Thanks once again for your kind thoughts and condolences. Here are some obituaries for Brian that we would like to share...
Brian Jacques, author of Redwall (1987) and some 20 sequels, died at the age of 71 on Sat., Feb. 5, 2011. His books have sold in the tens of millions and have touched adventure-loving kids all over the world. His formula—a quasi-medieval fantasy setting in which peace-loving mice and other small animals seek adventure and fend off endless attacks by evil foxes, rats and weasels—grabbed generations of readers. I have known many of them.
For the sake of one in particular, though, I am especially saddened to hear of Mr. Jacques’ passing.
Andy (not his real name) was the quintessential wrong-side-of-the-tracks kid. Always in trouble at school, frequently in trouble at the library where I worked, he had a knack for doing the wrong thing. But even though we spoke to him sternly on many, many occasions, he kept coming back to the library. On the face of it, it was hard to see why. He’d be the first to tell you he hated reading.
I don’t know what specifically appealed to him about the Redwall books. They were awfully thick for a kid who didn’t like reading, and the print is pretty small, too. But they were chock-full of action, and those little mice always carried the day in the end. Maybe they gave him a chance to win a few battles in his own head, if not in his real life. Maybe it was the clear lines between good and evil in a world where everything was confusing.
As Andy got bigger, he got into bigger trouble. In and out of juvie and then prison, whenever he was at liberty, he’d come in and read a Redwall book. I started collecting advance reader’s copies when I went to American Library Association conferences so he’d be able to take them home. Eventually he didn’t have a home. I don’t know what he did all night, but during the day he’d come into the library, grab a Redwall book off the shelf and find a couch, where he’d do more sleeping than reading.
I moved on, and I don’t know where Andy is now. He probably has no idea the author of his beloved Redwall books has died. I’m pretty sure if he does know, he’s feeling the loss.
Brian Jacques, the beloved British author of the Redwall series, died of a heart attack over the weekend at age 71.
Hailed as one of “the best children’s authors in the world,” Jacques’ 21 Redwall books were translated into 29 languages and sold 20 million copies worldwide. His novels — despite centering on anthropomorphic woodland critters, such as mice, otters, moles, and squirrels — told epic tales of good triumphing over evil and never spoke down to their young audiences. When I was nine years old I finished Martin the Warrior, the third installment of the series, and remained in a daze for an entire afternoon. The characters had grown dear to me, and when a few of the most lovable ones died in the final battle scene, I felt genuine loss but also a sense that I was better for having known them. It was the book that cemented me as a reader for the rest of my life — I’d discovered what it was like to have such connection to a story, and I wanted to have it again and again.
Brian Jacques, who has died after a heart attack aged 71, was the author of the bestselling Redwall series. Hugely popular with children from the publication in 1986 of Redwall, the first in the lengthy sequence, Jacques's books were among those that they needed no adult guidance to find; they latched on to them hungrily and then shared them with friends. Written in a flowing, flowery prose, the simply structured stories tell of the epic struggles between the good inhabitants of Redwall Abbey and its surrounding Mossflower countryside, and the bad invaders who must be kept at bay.
In the opening title, Matthias, a young mouse who dreams of heroism, draws on the mythic stories of previous warrior mice and leads Redwall's inhabitants into a fierce and bloody battle. It is a story pattern that is repeated throughout the books.
A passionate Liverpudlian, Brian Jacques revelled in being recognised within his hometown.
The almost annual flow of titles, including Martin the Warrior (1993), Lord Brocktree (2000) and the upcoming The Rogue Crew dotted about chronologically, mining the past history of Redwall Abbey for mythic characters from earlier generations. As the chronology of publication was different from the chronology of Redwall, the books can be read in any order.
Jacques tried other kinds of stories, including The Castaways of the Flying Dutchman (2001) and its sequels, before returning to the Redwall world.
Jacques was born in Liverpool and grew up in the dockland area of the city. He remained a passionate Liverpudlian for the rest of his life and told stories of the poverty of the city of his childhood, from the vantage point of its recent extensive redevelopment, as well as his own later acquired wealth. He always claimed he drew much from the city for his novels, in terms of place and character, as well as drawing on his memories of the bombing of the city in the second world war for his set-piece battles. Above all, he drew on his early experiences as an altar boy in the Catholic church, and particularly the Latin in which the services were conducted, for the rich language and imagery of his writing.
Jacques went to St John's school, Kirkdale, until he was 15. He then joined the merchant navy before returning to Liverpool. He had a variety of jobs, including driving a milk truck, while beginning a creative career as a playwright and host of his own radio show, Jakestown, on BBC Radio Merseyside.
Delivering milk to the Royal school for the blind in Wavertree, Liverpool, brought Jacques into contact with the pupils, and it was for them that he first told the Redwall stories. The needs of this first audience encouraged Jacques to describe his newly created world as vividly as possible; wisely, he retained the same detail and drama when the stories were written down. Their quality was recognised by a former English teacher, Alan Durband, who sent them to a publisher without telling Jacques and secured him a contract.
Jacques was a natural storyteller. He told touching stories of the responses he got from young readers, with tears springing to his eyes. He revelled in being recognised within Liverpool. He was generous to his readers and his city, including becoming a patron of the Royal school, a role which he valued highly. He was intensely proud of his success and worked tirelessly to maintain it.
• James Brian Jacques, writer and broadcaster, born 15 June 1939; died 5 February 2011