Caesar was the first fictional being created by Patrick O'Brian and the first novel he published: he was 14 years old when he wrote it and 15 when it was published in 1930. It tells the enchanting, if bloodthirsty, story of Caesar - whose father was a giant panda and whose mother was a snow leopard. It tells of his life as a cub, his first exploits hunting, his first encounters with man, his capture and taming. At the age of fourteen, suffering from chronic ill health, Patrick O'Brian set about creating a fictional character: the offspring of a male giant panda and a female snow leopard. 'I did it mostly in my bedroom, and a little when I should have been doing homework,' he confessed in a note on his first book's dust jacket. Caesar: The Life Story of a Panda Leopard was finished in March 1930, three months after his fifteenth birthday, but the dry wit and unsentimental precision O'Brian's readers savour is already in evidence. Caesar furiously mauls two shepherds, then suddenly laments, with utter sangfroid, 'I dimly felt sorry that I had needlessly killed these two useless things, for though I was hungry I could not bring myself to eat these smelly men.'
In the autumn of 1930, the book was published in England and in the United States. Translations appeared in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Japan. O'Brian was hailed as the 'boy-Thoreau'.
Patrick O'Brian is the author of the acclaimed Aubrey-Maturin tales and the biographer of Joseph Banks and Picasso. His first novel, Testimonies, and his Collected Short Stories have recently been republished by HarperCollins. He has translated many works from French into English, among them the novels and memoirs of Simone de Beauvoir and the first volume of Jean Lacouture's biography of Charles de Gaulle. In 1995, he was the first recipient of the Heywood Hill Prize for a lifetime's contribution to literature. In the same year he was also awarded the CBE. He died early in 2000.