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About Lilian Jackson Braun

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And now a questionaire. How many of my smart readers have discovered that Koko and Yum Yum got their names from Gilbert and Sullivan? And Qwilleran copies his moustache from Mark Twain? And the series was inspired by Anthoy Trollope? LJB


Click below to read extensive interviews with Lilian Jackson Braun!

Lilian Jackson Braun was born in 1916 in Massachusetts
and graduated high school at the age of 16. Braun was the "Good Living" editor of The Detroit Free Press for 29 years. She is retired from journalism and is currently writing mysteries full-time. She lives with two Siamese cats and her husband, Earl Bettinger, in North Carolina.

Even though Braun claims that her cats have never done anything extraordinary, her fictional cats, Koko and Yum Yum, solve crimes and delight fans in book after book. Braun says the reason for her success is that "people are simply tired of all the blood. I write what is called the classic mystery." She says that while "not all mystery fans may like cats, all cat-fanciers seem to like mysteries. That makes for a large audience, since 26% of all American households own 53.9 million cats between them."


Lilian Jackson Braun

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lilian Jackson Braun was born in 1912. She is renown for her light-hearted series of "The Cat Who..." mystery novels. The "Cat Who" books center around the life of former newspaper reporter James Qwilleran, and his two Siamese cats, KoKo and Yum Yum in the fictitious small town of Pickax located in Moose County, "400 miles north of everywhere." Although never formally stated in the books, the towns, counties and lifestyles described in the series are generally accepted to be a modeled after Bad Axe, Michigan (located in the "Michigan Thumb") where she resided with her husband for many years until the mid 1980's. Many also believe that the culture and history of the Upper peninsula of Michigan are represented in the series as well, which is quite possible as it is indeed a fictitious location.

Lilian Jackson Braun began her writing career as a teenager, contributing sports poetry for the Detroit News. She later began working as an advertising copywriter for many of Detroit's department stores. After that stint, she worked at the Detroit Free Press as the "Good Living" editor for 30 years. She retired from the Free Press in 1978.

Between 1966 and 1968, she published three novels to critical acclaim: The Cat Who Could Read Backwards, The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern and The Cat Who Turned On and Off. In 1966, The New York Times labeled Braun, "the new detective of the year." The rising mystery author disappeared from the publishing scene for 18 years. The blame came from the fact that mystery novels were starting to focus on sex, violence, and foul language, and Braun's light-hearted books were not welcome in this new territory. It wasn't until 1986 that the Berkley Publishing Group reintroduced Braun to the public with the publication of an original paperback, The Cat Who Saw Red. Within two years, Berkeley released four new novels in paperback and reprinted the three mysteries from the sixties. Braun's series became an instant best seller once again. In January 2006 the twenty-eighth novel in the series, The Cat Who Dropped a Bombshell, was released in hardcover by Putnam Publishing.

Not much is really known about Braun, as she prefers to keep her private life that way. For years, publishers have given inaccurate accounts of her year of birth, which has remained unknown until she openly acknowledged her age in an interview for the Detroit News in January 2005.

Like many writers from her generation, Braun is an admitted technophobe, and still uses a typewriter. She currently resides in North Carolina with her husband, Earl Bettinger, and their two cats.


Author packs more than nine lives into career of cat mysteries

 She was the elegant interior design writer at the Detroit Free Press when my journalism career began -- a slender, stylish woman in her 60s whose office was partitioned with a Chinese lacquered screen and decorated with art objects.

Her hair was silver -- this, I distinctly recall -- when she retired in 1978.

She was, it was said, moving to the Lake Huron shoreline with her husband and her cats.

That was 27 years ago.

And with a typical twenty-something's understanding of life's certainties, I assumed then that Lilian Jackson Braun's life was waning, her career finished, when she left her well-appointed Lafayette Boulevard office for the last time.

So last week, when her publisher took out an expensive advertisement in the New York Times to promote her latest novel, "The Cat Who Went Bananas" -- the 24th book published since her Detroit newspaper career retirement -- it occurred to me that Braun, the chronicler of best-selling cat mystery novels, had lived more lives more successfully than even her Siamese cat heroes.

The Cat Who...books are inevitably New York Times-list best-sellers, beloved by a combination of mystery-and-cat lovers with an appetite for gentle, wry tales. Most of them transpire in small town Pickax, in Moose County -- a place she modeled on Bad Axe, in the Michigan thumb, where she and her second husband, Earl Bettinger, lived until the mid-1980s.

For years, publicity material and newspaper articles indicated Braun was younger than I remembered her being. And in a telephone conversation from her home in Tryon, N.C., she confirmed that.

"Once you're 90, you're not supposed to be shy about your age. You're supposed to boast about it," she said. She is 92.

Like many writers who came of age in the last century, Braun is a technophobe who uses a typewriter. She has, she says, almost completely abandoned the tedious business of fact, preferring the more fluid world of the imagination.

"It's like a muscle," she says, "and the more you use it, the more adept you become at it."

As a teenager in the Detroit area, she sold sports poetry to The Detroit News. Later, she worked as an advertising copywriter for most of Detroit's now defunct department stores (Crowley's, Kern's). And she then spent 30 years at the Free Press. ("Is it still there?" she asked.)

But the fictional cats -- and the Pickax newspaper columnist Qwilleran who works with them -- have occupied her attention for 24 years.

And each and every January, a new book appears.

I don't know what words of wisdom I expected to hear from this woman, whose life has been productive for 90 years. (She cites a poem she wrote at age 2, in a snowstorm, as her first work: "Mother Goose is up in the sky/And these are her feathers coming down in my eye.")

But, like many artists in various fields who are inspired by some inner need to create, her drive is neither money nor fame. She avoids interviews and lives quietly, writing every day.

What's alive for her -- and what keeps her engaged, curious, amused, productive -- is the never-ending surprise of what's in her own head.

Laura Berman's column runs Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday in Metro. Reach her at (248) 647-7221 or

Found July 2008

I was only two years old when I became acquainted with public libraries.   Every Saturday afternoon my father would walk a couple of miles to the library and return with an arm-full!   There would be scientific subjects for himself, fiction for my mother, and picture books for "Little Lilian".   I remember being told how to turn pages, "Very carefully.   This is a library book!"

Who could have imagined that Little Lilian's CAT WHO books would be in libraries around the world!   For a recent Book Fair in Tokyo my Japanese publisher asked me to write a few words for their readers

I wrote:

Cats are cats the world over,

These friendly, furry, four-footed creatures,

Who are without hate, without envy, without greed

May someday teach us something.

Thank you again for this inspiring and generous tribute.

A Limerick for the Cast of A Tribute to Lilian Jackson Braun

An audience filled with glee!

A library gone on a spree!

All credit is due

To a talented crew

Thanks from Koko and LJB!

If YOU know any more, please let us know. Thanks

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