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Russell Hoban | Fantasy author, 86

Russell Hoban, 86, the fantasy and children's author perhaps best known for Riddley Walker, a postapocalyptic novel that relied on a language he created, has died, his publisher said Thursday.

The former illustrator, painter, and decorated World War II veteran died in London on Tuesday night, Bloomsbury Publishing said. The cause of death was not immediately available.

Mr. Hoban was born in Lansdale but moved to London in 1969. He attended the Philadelphia School of Industrial Art before serving in the U.S. Army as an infantryman in Europe in World War II. He was awarded the Bronze Star in 1945.

Upon his return to the United States after the war, he worked at various jobs before launching a career as a freelance illustrator in 1956 and working as a copywriter. His paintings were occasionally used as cover portraits on major magazines.

Mr. Hoban started writing children's books a few years later, eventually writing more than 50, including The Mouse and His Child and his series of books dealing with a badger named Frances.

He turned to adult fiction in the 1970s, writing several novels before producing Riddley Walker, the work many regard as his masterpiece, in 1980.

It is set 2,000 years in the future after a nuclear war has destroyed much of the world. It relies on a language Mr. Hoban created, based on English. Critics regard the tale as perhaps the high point of Mr. Hoban's career. - AP