'Encyclopedia Brown' author passes: Kid detectives all across the world mourn

'Encyclopedia Brown' author passes: Kid detectives all across the world mourn

I was sad to read on the New York Times website that Donald J. Sobol had died.

Sobol was the author of the Encyclopedia Brown series, which focused on a super-smart boy detective who solved both important and petty crimes using logic. He was like the Spock of kid sleuths.

I devoured the Encyclopedia Brown books growing up. I still have five or six them that I'll peruse through once a year or so, even though the books are essentially the same but with different logic or observational problems to solve. According to the New York Times obituary:

Mr. Sobol found a winning formula and stuck to it. Each book holds 10 stories, each involving a mystery that 10-year-old Leroy (Encyclopedia) Brown solves by keen observation and deduction. He notices that the culprit has his sweater on inside out, or claims to smell flowers that are fake. The rest is self-evident. The solution is not spelled out in the story; readers are challenged to figure it out for themselves — or to flip to the back for the answer, as Jack Nicholson’s character in the movie “About Schmidt” does as he lies in bed, engrossed in “Encyclopedia Brown Gets His Man.”

Having been pretty good at solving the cases with Encyclopedia without resorting to flipping to the back of the book, at one point I decided to follow Encyclopedia's lead and start my own detective agency. Lemonade stands, frankly, were for those who wanted to actually provide a service, which as a lazy pre-teen, I had little interest in.

No. of cases the Grace Detective Agency took on: 0

No. of cases the Grace Detective Agency DID NOT solve: 0

That, my friends, is what's known as a perfect detective record.

Needless to say, the Grace Detective Agency closed soon after opening after quickly finding out that neither of the fellow residents of its offices – my mother or brother – had any pressing cases that needed to be solved. But, for those few hours it was open, I – too – was a boy sleuth.

And it was all thanks to Encyclopedia Brown.

• Joe Grace is a writer and  journalist who lives in Chicago with his wife. If you haven't yet, please like Going for Gusto on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

Filed under: Books, Columns

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