Donald J. Sobol

Last updated
Donald J. Sobol
Born(1924-10-04)October 4, 1924
New York City, New York
DiedJuly 11, 2012(2012-07-11) (aged 87)
Miami, Florida
Occupation Novelist
Genre Juvenile Mystery Fiction
Notable works Encyclopedia Brown
SpouseRose Tiplitz

Donald J. Sobol (October 4, 1924 – July 11, 2012) was an American writer best known for his children's books, [1] especially the Encyclopedia Brown mystery series.

Childrens literature stories, books, and poems that are enjoyed by and targeted primarily towards children

Children's literature or juvenile literature includes stories, books, magazines, and poems that are enjoyed by children. Modern children's literature is classified in two different ways: genre or the intended age of the reader.

<i>Encyclopedia Brown</i> television series

Encyclopedia Brown is a series of books featuring the adventures of boy detective Leroy Brown, nicknamed "Encyclopedia" for his intelligence and range of knowledge. The series of 29 children's novels was written by Donald J. Sobol, with the first book published in 1963 and the last novel published posthumously, in 2012. The Encyclopedia Brown series has spawned a comic strip, a TV series, and compilation books of puzzles and games.

Mystery fiction genre of fiction usually involving a mysterious death or a crime to be solved

Mystery fiction is a genre of fiction usually involving a mysterious death or a crime to be solved. Often with a closed circle of suspects, each suspect is usually provided with a credible motive and a reasonable opportunity for committing the crime. The central character will often be a detective who eventually solves the mystery by logical deduction from facts presented to the reader. Sometimes mystery books are nonfictional. "Mystery fiction" can be detective stories in which the emphasis is on the puzzle or suspense element and its logical solution such as a whodunit. Mystery fiction can be contrasted with hardboiled detective stories, which focus on action and gritty realism.


Early life and education

Donald Sobol was born in The Bronx, New York City, New York, to Ira J. and Ida (Gelula) Sobol. Ira Sobol owned a few gas stations that eventually were sold. [2] Donald attended the NYC Ethical Culture Fieldston School and graduated in 1942.

The Bronx Borough in New York City and county in New York, United States

The Bronx is the northernmost of the five boroughs of New York City, in the U.S. state of New York. It is south of Westchester County; northeast and east of Manhattan, across the Harlem River; and north of Queens, across the East River. Since 1914, the borough has had the same boundaries as Bronx County, the third-most densely populated county in the United States.

New York City Largest city in the United States

The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States and thus also in the state of New York. With an estimated 2017 population of 8,622,698 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 20,320,876 people in its 2017 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 23,876,155 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

New York (state) State of the United States of America

New York is a state in the Northeastern United States. New York was one of the original Thirteen Colonies that formed the United States. With an estimated 19.54 million residents in 2018, it is the fourth most populous state. To distinguish the state from the city in the state with the same name, it is sometimes called New York State.

He served with the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II in the Pacific Theater. Following the war, he attended Oberlin College, where he earned a bachelor's degree. He also attended the New School of Social Research.

United States Army Corps of Engineers federal agency under the Department of Defense and a major Army command

The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is a U.S. federal agency under the Department of Defense and a major Army command made up of some 37,000 civilian and military personnel, making it one of the world's largest public engineering, design, and construction management agencies. Although generally associated with dams, canals and flood protection in the United States, USACE is involved in a wide range of public works throughout the world. The Corps of Engineers provides outdoor recreation opportunities to the public, and provides 24% of U.S. hydropower capacity.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Pacific War theatre of war in the Second World War

The Pacific War, sometimes called the Asia–Pacific War, was the theater of World War II that was fought in the Pacific and Asia. It was fought over a vast area that included the Pacific Ocean and islands, the South West Pacific, South-East Asia, and in China.


