With her cozy mystery series featuring "The Cat Who" and his mortal sleuth companion Jim Qwillera, Braun won the hearts of millions.
The New York Times tells us more:
Lilian Jackson Braun, a mystery novelist whose best-selling “Cat Who” series repeatedly plumbed the hearts, minds and digestive tracts of her crime-solving feline heroes, died on Saturday in Landrum, S. C. She was 97.
Her death was announced by her publisher, G. P. Putnam’s Sons.
The series began in 1966 with “The Cat Who Could Read Backwards” and concluded in 2007 with “The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers,” its 29th volume. In between were, among other titles, “The Cat Who Played Brahms”; “... Knew Shakespeare”; “... Sniffed Glue”; “... Said Cheese”; and “... Smelled a Rat.”
The novels, which have sold millions of copies and been translated into 16 languages, appeared regularly on The New York Times’s best-seller list.
Their human protagonist is Jim Qwilleran, a newspaperman, amateur sleuth and all-round sensitive guy who lives in an unspecified northerly state that seems to have a disproportionate share of homicide.
Qwilleran’s sidekick — in the opinion of many, the book’s real star — is his intrepid, preternaturally intelligent Siamese shamus, Koko. Koko’s sidekick is Yum Yum, also a Siamese. (Like her namesake of Gilbert and Sullivan fame, Yum Yum is dainty and not precisely a cognitive giant, but she proves useful throughout the series for her dexterous, conveniently larcenous paws.)
Critical response to the books was generally favorable, with many reviewers praising their essential warmth and cozy charm. Others, however, faulted what they saw as scanty plotting and an overreliance on formulaic set pieces.
But for cat lovers, those set pieces offered dependable pleasures. In book after book, readers could luxuriate in tenderly described scenes of cats purring, cats grooming, cats eating — Qwilleran fed them high-end fare like lobster and crabmeat — cats frolicking and, of course, cats sleeping.
At opportune moments, Qwilleran’s cats throw up clues, as when they pull highly significant books down from shelves. They also throw up hairballs, as cats are wont to do.
Lilian Jackson was born on June 20, 1913, in Willimansett, a village within the city of Chicopee, Mass. The Depression put a college education out of reach; as a young woman, she worked as an advertising copywriter and public-relations executive before spending many years as a lifestyle writer and editor at The Detroit Free Press.
Ms. Braun’s first husband, Louis Paul Braun, died before her. A longtime resident of Tryon, N.C., she is survived by her husband, Earl Bettinger.
After writing “The Cat Who Could Read Backwards,” Ms. Braun quickly followed the book with two more, “The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern” (1967) and “The Cat Who Turned On and Off” (Dutton, 1968).
Then, discouraged by the market’s seemingly insatiable demand for sex and violence in mystery novels — her books have little of either — she set the series aside for 18 years. After retiring from The Free Press, she resumed with “The Cat Who Saw Red,” which appeared in 1986 .
An indication of just how fully Ms. Braun’s series had insinuated itself into popular culture came in 2003 in the form of a satirical mystery novel by Robert Kaplow. Its title: “The Cat Who Killed Lilian Jackson Braun.”
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