Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Book Mark: Passing of Mystery Writer Lilian Jackson Braun

Courtesy of The Associated Press:

Lilian Jackson Braun wrote 29 books in the The Cat Who... mystery series. She died Saturday.

Braun died Saturday of natural causes at the Hospice House of the Carolina Foothills in Landrum, S.C.. She had lived in Tryon, N.C., for the past 23 years with her husband, Earl Bettinger.

An obituary prepared by her publisher notes that she almost quit writing after her third book, The Cat Who Turned On and Off, was published because popular tastes had changed so much.

There was an 18-year hiatus before she wrote The Cat Who Saw Red, published in 1986. She resumed because her husband encouraged her to return to writing after she retired from The Detroit Free Press in 1984.

"By the time I had written the fourth one, tastes in mysteries had changed," Braun is quoted as saying by her publisher Penguin Group (USA). "They wanted sex and violence, not kitty-cat stories. Gore was not my style, so I just forgot about The Cat Who."

Braun wrote 31 books, including two short story collections, and worked 30 years at The Detroit Free Press.

Her mystery series began with The Cat Who Could Read Backwards, published in 1966 and ended with The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers, when Braun retired from writing in 2007. Her books about Jim Qwilleran and his Siamese cats, Koko and Yum Yum, were regulars on the New York Times bestseller lists and were translated into 16 languages.

Her books redefined the mystery genre, said Natalee Rosenstein, Braun's longtime editor and vice-president, senior executive editor of Berkley Books, a Penguin Group imprint.

Rosenstein said in a statement that she loved the books when she first read them, but "it did take me a while to figure out what genre it belonged to.

"She ultimately created a whole new chapter in the American mystery, and our wonderful working relationship spanned more than two decades. But most of all, it is Lilian the person I will remember — a strong, dedicated feisty woman who would always speak her mind and not be intimidated by anyone."

Braun wrote her books in longhand, then typed them herself, according to her publisher.

Braun was born June 20, 1913, in Chicopee Falls, Mass. She was preceded in death by her first husband, Louis Paul Braun; her sister, Florence Jackson; and her brother, Lloyd Jackson.

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