Sobol's career began as a copy boy for the New York Sun , and he eventually worked his way up to reporter. In 1949, he started work at the Daily News and remained there for two years. After a brief stint as a buyer at Macy's in New York, he moved to Florida and started writing full-time. [3]

Copy boy

A copy boy is a typically young and junior worker on a newspaper. The job involves taking typed stories from one section of a newspaper to another. According to Bruce Guthrie, the former editor-in-chief of the Herald Sun who began work there as a copy boy in 1972:

Reporters typed their stories on slips of butcher's paper...then a copy boy ran the story into the neighbouring subs' [sub-editor's] room, hence the cry of 'copy'. Each slip of the story had about six carbon copies...stapled together and it was the job of the copy boy - or girl - to separate the original and run it to the subs, and then separate the carbons for distribution.

Buyer (fashion) individual who selects what items are stocked

In the retail industry, a buyer is an individual who selects what items are stocked. Buyers usually work closely with designers and their designated sales representatives and attend trade fairs, wholesale showrooms and fashion shows to observe trends. They may work for large department stores, chain stores or smaller boutiques. For smaller independent stores, a buyer may participate in sales as well as promotion, whereas in a major fashion store there may be different levels of seniority such as trainee buyers, assistant buyers, senior buyers and buying managers, and buying directors. Decisions about what to stock can greatly affect fashion businesses.

Macys Department store chain in the United States

Macy's is an American department store chain founded in 1858 by Rowland Hussey Macy. It became a division of the Cincinnati-based Federated Department Stores in 1994, through which it is affiliated with the Bloomingdale's department store chain; the holding company was renamed Macy's, Inc. in 2007. As of 2015, Macy's was the largest U.S. department store company by retail sales. As of February 2019, there were 584 full-line stores with the Macy's nameplate in operation throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Its flagship store is located at Herald Square in the Manhattan borough of New York City. The company had 130,000 employees and earned annual revenue of $24.8 billion as of 2017.

He started writing the syndicated series Two-Minute Mysteries in 1959, starring criminologist Dr. Haledjian. It proved very popular and ran for more than ten years. In 1963, he started writing the Encyclopedia Brown series, featuring Leroy "Encyclopedia" Brown, a schoolboy that was an amateur sleuth. Compared with the Two-Minute Mysteries series, which features crimes as serious as murder, the Encyclopedia Brown books are more juvenile-oriented, often dealing with matters such as pranks or petty theft. Sobol's Encyclopedia Brown titles have never been out of print and have been translated into twelve languages. Sobol was rejected two dozen times before his first Encyclopedia Brown book was published. [4] [2]

Murder Unlawful killing of a human with malice aforethought

Murder is the unlawful killing of another human without justification or valid excuse, especially the unlawful killing of another human being with malice aforethought. This state of mind may, depending upon the jurisdiction, distinguish murder from other forms of unlawful homicide, such as manslaughter. Manslaughter is a killing committed in the absence of malice, brought about by reasonable provocation, or diminished capacity. Involuntary manslaughter, where it is recognized, is a killing that lacks all but the most attenuated guilty intent, recklessness.

In 1975, the Mystery Writers of America honored Sobol and his Encyclopedia Brown series with a Special Edgar Award. The last book in the series penned by Sobol, Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Soccer Scheme, was published in October 2012, three months after the author's death. [2]

Mystery Writers of America

Mystery Writers of America (MWA) is an organization of mystery and crime writers, based in New York City.

The Edgar Allan Poe Awards, named after Edgar Allan Poe, are presented every year by the Mystery Writers of America, based in New York City. They honor the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction, television, film, and theater published or produced in the previous year.

Sobol wrote the children's novel Secret Agents Four, in which a group of Miami teenagers attempt to thwart foreign saboteurs. Sobol also penned the non-fiction book True Sea Adventures, published in 1975. [5]

Sobol wrote more than 65 books. In addition to the books he wrote for children, Sobol also wrote a number of nonfiction books on topics ranging from US civil war history [6] to investing. He also wrote and contributed to magazines under a variety of pen names. His manuscripts are stored at the University of Minnesota, in the Kerlan Collection.

