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Lilian Jackson Braun - the Obituaries Mourning Ribbon

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New York Times picture of LJB with booksLilian Jackson Braun, ‘Cat Who’ Writer, Dies at 97

By MARGALIT FOX - (New York Times)

 

Published: June 7, 2011

 

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.”

 

The following is courtesy of the Times-News Online

LJB

 

 

Best-selling author Lilian Jackson Braun of Tryon dies at 97

By Mark Schulman Times-News Staff Writer

 

Published: Monday, June 6, 2011 at 12:43 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, June 6, 2011 at 12:43 p.m

Author Lilian Jackson Braun died with one regret, her husband of 33 years said Monday. Because of her failing health, she was unable to finish her last novel, “The Cat Who Smelled Smoke.”

“She regretted it most of all because so many fans wanted another book,” Earl Bettinger said.

Braun, a Tryon resident who penned 29 “The Cat Who ...” mysteries, died Saturday at the Hospice House of the Carolina Foothills in Landrum, S.C. She was 97.

Braun began her career as a novelist in 1966, with the publication of “The Cat Who Could Read Backwards.” She wrote two more “The Cat Who” novels, then took an 18-year hiatus.

Braun said she stopped writing the mysteries because the genre had begun to include more sex and violence. Also, she had a full-time job with the Detroit Free Press that she found satisfying.

She resumed the series, with Bettinger’s encouragement, after her retirement from the newspaper in 1984.

Bettinger recalled that Braun’s fourth book, “The Cat Who Saw Red,” was turned down by one publisher. But after he read the manuscript, Bettinger, now 88, persuaded her to resubmit it to her agent.

“The writing was excellent, the characters were excellent, the story moved beautifully. There were no negative qualities in this book,” Bettinger said Monday in an interview at the Times-News.

In 1986, the Berkley Publishing Group published the novel and Braun continued writing after that. Within two years, Berkeley released four more novels and reprinted the three mysteries from the ’60s. G.P. Putnam’s Sons has since published 21 “The Cat Who” novels, one each year through 2007.

The light, humorous mysteries and have been translated into 16 languages, distributed worldwide, and sold in the millions. Beginning in 1990, Braun’s books reached the prestigious New York Times best-seller list for 20 consecutive years.

Braun’s writing process was absolutely uncanny, her husband said.

“It was fascinating,” Bettinger said. “Before finishing the book she was working on, she had the nucleus for the next one.”

Braun referred to Bettinger in her book dedications as “The Husband Who.”

The two met about 38 years ago in Detroit through a mutual friend. Braun was working for the Detroit Free Press, and Bettinger was an actor.

One evening, Braun and her husband Paul invited Bettinger to their home for a drink after a play at a local theater.

Paul Braun told his wife that Bettinger was one of the nicest people he had ever met.

After Paul Braun died a few years later, Bettinger renewed his friendship with the widow.

“We got along handsomely, and we were very compatible,” Bettinger said. “And it was wonderful ever since.”

For the past 23 years, the couple has lived in Tryon.

“Earl and Lilian were wonderful, caring and respectful to each other,” said close friend John Cash, who owns The Nature’s Storehouse in Tryon and knew the couple for 12 years. “They were totally in love with each other.

“Lilian was a great, wonderful person,” Cash added.

Several years ago, Braun wrote a poem for Cash about his competitive cycling.

“I absolutely cherish that poem,” he said. “This is a terrible loss for all of us, but it was her time.”

Braun died of natural causes. No services are planned.

Braun and her husband had two Siamese felines in their home for decades, and they named them after the cats in Braun’s novels — Koko and Yum-Yum.

However, for the past several years, as Braun’s health declined, they did not have cats in their home, Bettinger said.

News of the author’s death saddened Joy McGinnis, owner of Joy of Books in downtown Hendersonville.

Joy of Books in Hendersonville stocks Braun’s books, along with other local writers. McGinnis said customers are always surprised by the volume of talented writers in Western North Carolina.

“It’s always sad when someone like her passes away,” McGinnis said.

In 2005, The Polk County Public Library in Columbus held a tribute to Braun for her lifetime achievement and community involvement. It was an evening of song, limericks, readings and tributes. Braun served as the honorary writer in residence for the library as well as honorary chairperson of the 2005 library card sign-up campaign, where she created the tag line, “A library card is the beginning of a lifelong adventure.”

Lilian Jackson Braun Bettinger was born on June 20, 1913, in Willimansette, Chicopee Falls, Mass. Her father, Charles Jackson, was an inventor and industrial manufacturing troubleshooter. Her mother, Clara Ward Jackson, was a homemaker. Her father’s work took them to Rhode Island, Brooklyn, N.Y., and to Detroit.

Braun lived in Michigan until her retirement. Bettinger said the couple moved to North Carolina because Braun had traveled to the state when she was “Good Living” editor of the Detroit Free Press.

