February 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

“Bloody Jack” Author Louis A. Meyer Jr. Passes at 71


Louis A. Meyer.

Children’s and young adult author Louis A. Meyer Jr., best known for his historical fiction “Bloody Jack” series, died July 26 at age 71. The cause was complications from refractory Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Meyer’s fast-paced, rollicking series, set in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, features a feisty young girl orphaned in London who dresses as a boy, changes her name from Mary to Jacky, and finds work on a ship. Jacky earns the moniker “Bloody Jack”—and the respect of her shipmates—when she kills a pirate intent on murdering one of the crew.

The series kicked off in 2002 with the publication of Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, Ship’s Boy (Harcourt, 2002). Many other books followed, taking the title character from a spunky preteen to a 16-year-old, and putting her into situations involving piracy, intrigue, murder, and unrequited love. The final installment in the series, Wild Rover No More: Being the Last Recorded Account of the Life & Times of Jacky Faber (Harcourt), will be released this September.

Meyer was an accomplished artist as well as a writer. The inspiration for Jacky struck one day in 2000, while Meyer was framing some of his artworks for exhibition and sale in an art gallery he owned with his wife. He happened to be listening to 19th-century Celtic and British songs, many of which described the antics of young girls who dressed as boys and went off to sea with boyfriends or lovers. Meyer found himself wondering what it would take for a girl to pull off such an escapade, and he came up with the character Jacky Faber.

WRoverThe books were well received, garnering positive acclaim from critics and fans alike. Marian McLeod, a school librarian at the Convent of the Sacred Heart school in Greenwich, CT, praised Meyer’s work: “[His] books give young readers access to a world that is a perfect mix of adventure, history, and humor. His books are thrilling for kids and teens and a joy for librarians looking for a series to bridge the middle grade-to-YA transition.”

Meyer was born in 1942 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Following high school, he joined the Navy and married Annetje Lawrence. After his service, he lived in New York City, working as a social worker and taking graduate classes in art at Columbia University. Meyer then moved to Massachusetts, enrolling at Boston University and obtaining an MFA in painting. His first two published works were picture books: The Gypsy Bears (1971), about a family of bears who relocate from Romania to Yellowstone Park following a famine, and The Clean Air and Peaceful Contentment Dirigible Airline (1972, both Little, Brown), about an inventor who constructs a machine that replaces both the car and airplane.

However, following these titles’ publication, Meyer took a long break from writing. He taught high school until 1981 and then set up silk screen printing and design shops in Maine and Florida before creating the “Bloody Jack” series.

Karen Grove, consulting editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, who worked with Meyer for the last 14 years on all 12 of the “Bloody Jack” books, looked back on the author fondly. “[He] was an incredible writer and dear friend, and I am grateful to have shared in his journey to bring the impetuous Jacky Faber to readers of all ages. He will be greatly missed.”

Meyer is survived by his wife of 48 years, Annetje Lawrence Meyer, and his sons Matthew and Nathaniel Meyer.

Mahnaz Dar About Mahnaz Dar

Mahnaz Dar (mdar@mediasourceinc.com) is Assistant Managing Editor for Library Journal and School Library Journal and can be found on Twitter @DibblyFresh.