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Lilian Jackson Braun, author of ‘The Cat Who ...’ series

LILIAN JACKSON BRAUN LILIAN JACKSON BRAUN (Penguin Group)
Associated Press / June 8, 2011

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LANDRUM, S.C. — The author who wrote 29 books in the “The Cat Who . . .’’ mystery series almost quit writing after the third book was published, because popular tastes had changed so much.

Lilian Jackson Braun, who died last week in South Carolina, took an 18-year hiatus between “The Cat Who Turned On and Off’’ and “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,’’ Mrs. Braun said in an obituary provided 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.’ ’’

Mrs. Braun, 97, died Saturday of natural causes at the Hospice House of the Carolina Foothills in Landrum. She had lived in Tryon, N.C., for the past 23 years with her husband, Earl Bettinger. She wrote 31 books, including two short story collections, and worked 30 years at The Detroit Free Press.

“The Cat Who . . .’’ books began with “The Cat Who Could Read Backwards,’’ published in 1966. They ended when Mrs. Braun retired from writing in 2007 after the publication of “The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers.’’ 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 Mrs. Braun’s longtime editor, Natalee Rosenstein, who is vice president and 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.’’

Mrs. Braun wrote her books in longhand, then typed them herself, her publisher said.

Mrs. Braun was born 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.

No memorial service will be held.