Monday, June 06, 2011

The Cat Who Is No More (Lilian Jackson Braun Dead at 97)

Bestselling author Lilian Jacskon Braun died on June 4 at age 97 according to her husband, Earl Bettinger.  Braun was the author of 29 "The Cat Who..." mysteries, a series she began in 1966 with The Cat Who Could Read Backwards.  According to Bettinger, Braun was working on the 30th book in the series at the time of her death.

After adding two more books to the series, Braun devoted herself to a full-time job with the Detroit newspaper, and eighteen years would pass before she published the fourth "The Cat Who..." book.  The last book in the series, The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers, was released by Putnam in January 2007, and what would have been book number 30, The Cat Who Smelled Smoke, has now been cancelled.  

Braun, who was born on June 20, 1913, missed her 98th birthday by just sixteen days.

(I have seen Ms. Braun's books in bookstores for most of my life, it seems.  They are hard to miss in the mystery section because of the way the covers generally share a common design - but I never read one, always getting the impression that the books were of the "cozy" type more aimed at a female audience than a male one.  Whatever the case, she was a major figure in mystery writing for a long, long time, and I'm sure that her fans are saddened by news of her death.)

25 comments:

  1. I didn't actually like her books - I think "cozy" is an understatement, because I had read several cozies that have felt more like they were set in the real world, with the potential for real world problems, than the Cat Who series. However, her books were like a fixture. My mom loved them, and when I was a kid it wasn't uncommon to find a Cat Who book in her latest pile of library checkouts. This news gives me a sadly nostalgic feeling.

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  2. I think they are a lot of fun but are not very deep at all. One must read them simply for the fun of it. I like Jim Qwilleran despite his womanizing! :) I haven't made it very far through the series but I am saddened to know that there will now be no more added. Especially since the last one (which I unwittingly listened to first) left us with a lot of unanswered questions!

    97 is a ripe old age though, and she has left behind a legacy that will last for many decades if not centuries to come!

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  3. Library Girl, I was never drawn to them because they seemed to be marketed to readers who enjoy very old fashioned (tame) mysteries, with "tame" being the key word. But they were always on the shelves, so I assumed they were selling in good numbers...libraries always seemed to have a bunch of them on the shelves, too. But I doubt I'll ever read one...too many others I want to get to first.

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  4. Andy, I hadn't thought of trying one as an audio book. Perhaps her style is more suited to my daily commute...have to keep that in mind next time I pick up a new audio book for my commute.

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  5. Sam, it has been years since I read one of her books. The books were never 'deep', but Qwill was a character I could develop deeper in my own mind. My mom and I would get the books from the library for summer reading - quick 'reads' on a hot summer afternoon. Thinking of Qwill brings back those memories- the kind you know you can't ever have again but were fine at the time. Does that make sense?

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  6. Brenda, thanks for your thoughts. Your comment made me smile - that's exactly what reading is all about.

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  7. I read every single one of them and loved them! Her last couple did not really seem her usual style which led a lot of her fans to speculate that she did not really write them entirely herself (for crying out loud she was in her nineties!) In any case, I am saddened by this news. I looked forward to January every year as that is when the new ones would be published.RIP Lillian, you gave me many lovely afternoons of leisurely reading. Who could ask for more?

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  8. Very nicely said, Anonymous. Lillian would be smiling to read this, I'm sure.

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  9. I suppose they're cosy in the sense that there's no espionage or high stakes shootouts or anything like that. But they're fun and funny and sweet and I learn at least one new thing with each of her books!

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  10. Deniz, whatever we call them, the books certainly had a large and loyal audience, so the lady was doing something right and she managed to do it for a very long time.

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  11. I'm sad to hear of her passing! I too have read all her books. As a multiple cat owner, I was originally drawn to the title "The Cat Who...". Her books are light hearted, easy reads that are rich in character. Her stories kind of have the feel of Garrison Keillor's News from Lake Wobegon on his A Prairie Home Companion radio show. I always looked forward each year to read her next book to get the latest news from Pickax. Lillian's books are a pleasant escape to a small town atmosphere with a murder mystery thrown in for excitement. I will read them all again when I get to my twilight years. Thank you Lillian!