 

Lilian Jackson Braun - the Tribute from the Petty Funeral Home

Tryon, NC 

Lilian Jackson Braun, Author - A Remarkable Life

Lilian Jackson Braun Bettinger, a prolific best-selling author of The Cat Who mystery series for more than 40 years, died at Hospice House of the Carolina Foothills in Landrum, SC on June 4, 2011.  She was 97 and had lived in Tryon, NC for the past 23 years.

Her death was announced by her husband, Earl Bettinger, always referred to in her book dedications as "The Husband Who".  She died of natural causes.

Ms. Braun wrote 31 books (2 collections of short stories and 29 the Cat Who books).

Dutton published her first book, The Cat Who Could Read Backwards, in 1966.  The New York Times labeled her "the new detective of the year".  Two more followed with critical acclaim (The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern and The Cat Who Turned On and Off).  There was an 18-year hiatus between the third and fourth books.

"By the time I had written the fourth one, tastes in mysteries had changed.  They wanted sex and violence, not kitty-cat storied.  Gore was not my style, so I just forgot about The Cat Who.  I had a full time job on a newspaper and it was exciting and I had a wonderful social life, so who needed it?"

She resumed the series, with the encouragement of her husband, Earl Bettinger, after her retirement from the Detroit Free Press in 1984.

Berkley Publishing Group reintroduced Braun to the public with the publication of the fourth in the series, The Cat Who Saw Red in 1986.  Within two years, Berkeley released four new novels and reprinted the three mysteries from the sixties.  G.P. Putnam's Sons has since published twenty-one The Cat Who novels, one each year through 2007.

The Cat Who novels, considered light, humorous mysteries, have been translated into 16 languages, distributed worldwide, and sold in the millions.  Her books were standards on the New York Times best seller list.  Beginning in 1990, her books reached the prestigious list for 20 consecutive years.

Through 29 books, avid readers followed the lives of Jim Qwilleran and his mystery solving Siamese cats Koko and Yum Yum and the quirky characters of Moose County, 400 miles north of everywhere.

Booklist commented on The Cat Who series, "With its familiar characters, cozy plots and happy endings, this series remains as comforting as a warm cat in your lap on a rainy day."

Ms. Braun often said her characters and settings were composites of people and places she knew.  She made her protagonist a male with a moustache so that people would not think her fiction was autobiographical.

Often asked where the fictional Moose County really was, Braun would say, "In my head.  It can be anywhere you want it to be."

Of her mystery-solving Siamese cat, Koko, she said, "When your detective is a cat you are somewhat limited.  He doesn't speak English, doesn't leap tall buildings like Supercat, he just does what a normal cat would do.  But there are things he does that draw attention to clues that solve the mystery.  So you have to begin with something a cat will reveal a clue, and develop it from there.  Of course, when you are writing about a cat solving mysteries you can't be entirely serious."

She wrote all of her books in long hand and then typed them herself.  They were published with limited editing.  "I don't pay attention to the publishing business.  I just write my kitty-cat stories."

Ms. Braun (who once wrote "A dog has his day, but cats have 365") retired from writing in 2007 after the publication of The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers.

Lilian Jackson Braun Bettinger was born on June 20, 1913 in Willimansette, Chicopee Falls, MA.  Her father, Charles Jackson, was an inventor and industrial manufacturing troubleshooter.  Her mother, Clara Ward Jackson, was a homemaker.  Her father's work took them to Rhode Island, Brooklyn NY and to Detroit MI.  Ms. Braun lived in Michigan until retiring to North Carolina.

Ms. Braun inherited her mother's story telling talent.  "My mother could describe a trip to the grocery store and make it sound hilarious."

Writing was a lifelong passion.  "I always wrote, first for fun, then for an advertising job, then for a newspaper, and then for The Cat Who readers."

After a short stint as a waitress (lasting less than a week) Ms. Braun went to work for Detroit department stores, beginning as a copywriter and ending as the director of public relations.  She took time off to write her first three books and then accepted a position as the "The Good Living" editor for the Detroit Free Press.  She wrote feature articles on interior design, art and architecture, as well as reviews of kitchen gadgets and other household products.  She remained with The Detroit Free Press for 30 years.

While working in advertising, Ms. Braun designed a house for her parents.  She secured the loan, provided the architects with the design and had the house custom built in Dearborn, MI.  It was the first time her parents lived in their own home.  They resided there until their deaths.

In 2005 The Polk County Public Library in Columbus, NC held a Tribute to Lilian Jackson Braun for her lifetime achievement and community involvement.  It was an evening of song, limericks, readings and tributes.  Ms. Braun served as the honorary writer in residence for the library as well as honorary chairperson of the 2005 library card sign-up campaign, where she created the tag line, "A library card is the beginning of a lifelong adventure".

Ms. Braun was preceded in death by husband, Louis Paul Braun, a sister, Florence Jackson, and a brother, Lloyd Jackson.  She is survived by her husband of 32 years, Earl Bettinger.

No memorial services will be held.  Donations may be made to Hospice House of the Carolina Foothills, 260 Fairwinds Road, Landrum, SC  29356.

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