A well-known radio personality in his native Liverpool–as well as an actor, stand-up comic, and playwright–Brian Jacques is the host of “Jakestown” on BBC Radio Merseyside. Ever the performer, Jacques is well-known for applying his acting and entertainment background to his lively presentations to legions of young fans at schools across the United States and England.
Brian Jacques was born in Liverpool, England on June 15th, 1939. Along with forty percent of the population of Liverpool, his ancestral roots are in Ireland, County Cork to be exact.
He grew up in the area around the Liverpool docks. His interest in adventure stories began at an early age with reading the books of: Daniel Defoe, Sir Henry Rider Haggard, Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Thomas Malory, Robert Michael Ballantyne, Robert Louis Stevenson, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Kenneth Grahame. He attended St. John’s School, an inner city school that had its playground on the roof. On his first day at St. John’s, at the age of ten, he had an experience that marked his potential as a writer. When given an assignment of writing a story about animals, he wrote about the bird that cleaned a crocodile’s teeth. The teacher could not, and would not, believe that a ten year old could write that well. When young Brian refused to falsely say that he had copied the story, he was caned as “a liar”. He had always loved to write, but it was only then, that he realized that he had a talent for writing.
Some teachers at St. John’s proved to be good role models. As Mr. Jacques recalls:
“My favourite teacher was Mr. Austin Thomas. He looked like Lee Marvin. Big Man. A Captain in World War II. He came to school on a big bush bike with the haversack on back. He was a man’s man. Always fair. I was fourteen at the time when Mr. Thomas introduced the class to poetry and Greek literature. (Because of him, I saved seven shillings and sixpence to buy The Iliad and The Odyssey at this dusty used book shop.)”
This interest in poetry extended to Wordsworth, Tennyson, and Goldsmith.It was also at St. John’s that Brian met a teacher, Alan Durband (who also taught two Beatles, Paul McCartney and George Harrison), who, more than thirty years later would bring about a major change in his life.
After Brian finished school at fifteen, he set out to find adventure as a merchant seaman. He travelled to many far away ports, including New York, Valparaiso, San Francisco, and Yokohama. Tiring of the lonely life of a sailor, he returned to 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.
Penguin mourns the passing of celebrated children’s book author Brian Jacques
NAME:Brian Jacques (pronounced ‘jakes’)
DATE OF BIRTH:15 June 1939
PLACE OF BIRTH:Liverpool, England
FAVOURITE BOOKS:The works of Mario Puzo, Damon Runyon, and P. G. Wodehouse are amongst Brian’s favourites. That is when he has time to read!
FAVOURITE MUSIC:As you may already know Brian loves opera, but all music is a must ‘I could not live without music’
MOST TREASURED POSSESSION:Teddy. Brian’s West Highland Terrier!
Did you enjoy reading as a child?I loved reading adventure stories by Daniel Defoe, Robert Louis Stevenson and Kenneth Graeme. I remember saving up to buy copies of The Iliad and The Odyssey, these ancient Greek stories definitely shaped my imagination when I was young.
The sea is very important in your stories, why is this?When I left school I became a merchant shipman. I travelled the world seeing amazing things. I think the sea is very exciting; it can be thrilling, dangerous, or comforting.
What do you hope children will get from your books?Most of all I want children to have fun. I want to fire their imaginations. In my stories the motto is always that courage and decency in the face of danger is very important. You can do well in life if you stick by that!
Why did you decide to write your Redwall series about animals not humans?Having animals as the main characters gives me more freedom than with humans. I can be really inventive with the characters and their lives. The mice are the heroes of Redwall because like children, mice are little and have to learn to be courageous and use their wits.
How did you become a full-time writer?I wanted to write an exciting story for a group of school children, so I wrote the first Redwall tale. I didn’t have a typewriter so I wrote it by hand. I lent it to a friend, who showed it to a publisher, they were interested and signed me up for five Redwall books. The rest is history…
What advice do you give to people who want to write?Paint. That’s the magic word. Paint pictures with words. That’s the greatest advice I can give anybody. Paint the pictures with words.
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