In Memoriam, Richard Adams

Richard Adams (1920 – 2016) died on December 24.  Adams was the author of Watership Down, Shardik, and The Plague Dogs.

Adams was studying history at Worcester College, Oxford when World War II began.  He was called up to join the Royal Army Service Corps, but despite postings in the Middle East, Europe, and the Far East, he never saw direct action.  He returned to college to finish his degree and went on to join the British Civil Service, where he worked in anonymity in the Ministry of Housing and Local Government for several years.

In the late 1960s, he began telling a story to his daughters which he eventually wrote as Watership Down.  Rejected several times, it was published in 1972 by Rex Collings in an edition of 2500 copies.  When its publication met with rave reviews, Penguin picked up the publication and reprinted it the following year. It later went on to win the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize.  It was published in the United States in 1974, adapted into an animated film in 1978, and spawned a television series that ran from 1999-2001.

Adams’s second novel, Shardik, looked at a hunter trying to kill a giant bear he believed embodied the power of God. He also published The Plague Dogs, featuring a story about a pair of dogs that escaped from an animal testing facility.  As with his first novel, many of his books are told from the point of view of animals who are presented both sympathetically and realistically. In 1982, he served a year as President of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and his final book, Gentle Footprints, published just before his 90th birthday, was used to raise funds for the Born Free Foundation.

Other novels include horror novel The Girl in a Swing, the Civil War novel, Traveller, told from the point of view of Robert E. Lee’s horse, and Maia, a loose prequel to Shardik.

SFWA President Cat Rambo marked Adams’ passing with fond remembrance, quoting one of his many beloved works, Watership Down. “My heart has joined the Thousand, for my friend stopped running today.”