Jan Needle

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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.


After studying to becoming a journalist and despite poor grades in English, he moved to the North-West 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.[1] His first work for television was the one-hour drama A Place of Execution.[2]

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.[3] The Times Education Supplement said it "avoids the glib answers of formulaic fiction".[4] The TES also recommended it for classroom use to tackle the topic of bullying.[5]

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.[6][7]

He is also co-author with Peter Thomson of Brecht, a study of the playwright Bertolt Brecht.[8][9]

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.[10]

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.[11] 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.[12]

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


Some of his works have caused slight controversy in the past: Don't Tell The Frogs, a comedy focusing on the nuclear industry, was pulled after pressure;[citation needed] the Government attempted to block the running of the schools television serial A Game of Soldiers (broadcast as part of schools series Middle English in September and October 1983[13] ), due to its subject of the Falklands War;[14] Needle was banned from acting as the keynote speaker at a conference on realism in children's books by teachers due to his book My Mate Shofiq.[citation needed]

His novel Death Order speculated that leading German Nazi Rudolf Hess was murdered.[15]


  • Albeson and the Germans (1977)
  • My Mate Shofiq (1978)
  • The Size Spies (1979)
  • The Bee-Rustlers (1980)
  • A Sense of Shame and Other Stories (1980)
  • Wild Wood (1981)
  • Another Fine Mess (1981)
  • Losers Weepers (1981)
  • Piggy in the Middle (1982)
  • Going Out (1982)
  • A Pitiful Place and Other Stories (1984)
  • Great Days at Grange Hill (1984)
  • Tucker's Luck (1984)
  • Tucker in Control (1985)
  • Behind the Bike Sheds (1985)
  • Wagstaffe, the Wind-up Boy (1987)
  • Uncle in the Attic (1988)
  • The War of the Worms (1992)
  • Bogeymen (1992)
  • The Bully (1993)
  • Killing Time at Catterick (2013)
  • Silver and Blood (2013)
  • Death Order (2015)
  • Kicking Off (2015)
  • Nelson: The Poisoned River (2015)

William Bentley

  1. A Fine Boy for Killing (1979)
  2. The Wicked Trade (1998)
  3. The Spithead Nymph (2004)
  4. Undertaker's Wind (2006)

Charlie Raven

  1. The Devil's Luck (2013)
  2. The Death Card (2015)


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

Literary criticism[edit]

  • Brecht (1981) – with Peter Thomson


  1. ^ "Jan Needle". The Oxford Encyclopedia of Children's Literature. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  2. ^ Torr, Martyn (29 May 2012). "Through the Eyes of Needle". Oldham Chronicle. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  3. ^ "Author pays a visit to Rochdale sisters". Rochdale Online. 17 April 2009. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  4. ^ Slough, Brian (27 June 1997). "Tales to mix and match". Times Education Supplement. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  5. ^ "Resources". TES Connect. 11 May 2008. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  6. ^ O'Sullivan, Emer. Historical Dictionary of Children's Literature. p. 113. 
  7. ^ Grahame, Kenneth (2009). The Wind in the Willows: An Annotated Edition. Harvard UP. p. 1. 
  8. ^ Martin Kane. "Brecht by Jan Needle and Peter Thomson (review)." Modern Drama 25.4 (1982): 575-577. Project MUSE. Web. 4 July 2013.
  9. ^ Heinemann, Margot (5 August 1982). "Modern Brecht". London Review of Books. 4 (14): 22–24. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  10. ^ http://www.janneedle.com/radio.htm
  11. ^ "Bram Stoker's Dracula (ed. Jan Needle; Review)". Publishers Weekly. 9 January 2004. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  12. ^ Author's website: Children's Fiction – Classics re-visited
  13. ^ Wake, Oliver (2 April 2012). "DISPUTED TERRITORY: DRAMA AND THE FALKLANDS". British Television Drama. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  14. ^ http://www.janneedle.com/
  15. ^ "Manchester author scoops Scotland Yard". Lancashire Magazine. 8 September 2013. Archived from the original on 9 January 2014. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 

External links[edit]