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Brian Jacques

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Brian Jacques

James Brian Jacques (pronounced "jakes") (June 15, 1939 - February 5, 2011)

Biography

An English author from Kirkdale, Liverpool, Brian Jacques is best known for his Redwall saga of fantasy books, as well as the Castaways of the Flying Dutchman series. He has also written two collections of short stories, The Ribbajack and Seven Strange and Ghostly Tales. As a youth, Jacques attended St. Johns Elementary School, an inner city Catholic school that had its playground on the roof. It was at this school where he was an altarboy. While enrolled there, an experience at the age of ten marked his potential as a writer. After being assigned to write an essay about the unusual characteristics of animals, Jacques wrote about a bird that cleaned the teeth of a crocodile. The teacher refused to believe that a boy his age could write as well as he did. When young Brian refused to falsely say that he had copied the story, he was caned for lying. He had always loved to write, but it was only then that he realized that he had a talent for it.

Jacques' ancestry is French on the paternal side, and Irish on the maternal side; Jacques' grandmother came to Liverpool from Cork Country, Ireland, in 1895.

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Durband
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It was also at St. Johns that Brian met his English teacher, Alan Durband (who also taught two Beatles, Paul McCartney and George Harrison), who would bring about a major change in his life over 30 years later. Durband co-founded Liverpool's Everyman Theatre, where Brian was later resident playwright, with Terry Hands in 1964.

As a boy, authors such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Louis Stephenson served as writers Jacques enjoyed, as well as books such as The Iliad, The Odyssey, King Solomon's Mines, The Lost World, Scaramouche, and Treasure Island. As an adult, Jacques has mentioned P. G. Wodehouse and Damon Runyon as favorites.

After Brian dropped out of school at the age of 15, he set out to find adventure as a Merchant Marine A.B. (Able Bodied Seaman). He traveled to many ports, including New York, Valparaiso, San Francisco, and Yokohama. Tiring of the lonely life of a sailor, he returned to his home town of Liverpool where he worked as a railway fireman, a longshoreman, a long-distance truck driver, a bus driver, a boxer, a bobby (Police Constable 216D), a postmaster, and a stand-up comic. For a while, Jacques wrote a column for the Catholic Pictorial in Liverpool.

Getyerwack

Get Yer Wack


During the 1960s, Jacques was involved with a local Liverpudlian folk singing group. Calling themselves "The Liverpool Fishermen", this act made rounds at local pubs and clubs, and released an LP called Swallow the Anchor in 1971. The group was composed of Jacques, as well as some friends and family members. Jacques also provided backing for Liverpool trio The Scaffold, and has a lifetime membership to well-known Beatles stomping grounds, the Cavern Club. In the mid-1970s, Jacques also ran a weekly folk club on Bold St. in Liverpool, where he often performed monologues and allowed musicians to perform.

Prior to Redwall, Jacques wrote various books of humorous poetry and short stories under the names "J. B. Jaques" and "J. Brian Jaques." These books were published almost exclusively by Anvil Press in Liverpool. The first one, Get Yer Wack: A Liverpool Anthology, was released in 1971. Over the coming years Jacques authored 4 more of these books, Yennoworrameanlike, A Mersey Bible, Scouse with the Lid Off, and finally Jakestown in 1979.

In the Everyman Theatre's 18th season (1981-1982), Jacques was the resident playwright. His stage play Brown Bitter, Wet Nellies, and Scouse was performed there, where he was also an actor for a brief stint of time.

Redwall was originally written on 800 sheets of recycled paper kept in a Safeway grocery bag for children attending the Royal School for the Blind in Wavertree, Liverpool when Jacques was a truck driver in the mid-1980s. The tale was inspired by Kirkdale's Stanley Park. Later, Alan Durband sent the book to publishers without telling Jacques, which led to a contract for the first five books of Redwall. Jacques only received around $4000 for that novel. The 22nd and final known novel, The Rogue Crew, was published in May 2011.

For many years, Jacques worked on Redwall books with close friend Patricia Lee Gauch, former Vice President and editor at Philomel Books, who first came to the company in 1985. She stepped down from Philomel in September 2009. Redwall was first read in the U.S. by Putnam editor Arthur Levine, who took the novel to the Philomel offices.

Brian & the 21st Century

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Brian Jacques portrait

On September 11, 2000 7PM EDT, Brian Jacques participated in a live webcast from London hosted by Penguin/Putnam and Yahoo!.

Perhaps one of the biggest scares Redwall fans endured was a stroke Mr. Jacques had on August 19, 2001. Luckily, he recovered, however two and a half years later, on March 15, 2004, Mr. Jacques suffered a mild heart attack but recovered yet again.

In the fall of 2005, Mr. Jacques was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by the University of Liverpool.

From about 1970 onwards, Mr. Jacques hosted "Jakestown", a comedy/opera/international music show on 95.8 FM BBC Radio Merseyside from 5:30pm - 7pm on Sunday afternoons. For a stint, Brian also hosted "Saturdays with Brian Jacques," also on Radio Merseyside. In October 2006, he permanently retired from the air waves.

In spring 2007, Mr. Jacques was honored as one of the top 10 Greatest Merseysiders in Liverpool, and was celebrated with a portrait painted by artist Micheline Robinson. His name was also inscribed into a wall of fame located outside the Liverpool Echo Arena.

On July 23rd 2008, Mr. Jacques was awarded an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.

On the evening of February 5, 2011, Brian Jacques was given emergency surgery at Royal Liverpool hospital for an aortic aneurism, or heart attack. Attempts to save him were unsuccessful, and he passed away.

