Leonard Wibberley
Leonard Wibberley, sailor
BornLeonard Patrick O'Connor Wibberley
(1915-04-09)9 April 1915
Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland, United Kingdom
Died22 November 1983(1983-11-22) (aged 68)
Santa Monica, California, United States
Pen namePatrick O'Connor
OccupationWriter, author
GenreFiction, non-fiction, satire
ChildrenPatrick Maynard, Kevin Wibberley, Patricia Sheehey, Christopher Wibberley, Arabella Birkholm, Rory Wibberley (d) and Cormac Wibberley

Leonard Patrick O'Connor Wibberley (9 April 1915 – 22 November 1983), who also published under the name Patrick O'Connor, among others, was a prolific and versatile Irish author who spent most of his life in the United States.[1] Wibberley, who published more than 100 books, is perhaps best known for five satirical novels about an imaginary country Grand Fenwick, particularly The Mouse That Roared (1955).[1]

Wibberley's adult and juvenile publications cut across the categories of fictional novels, history, and biography. He also wrote short stories (several published in The Saturday Evening Post), plays and long verse poems. Some of his books are in series. Besides the 'Mouse' series, as Leonard Holton, he created the eleven-novel 'Father Bredder' mystery series (basis of a television series, Sarge) about "a major figure in the clerical crime drama".[2] Among his more than 50 juvenile books are (with Farrar, Straus and Giroux), a seven-volume 'Treegate' series of historical fiction and a four-volume life of Thomas Jefferson. As Patrick O'Connor, he wrote the Black Tiger series on auto racing, for young adults. Wibberley is also classified as a science fiction writer.

Throughout the decades, scenes and senses of the sea play important parts in both Wibberley's fiction and nonfiction. Three of his novels have been made into movies: The Mouse That Roared (1959), The Mouse on the Moon (1963), and The Hands of Cormac Joyce (1972).


In 1915, Leonard Wibberley was born in Dublin, the youngest of six children. His family moved to Cork and, until the age of eight, he was educated in Irish at Ring College, Waterford, Ireland. After moving to England, he attended Abbey House, Romsey, Hampshire and then Cardinal Vaughan's Memorial School in London.[3] His father, Thomas Wibberley, FRSA, Professor of Agricultural Research, University College, Cork[4] (one of the three constituents of the National University of Ireland) and Queen's University Belfast, was an experimental agronomist. He wrote several books contending his methods and inventions would allow the UK, absent empire, to feed itself (see Farming on Factory Lines: continuous cropping for the large farmer [London, 1919]). In 1921, the elder Wibberley was made a Fellow of the Linnean Society. Leonard's second name, "Patrick", was his confirmation name; his third, which he used as one of several noms de plume, was his matronymic, from his school-teacher mother, Sinaid O'Connor".[5] On his father's sudden death at age fifty in 1930, leaving a widow and six children,[citation needed] Wibberley was obliged to leave school and began a long career in newspapers, in London, as copy boy for the Sunday Dispatch (1931–32), then reporter for the Sunday Express (1932–34) and Daily Mirror (London, 1934–36), and was also assistant London editor for the Malayan Straits Times and the Singapore Free Press. He then emigrated for Trinidad, where he held several jobs, first, briefly, as editor of the Trinidad Evening News (1936), thereafter as an oilfield worker for Trinidad Leaseholds Ltd (1936–43), before immigrating to New York City in 1943. There he was initially employed by Walsh Kaiser Shipyards, but soon found important jobs in journalism again, as Cable Dispatch Editor for the Associated Press (New York City) during the war years of 1943–44 and New York Correspondent and Bureau Chief for the London Evening News (1944–46).[6]

In 1947 Wibberley moved permanently to California, working in newspapers, first (1947) as city editor of the Turlock Daily Journal, then as editor of the Independent Journal, San Rafael (1947–49),[7] next as copy editor then reporter, for the Los Angeles Times (1950–54). While working for the Times he began his novel-writing career. At age 37, he published his first novel,The King's Beard (1952). Leaving the newspaper business, he settled permanently in Hermosa Beach, California, as a full-time author, publishing 100 more books, at a rate of at least one a year and averaging more than three. Many were with three publishers: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; William Morrow; Dodd, Mead and Company. The best-known of Wibberley's books, The Mouse that Roared, was kept in print for some time by Bantam Books and then Four Walls Eight Windows. Fifty of his book publications are available as e-books.

