"Watership Down" author Richard Adams dies

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By Robert Hackwill
"Watership Down" author Richard Adams dies

Not many authors can claim to have reinvented an entire genre but Richard Adams, who has died aged 96, did just that with “Watership Down”, which became one of the biggest-selling childrens’ books of all time. He took the ancient theme of talking animals, but instead of cutesy, this was cruel and savage, like nature itself. It will be revived as a four-part TV series in the New Year.

Adams was a late starter, writing “Watership Down” while occupying a humdrum civil service job when he was 53, but the tale sprung almost fully-formed from a car journey with his children, when they demanded he tell them a story. Once published, Adams quit to write full-time. His first novel made him the world’s biggest-selling author at the time.

He only wrote five novels. “Watership Down” was followed by “Shardik”, an even more violent tale about a polar bear, a ghost story for adults, “The Girl on the Swing”, and “The Plague Dogs”, which was an early work of literature to pick up the baton of animal rights, and “Traveller”, a story from the point of view of General Robert E. Lee’s horse. He also published short stories, poetry, and a biography.

Despite their literary qualities, none were able to emulate the runaway success of his first novel, which was also made into an animated movie whose theme tune, “Bright Eyes” was a smash hit for Art Garfunkel, staying top of the charts in Britain for weeks.