TRIBUTES have been paid to Adrian Mole author Sue Townsend who has died aged 68.
Townsend – who was left blind after suffering from diabetes for many years – achieved worldwide success with the publication of her best-known work, The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole, aged 13 3/4.
Penguin Books, her publishers, said she died on Thursday “surrounded by her family” after suffering a stroke.
Tom Weldon, chief executive of 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.”
Harry Potter author JK Rowling wrote on Twitter: “So sad to hear about Sue Townsend.”
Stephen Mangan, who played Adrian Mole in a 2001 television adaptation, tweeted his condolences, saying: “Greatly upset to hear that Sue Townsend has died. One of the warmest, funniest and wisest people I ever met.” Writer Caitlin Moran said she was “one of the funniest women who ever lived”.
Townsend was born in Leicester in 1946, and set her most famous work in her home city. She left school at the age of 15, married at 18 and by 23 was a single parent with three children.
After writing in secret for 20 years while working as a factory worker, shop assistant and youth worker, she eventually joined a writers’ group at the Phoenix Theatre in Leicester when she was in her 30s.
At 35 she won the Thames Playwright Award for her play Womberang and a year later published the first in her series about Adrian Mole, which she had begun writing in 1975.
The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4 was published in 1982. It was an instant hit going on to sell more than 20 million copies around the world.
It was followed by The Growing Pains Of Adrian Mole in 1984 and six others in the Mole series, including The True Confessions Of Adrian Albert Mole and most recently Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years, in 2009. Much of Townsend’s life was blighted by illness.
She had a heart attack in her 30s and suffered from diabetes for many years, leaving her registered blind in 2001 and forced to resort to dictating her work.
In 2009, she had a kidney transplant, also a complication of her diabetes, which was donated by her son, Sean.
Speaking in 2012 she said: “He felt it more than I did. I’m used to having operations but he’d never been in hospital before.
“There was never any hesitation, though. I was thrilled he was going to give me his kidney, but also scared for him and truly appreciated it.”
In recent years she was left wheelchair-bound. Townsend also wrote a number of other novels, including The Queen And I, as well as further plays and two non-fiction books.
She leaves behind her widower, Colin Broadway, and four children.