|Born in England as Richard Patrick Russ, the eighth of nine children, O'Brian changed his name and cut himself off from his family at the age of 29, for reasons unknown. He published a book at the age of 15, called CAESAR: THE LIFE STORY OF A PANDA LEOPARD. A doctor recommended sea air for his weak lungs, and he learned to sail--a lifelong interest that is a vital part of his Aubrey-Maturin novels. O'Brian married young, had a son and a daughter (who died in childhood), and was divorced before World War II. In 1945, he married Mary Wicksteed Tolstoy (who was married when he met her to Count Dmitri Tolstoy). O'Brian was unfit for active duty in World War II; instead, he drove an ambulance and worked for the British secret service. After the war, he and Mary moved to Wales under his new name, and he began to write, but eventually they moved to the more congenial climate of the small village of Collioure, in the south of France, where O'Brian lived in determined obscurity for the rest of his life. The first in the Aubrey-Maturin novels was published in 1969. In addition to his popular and critically acclaimed novels of the English navy during the Napoleonic Wars, O'Brian wrote biographies (of Picasso, among others) and translated many works from French. Like his character Stephen Maturin, he was a dedicated naturalist. He was also an amateur astronomer, knew several languages well (including Spanish and Catalan), and had a small vineyard behind his house.