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  12. She certainly stayed popular for a long time, Duane. Not many can match her longevity anymore, I don't think. Your description of her work makes me almost curious enough to pick up one of the books...just need to find the time to work one in. Thanks for stopping by.

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  13. I am an UNASHAMED MALE FAN. I "read" every one of the audio books I could get my hands on. They made the Millions of Miles out on the road away from my wife and kids alot easier. Yes, they are lite on action, violence, sex, etc. which means that the whole family can enjoy them. And, as a fan of Koontz and King, I found LJB's "cozy" style to be refreshing. I will miss not knowing what comes next for Qwill, Kool Koko, and the gang 400 miles north of everywhere.

    P.S. George Guidall voices the Cat Who Series so well, one can easily forget the characters are not real.

    thnx,
    LUCKY

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  14. I think these books are a wonderful way to introduce younger people to the mystery genre. When I worked for an audiobook store, I could always recommend "The Cat Who ... " books for family trips because there was no swearing, graphic violence, or sex beyond a kiss. As a cat person, I always enjoyed KoKo and Yum Yum. Quilleran and the whole gang will be missed, but not forgotten.

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  15. Sorry to be so slow in responding to your comment about Braun, Lucky...just saw it for the first time. Happy to hear that you are a fan of her writing and that she became such a key part of your road travels. That's damned cool.

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  16. Great points about Braun's "G" rating style, Kiki. I'll have to recommend her books to my granddaughter who is just getting into mysteries...got to drag her away from all those stupid vampires, witches, and obnoxious teens before it's too late.

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  17. Just have finished reading my first LJB book (The Cat Who Knew Shakespeare) and enjoyed the light, undemanding entertainment (and the attractive human sleuth and Their Royal Felinities). Got these for my mother while she's in rehab, but ended up with them at home. Lucky accident.

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  18. Sometimes we get lucky, don't we, DameAlys?

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  19. I discovered "The Cat Who" series 30 years ago. My wife & I are cat lovers and sped through the series loving every story. We were saddened to hear of LJB's passing but amazed by her tenacity. She gives us all hope of staying sharp into and through our senior years. By the way two of our more recent cats (we have six) are named KoKo and Yum Yum.

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  20. You're right, Anonymous. Braun is certainly an inspiration to the rest of us about the benefits of staying busy and active as long as we are alive. From what I've been told, even her latest books hold up well in comparison to the earlier ones.

    Love the idea of naming your cats after something in the books...still haven't read her work, so I'm assuming that's the case with KoKo and Yum Yum.

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  21. I was looking to see which book was next in line to read and sadly I find news of her passing....don't know how I missed that except that my own dear husband passed away last year. I will enjoy the last book (#29) and start over again because I love them so much. The "keep me company" and "take me away " from every day life. Her life was a blessing to me! God bless her husband....

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  22. Just the other day I decided to get back into the "Cat" books for some lighter reading, to take of rest from the theology I read most of the time. Now I learn of her passing a couple of years ago. :( For me, it was love at first listen, on my way to visit my friend in KY. The English is so beautiful that it melted my heart. Her word choices, her phraseology, are exquisite. I will always relish these books and recommend them to others for some light, enjoyable reading.

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  23. Unknown, your words are a beautiful tribute to Ms. Braun. I'm sure she would be proud to read of your feelings.

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  24. I just finished the cat who had 60 whiskers. Went online to see which book was next to answer the unfinished "business" and I find this is the last book and I learned of her death. I was introduced to LJB. About 18 yrs ago by a patient we are dog lovers and I wasn't sure if I would like cat books. They were wonderful. Perfect reading at the beach. I was able to laught out loud and no one noticed. We read most in order. They do build upon each other.
    My daughters upon reaching their 10 year were introduced to them as they were truly family books. Like so many comments before me, she and her tails will be missed but cherished
    Cait.


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  25. Cait, I have to admit that I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of fans who have posted comments regarding Braun's death (even two years after the sad event) and by the depth of their feelings regarding the author. That speaks volumes for her talent. Thanks for posting.

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