Brian is survived by his wife Maureen, and his 2 adult sons, Marc and David. Mariel of Redwall was written for his granddaughter, Jade.

At book signings, Brian wore a brace due to chronic tendonitis, brought about from writing some of the novels by hand.


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Awards

  • ALA's Best Books for Young Adults for 1987 for Redwall
  • Lancashire Libraries Children’s Book of the Year Award for Redwall
  • Lancashire Libraries Children’s Book of the Year Award for Mossflower
  • Lancashire Libraries Children’s Book of the Year Award for Salamandastron
  • Western Australian Young Readers Award for Redwall
  • Western Australian Young Readers Award for Mossflower
  • Western Australian Young Readers Award for Mattimeo
  • Shortlisted Carnegie Medal for Redwall
  • Shortlisted Carnegie Medal for Mossflower
  • Shortlisted Carnegie Medal for Salamandastron
  • Shortlisted Carnegie Medal for Mattimeo
  • Sony Award for Best Light Entertainment Show, BBC
  • Scouseology Award for Culture/Special Achievement
  • 1998 Audie Award for Best Children's Title (Redwall)
  • 44th Greatest Merseysider Ever (2003)
  • Top 10 Greatest Merseysiders (2007)

Legacy

Brian Jacques' name is featured on the Literary Liverpool panel at the Liverpool Central Library.


Charity

Donations in Brian's memory can be made to:

Quotes

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  • "It really gets up my nose when publicists call my books 'Another Lord of the Rings.' I say, 'It's not another Lord of the Rings, it's my bloody book! It's my creation. I wrote it. And another thing, I didn't have to plunder Norse and European mythology to do it!'" Locus (November 1995)
  • "I have no empty heroes. My goodies are good, and my baddies are bad. There are no schizophrenic goodies or sympathetic baddies. And children like it that way; it's not confusing. And they want the goodies to defeat the bads." Knoxville News-Sentinel (Jan 29, 1999)
  • "Harry Potter's picked up readers from me! I was there 10 years before Harry Potter." Seattle Post-Intelligencer (February 5, 2000)
  • "I suppose there's a child inside me who wants to get out...A little baldy child with a beard. Ha!” CNN (March 16, 2001)
  • “Any time I go into anything like this, I make sure, before I ever put pen to paper, that I've got the say...If you don't, it's like putting your kid in an orphanage.” CNN (March 16, 2001)
  • “I still pinch meself when I wake up of a morning...Who ever thought I'd be a children's author -- let alone a best-selling children's author? I feel I should still be driving a truck, or (working as) a longshoreman.” CNN (March 16, 2001)
  • "American reporters ask me 'What do you think about Harry Potter?' and I say 'I don't know, what's he written?'. I was around 10 years before J. K. Rowling, but if she writes good books for kids, I hope she makes a sqwillion dollars." Ottawa Citizen (2002)
  • "What I'm doing is telling a story. People who try to dissect my words are sadly disillusioned." The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO) (Sept 21, 2006)
  • "I do not like the term 'fantasy'. It smacks of swords and sorcery and dungeons and dragons, and this is not at all the feeling of my books. I like to think of my books as old fashioned adventures that happened 'Once upon a time, long ago and far away...'; in fact, good yarns is how I describe them." (Undated Random House interview)
  • “I use animals native to Great Britain...The animals have human traits, like the mole is a tiny, furry wonderful creature with big digging claws. I think about how he would talk. He's not a baddie; he's a goodie.”

On Warriors

  • "A warrior is not a bully but someone who would help you against the bully, who would stand up for somebody weaker than themselves." Knoxville News-Sentinel (Jan 29, 1999)
  • "My values are not based on violence. My values are based on courage, which you see time and time again in my books. A warrior isn't somebody like Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwarzenegger. A warrior can be any age. A warrior is a person people look up to." New York Times (April 2, 2001)
  • "The point of 'Redwall' is to be a warrior. A warrior isn't Arnold Schwarzenegger, or some idiot with black belts who can kill you with a belch from 40 yards off." The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO) (Sept 21, 2006)

Trivia

According to a poster distributed by the Redwall Readers Club:

  • Favorite Food: Spaghetti
  • Favorite Smells: Cinnamon, Dolly Mixtures
  • Worst Subject in School: Math
  • Best Subject in School: English
  • Favorite Book When Young: King Solomon's Mines
  • Favorite Character From His Own Books: Gonff the Mousethief
  • Worst Habit: Putting things off until the last minute
  • If He Wasn't a Writer, Brian Would Most Like To Be: A film director or tenor


Brian Jacques Literary Award

The Brian Jacques Literary Award was an annual Liverpool competition founded in 2000 designed to promote education and writing. Young writers submit original stories limited to 250 words for judging by a panel. Jacques designed the award "to put something back, to nurture new talent." The competition is for Merseyside Primary School children in years 5 and 6.

Prizes in previous years included £1000-worth of books for the winner's school library, a Redwall figurine, £25 worth of book tokens, and the latest Jacques novel. Second runner-ups received £500 for their school, and 5 special awards which included a certificate and full Redwall collection signed were also given out.

Winners:

  • Lucy Basnett (2001)

Tours

See the Tour page for a historical record of Brian Jacques book signing tours.


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Jacques at a book signing

Bibliography

Redwall

Tribes of Redwall Series

Castaways of the Flying Dutchman Series

Other

Delayed/Shelved Projects

Filmography

Discography

Swallowtheanchor

Swallow the Anchor

See Also

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