"Call me Uncle Brian," says best-selling author Brian Jacques. Indeed, thanks to the familiarity and ease he exudes during a call to his home in England, it's hard not to think of him as family—a favorite uncle telling tall tales over Sunday dinner. Jacques' salty, strong Liverpool accent lends an added effect. He could easily be mistaken for a buccaneer or one of the many seadogs in his adventure books.
Though he isn't a buccaneer (at the moment anyway), the best-selling author of the Redwall stories and Castaways of the Flying Dutchman, knows much about the high seas. He shares that knowledge in his latest thrilling adventure, The Angel's Command.
The second book in his Castaways saga, The Angel's Command follows the eternally youthful Ben and his dog Ned as they travel the world—at an angel's command—in search of those who need their help. In the first book, Ben and Ned were saved from a cursed pirate ship by the same angel. The Angel's Command finds the dynamic duo sailing the high seas years later, befriending buccaneers, fighting pirates and narrowly escaping monsters of the deep.
But The Angel's Command is not just a high-seas adventure. The second half of the book, and perhaps the most intriguing and thrilling portion of the tale, finds Ben and Ned in the mountains of Spain, where they become entangled with a gypsy girl and a murderous tribe of mountain dwellers. Ben and Ned prove that good always wins out over evil as they traverse the hills and vales of the Pyrenees on a quest to save the kidnapped grandson of a Spanish nobleman. Through imprisonment in a dank dungeon, several avalanches, and a face-to-face meeting with evil, the young boy and his dog prove themselves again and again.
Jacques himself is no stranger to adventure. The Liverpool native has experienced more in his lifetime than most of us dream of. "I've been around the block a few times," he admits, "but there's no place like home at the finish." From merchant marine to poet to comedian to folk singer, this author has seen it all—and he has plenty of stories to share.
Jacques' days as a longshoreman on the quays of Liverpool gave him the inspiration for the Castaways saga. "I have always had a love for the sea," says the author, who grew up hearing ships' foghorns in the night as they passed in the harbor. "Living away from the sea would drive me crackers."
Jacques is currently working on several books, including a collection of ghost stories entitled Liver Jack and Other Curious Laughs. Although he's become an international celebrity, fame does not seem to have affected him. During a stop in Boston on a recent book tour, he came across an 11-year-old boy being fitted for a suit in a formalwear shop. The salesman was prodding and poking him. "He looked like he was about to throw up," recalls Jacques.
The ever-thoughtful author went up to the boy, winked at him and said, "That suit looks really smart on you, mate." The boy immediately blushed. A bit later, as Jacques was leaving the store, the boy ran up to him and said, "You look like my favorite author, Brian Jackways." It turned out the boy was a big fan and was planning to attend Jacques' book-signing the next day. As a special treat, the author suggested that when the boy arrived at the bookstore, he shout out, "Hey Uncle Brian," so that Jacques would recognize him, and he wouldn't have to wait in line for the author's autograph.
Uncle Brian suggested the same for me. And I might just take him up on that offer.
Heidi Henneman writes from San Francisco.
Author photo by David Jacques, M.A.