Mourning Brian Jacques, Author of Redwall

I grew up in a literary house.  My favorite books as a child included Jane Eyre and The Hound of the Baskervilles. And when I wanted to take in the occasional movie, I watched Masterpiece Theatre and BBC for film adaptations of grand classics and gripping mysteries.  My life revolved around the written word, and my mother and grandmother did nothing but encourage the reading, daydreaming, and writing.

When I was about 9 years old, I stumbled across a book named Redwall.  It weighed as much as the family Bible, and I couldn’t imagine what this man – some man by the name of Brian Jacques (which I shamelessly pronounced as “jacks”) would possibly have to say about a mouse in three hundred plus pages.

Then I opened the book.

From that first paragraph where I met Matthias tripping over his habit (I will never forget my first encounter with Redwall Abbey), not only did I vow to name my first-born son Matthias, but I also knew that I would be a writer, an author, a spinner of tales.

Brian Jacques (actually pronounced as “jakes”) did so much more than just write children’s books.  He sparked a love for storytelling in each reader’s heart.  Who didn’t want to hear tales of gallantry and lore?  Feasts and enduring battles?  Vicious vermin and seafaring voyagers?  Brian Jacques ignited a passion for writing in me, and to this day, my sole ambition in life is to write and write well.

What I’m about to tell you may seem undoubtedly false, but every bit of it is entirely true.

This very morning, February 9, 2011, I found myself amidst a Pablo Neruda poem.  I couldn’t help but wish that Neruda was still living and breathing, and I couldn’t help but wish that I had gotten to meet him before he died.  To be near one of the greatest poetic minds of all time.

So I set about writing a list, a list of all the authors I had to meet in my lifetime.  Scratched across a napkin, it went something like this:

– Seamus Heaney

– William Trevor

– Joyce Carol Oates

– Henning Mankell

– Brennan Manning

And there were others.  Plenty of others.  But at the top of the list sat one name:

– Brian Jacques

One hour later, I checked my email and found a message from a friend.  I followed the link and up popped a New York Times article.  I read the title.  Then reread it again.  Then again.  And once more.

I couldn’t stop the tears, nor did I want to.  I was crying for the loss of a dear friend, a dear friend whose voice I can still hear after listening to hours on end of Redwall when I was 9 years old.  A dear friend who told dozens of stories –Mossflower to The Legend of Luke.  A dear friend who had inspired me to write: Brian Jacques.

With my blurred vision, I slowly crossed his name off the list.

Read about the tragedy here.