Radio Wolinsky

Richard Adams (1920-2016)

Richard Adams in the mid 1970s upon publication of Watership Down.

Richard Adams (1920-2016) interviewed in 1978 by Richard Wolinsky.

Richard Adams, the author of “Watership Down,” “Plague Dogs” “Shardik” and other novels, died on Christmas Eve, 2016 at the age of 96. Born in 1920, he served as a liaison officer during World War II, and later joined the civil service, rising to the rank of Assistant Secretary to the Ministry of Housing.

Past the age of fifty and a life-long civil servant, Richard Adams began telling stories to his daughters about talking rabbits while on a car trip. The daughters prompted him to turn the stories into a novel. After four failed attempts, a fifth try in 1972 found a publisher and “Watership Down” became an international best-seller and later a beloved classic fantasy.

He followed that with “Shardik,” a novel about a giant bear. Along the way, Adams became an advocate against the use of animal testing, which is the subject of his third novel, “The Plague Dogs.”

It was on tour for that third novel upon its American publication in the spring of 1978 that Richard Wolinsky interviewed Richard Adams. Though he’d conducted a handful of interviews with a co-host, this was Richard Wolinsky’s first solo shot in what would be a long career as literary interviewer.

Though Adams continued to write well into the 21st Century and would publish fourteen more books , he never again achieved the success of his first few novels, especially of course Watership Down. Watership Down and The Plague Dogs both became animated films; a live action film of another novel. The Giril in a Swing, was released in 1988. Watership Down also became a 39 episode TV series in from 1999 to 2001. A new mini-series of Watership Down from BBC One will air in 2017 on Netflix, featuring the voices of James McAvoy, Ben Kingsley, Nicholas Hoult and John Boyega.

A shorter version of this interview aired on KPFA as an Arts-Waves program and as a Bookwaves program in syndication. The interview was digitized, remastered and edited in 2016 by Richard Wolinsky. The exact date and location of the interview were not listed on the cassette.

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