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James Albert Needle (born 1943), known as Jan Needle, is an English author. He was born and grew up in Portsmouth on the south coast of England, coming from a family with strong naval and military connections. He has written over thirty novels, as well as books and plays for adults and children, books of criticism, cartoons and radio and television serials and series.

Biography

After studying to becoming a journalist and despite poor grades in English, he moved to the northwest of England at age 20 to work for the Daily Herald newspaper. At 25 he took a Drama degree course at Manchester University, quitting full-time journalism after working for various papers. His first novel, Albeson and the Germans, was published in 1977. His first work for television was the one-hour drama A Place of Execution.

In his early career, Needle wrote three books related to the popular BBC television series Grange Hill and its spin-off series Tucker's Luck which ran for three series from 1982 to 1984.

His best-selling novel is The Bully, which has been translated into multiple languages and is a set text in schools in South America. The Times Education Supplement said it "avoids the glib answers of formulaic fiction". The TES also recommended it for classroom use to tackle the topic of bullying.

He has also written a sequel to The Wind in the Willows, called Wild Wood, which retells the story from the perspective of the stoats and weasels who rebel against the established social order, thus offering a critique of the politically conservative message of Kenneth Grahame's novel.

He is also co-author with Peter Thomson of Brecht, a study of the playwright Bertolt Brecht.

Needle has written serials for television, such as Truckers, A Game of Soldiers, Behind the Bike Sheds and Soft Soap, and has also written episodes for various well-known series, including Count Duckula, Thomas the Tank Engine, Sooty and Sweep, Brookside and The Bill.

Recently, Needle has re-written classic novels, to make them more accessible for children. In 2004, his cut down version of Bram Stoker's Dracula was published, being praised by Publishers Weekly for its presentation with blood-red page borders and "haunting" illustrations. It was followed in the next few years by a translated and adapted version of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame and a re-working of Moby-Dick.

He currently lives in Uppermill, Saddleworth, near Oldham and West Didsbury, Manchester in the northwest of England, and has five children.

Plays

  • A Game of Soldiers (1985)
  • Rebels of Gas Street (1986)
  • The Thief (1989)
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