript along with it."

After his former English teacher, Alan Durband, showed the story to a publisher, the first of the 21 "Redwall" books appeared in 1986.

Mr. Jacques said he chose animals as his characters because they were more popular with his target audience, children ages 9 to 15. His inspirations included the books he read as a child, such as Kenneth Grahame's "The Wind in the Willows," H. Rider Haggard's "King Solomon's Mines," and Homer's "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey."

"A dirty rat, a sly fox, a slippery snake, an heroic mouse, a homely mouse, a friendly badger . . . these are all prevalent in the folk tales of Europe, and they suit the medieval setting well," Mr. Jacques said.

Born in Liverpool, Mr. Jacques left school at 15 to become a merchant seaman. Later he became a locomotive fireman, longshoreman, police officer, standup comedian, postmaster, and bus and truck driver. He also sang in a folk group, the Liverpool Fishermen, with his two brothers, and he was a broadcaster for BBC's Radio Merseyside.

Mr. Jacques is survived by his wife, Maureen, and their two sons.

- Associated Press

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