Personal life and final years

Sobol was married to Rose (née Tiplitz) who was both an engineer and author. [7] Sobol left behind three children: John, Eric and Diane as well as four grandchildren. [7] A fourth child, Glen, died at age 23 in a car accident in 1983. [2]

On July 11, 2012, [7] Sobol died from gastric lymphoma at the age of 87. [2]

Selected bibliography

Encyclopedia Brown series

The Encyclopedia Brown books, in order of publication (parentheses indicate numbers on original release cover art):

  1. (1) Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective (1963, ISBN   0-525-67200-1, 1982 reissue ISBN   0-553-15724-8)
  2. (2) Encyclopedia Brown Strikes Again (1965, ISBN   0-590-01650-4, reissued as Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Secret Pitch, ISBN   0-525-67202-8)
  3. (3) Encyclopedia Brown Finds the Clues (1966, ISBN   0-525-67204-4)
  4. (4) Encyclopedia Brown Gets His Man (1967, ISBN   0-525-67206-0)
  5. (5) Encyclopedia Brown Solves Them All (1968, ISBN   0-525-67212-5)
  6. (6) Encyclopedia Brown Keeps the Peace (1969, ISBN   0-525-67208-7)
  7. (7) Encyclopedia Brown Saves the Day (1970, ISBN   0-525-67210-9)
  8. (8) Encyclopedia Brown Tracks Them Down (1971, ISBN   0-553-15721-3)
  9. (9) Encyclopedia Brown Shows the Way (1972, ISBN   0170057828)
  10. (10) Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Case (1973, ISBN   0-553-15723-X)
  11. (11) Encyclopedia Brown Lends a Hand (1974, ISBN   0-553-48133-9, reissued as Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Exploding Plumbing and Other Mysteries, ISBN   0-590-44093-4)
  12. (12) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Dead Eagles (1975, ISBN   0-590-43343-1)
  13. (13) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Midnight Visitor (1977, ISBN   0-553-15586-5)
  14. (14) Encyclopedia Brown Carries On (1980, ISBN   0-02-786190-2)
  15. (15) Encyclopedia Brown Sets the Pace (1981, ISBN   0-02-786200-3)
  16. (15½) Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Cake (co-written with Glenn Andrews, 1982, ISBN   0-590-07843-7)
  17. (16) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Mysterious Handprints (1985, ISBN   0-553-15739-6)
  18. (17) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Treasure Hunt (1988, ISBN   0-553-15650-0)
  19. (18) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Disgusting Sneakers (1990, ISBN   0-688-09012-5)
  20. (19) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Two Spies (1995, ISBN   0-385-32036-1)
  21. (20) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of Pablo's Nose (1996, ISBN   0-385-32184-8)
  22. (21) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Sleeping Dog (1998, ISBN   0-385-32576-2)
  23. (22) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Slippery Salamander (2000, ISBN   0-385-32579-7)
  24. (23) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Jumping Frogs (2003, ISBN   0-385-72931-6)
  25. (24) Encyclopedia Brown Cracks the Case (2007, ISBN   978-0-525-47924-6)
  26. (25) Encyclopedia Brown, Super Sleuth (2009, ISBN   978-0-525-42100-9)
  27. (26) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Secret UFOs (2010, ISBN   978-0-525-42210-5)
  28. (27) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Carnival Crime (2011, ISBN   978-0-525-42211-2)
  29. (28) Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Soccer Scheme (2012, ISBN   978-0-525-42582-3)

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  1. "Donald J. Sobol". Retrieved March 30, 2010.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Grady, Denise (16 July 2012). "Donald J. Sobol, Creator of Encyclopedia Brown, Dies at 87". The New York Times . Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  3. "Juvenile Books Author of the Month: Donald J. Sobol". Greenville Public Library. Archived from the original on 2010-12-03. Retrieved March 30, 2010.
  4. "PASSINGS: Jon Lord, Donald J. Sobol, Barton Biggs, Richard B. Scudder". Los Angeles Times . 2012-07-17. ISSN   0458-3035 . Retrieved 2016-03-04.
  5. Sobol, Donald J. (1975-12-01). True sea adventures. T. Nelson. ISBN   9780840764546.
  6. Sobol, Donald J. (1960-01-01). Two Flags Flying. Platt & Munk.
  7. 1 2 3 Shapiro, T. Rees (2012-07-16). "Donald J. Sobol dies: Author wrote popular 'Encylopedia [sic] Brown' series". The Washington Post . ISSN   0190-8286 . Retrieved 2016-03-04.