Sue Townsend, the creator of Adrian Mole, has died following a stroke.
Townsend wrote six non-Adrian Mole books but it was her fictional teenage Leicestershire poet which captured the public’s imagination following his debut in her 1982 book, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾.
The book, and its sequel, were turned into highly popular TV shows by ITV franchise holder Thames Television.
Adrian returned to TV screens in the BBC’s 2001 adaptation of The Cappuccino Years.
Townsend’s witty observations on life – as told by Adrian – ensured the character remained a firm favourite with fans. He last appeared in 2009’s The Prostrate Years.
More than eight million copies of Mole’s adventures were sold, having been translated into 39 different languages.
Townsend was born in Leicester in 1946 and upon leaving school worked in a variety of jobs including factory worker, shop assistant, and as a youth worker on adventure playgrounds.
According to publishers Penguin, “she wrote in secret for twenty years, eventually joining a writers’ group at the Phoenix Theatre, Leicester in her thirties.”
Her writing career started after she won the Thames Television Playwright Award for her first play, Womberang at the age of 35.
Other plays followed including The Great Celestial Cow (1984), Ten Tiny Fingers, Nine Tiny Toes (1990), and most recently You, me and Wii (2010).
A number of her books, including The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 ¾, have been adapted for the stage.
In 2009 she was given the Honorary Freedom of Leicester and was an honorary MA of Leicester University. In 2008 she was made a Distinguished Honorary Fellow and was an Honorary Doctor of Letters at Loughborough University, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Townsend has suffered from diabetes for many years and was registered blind in 2001.
Despite the loss of her sight, she continued writing, her last published book was The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year in 2012.
Tom Weldon, CEO Penguin Random House UK, said: “Sue Townsend will be remembered as one in a handful
of this country’s great comic writers. We were so proud to be her publishers.
“She was loved by generations of readers, not only because she made them laugh out loud, but because her view of the world, its inhabitants and their frailties was so generous, life affirming and unique.”