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'Redwall' author Brian Jacques dies at 71

February 8, 2011 |  9:51 am

Brian Jacques, author of the bestselling "Redwall" adventure books for children, has died in England. He was 71.

Jacques died Saturday in a hospital where he was being treated for an aneurism on his aorta, the Liverpool Echo newspaper reported.

Jacques (pronounced Jakes) was a milk delivery man 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," Jacques said in an interview published on the website 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.

He said he chose animals as his characters because they were more popular with his target audience, kids aged 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 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," Jacques said.

Born in Liverpool, 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 was a broadcaster for BBC's Radio Merseyside.

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

-- Associated Press