Personal life

Wibberley took part in plays, did local radio readings and wrote a weekly syndicated column for the San Francisco Chronicle, 'The Wibberley Papers'.[8] His writing activities included unpublished and uncompleted projects, such as an unfinished 1958 collaboration with his friend Rosalind Russell on a musical script adaptation from his McGillicuddy McGotham, titled "Little Mac" (note picture above).[9] His two marriages, in Trinidad with Olga Morton-Gittens, and in California with Hazel Holton, produced seven children, including film writer Cormac Wibberley among six by the latter.[10]


Wibberley died of a heart attack in Santa Monica, California, aged 68, on 22 November 1983.[10]


Wibberley donated manuscripts and proofs of many of his works to The Leonard Wibberley Archive of the library collections of the University of Southern California, where they are available, but not online.[11]

In 1993, Borgo Press published a posthumous book of his last short writings.[12]

Published adult writing

This section lacks ISBNs for the books listed in it. Please make it easier to conduct research by listing ISBNs. If the ((Cite book)) or ((citation)) templates are in use, you may add ISBNs automatically, or discuss this issue on the talk page. (April 2015)

Short stories, novellas

The Saturday Evening Post

The Mouse series

Other novels

As Leonard Holton: Father Joseph Bredder mystery series, Dodd, Mead (New York)


Published youth (juvenile) writing

As Christopher Webb, with Funk & Wagnalls, New York

As Patrick O'Connor

Black Tiger series, E.M. Hale (Eau Claire, Wisc.)

Ives Washburn (New York)

Farrar, Straus & Giroux Ariel youth books

John Treegate series (originally four)

Non-fictional F S & G books

Life of Thomas Jefferson historical novels

Other juvenile fiction

Collected short works

Plays and long verse pieces

Posthumously published short works


  1. ^ a b Kerr, Peter (25 November 1983). "LEONARD WIBBERLEY, 68, DIES; WROTE 'MOUSE THAT ROARED'". The New York Times.
  2. ^ "Leonard Holton's Father Bredder", ch. 10 of William David Spencer, Mysterium and Mystery: The Clerical Crime Novel (Southern Illinois University Press: 1998).
  3. ^ Dinneen, Marcia B. (2000). "Wibberley, Leonard : American National Biography Online - oi". 1. doi:10.1093/anb/9780198606697.article.1603095. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ Wibberley, T. (1919). "The Irish Climate and Tillage Farming". Studies. 8 (32): 590–597. JSTOR 30092829.
  5. ^ "Leonard Wibberley says", dust jacket of The Trouble with the Irish (see "Non-fiction" in bibliog. above).
  6. ^ D.L. Kirkpatrick & Tracy Chevalier, eds, Twentieth Century Children's Writers (Chicago & London: St James Press, 1989), pp. 1330–1334.
  7. ^ Daily Independent Journal (San Rafael, California), Dec 2, 1949: 12
  8. ^ "Wibberley, Leonard Patrick O'Connor", Who Was Who in America (Marquis Who's Who), vol. viii, 1982–85, p. 425.
  9. ^ Bernard F. Dick, Forever Mame: The Life of Rosalind Russell (U. Mississippi Press, 2006), p. 142; Sam Zolotow, "Leprechaun Tale May Become Show", New York Times (Nov. 12, 1958, p. 41)
  10. ^ a b Kerr, Peter (25 November 1983). "LEONARD WIBBERLEY, 68, DIES; WROTE 'MOUSE THAT ROARED'". The New York Times.
  11. ^ "Research Guides: American Literature Archival Collections in USC Special Collections: Leonard Wibberley".
  12. ^ Christopher and Hazel Wibberley (eds.) (1993). Shamrocks and Sea Silver and Other Illuminations. San Bernardino: Borgo Press.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)