Dear Ace: Our well-known local author, Rita Mae Brown, writes about cats solving mysteries. There is another woman named Lilian Jackson Braun (note the spelling) who also writes about feline sleuths. Two women whose last names are so similar writing mysteries starring cat detectives—is this the most mind-boggling coincidence ever, or what?—M.E. Yow
M.E.: Ace hopes you don’t mind, but he just wants to share with readers this little fact before he lets the cat out of the bag: On the return address label of our inquirer’s envelope was an image of three kittens in a basket, which Ace thought was not only fitting for this week’s topic, but adorable (if he may be so bold to say so).
Now, as much as your faithful investigative reporter can understand the urge to draw conclusions from coincidental tidbits, he’s gonna have to burst your bubble on this one. After some very intense sleuthing, Ace realized the two authoresses of which you speak are, well, simply two authors, non plus.
Here’s what Ace considers the proof: One, Braun (which Ace feels he must explain is most likely pronounced “brah-n,” not “brown” as you suggest), is 95 years old and writes The Cat Who… mystery novel series. These are infinitely different from the mystery novels that Brown, 63, coauthors with her cat, Sneaky Pie Brown, about a feline detective named Mrs. Murphy. (Ace doesn’t get paid enough to be making this up.) Before Brown was even born, Braun was publishing stories and sports poetry for the Detroit News, and in 1966 published her first The Cat Who… novel—seven years before Brown’s first and best-known work, Rubyfruit Jungle, was published.
Perhaps the most telling bit of evidence, however, is the pictures Ace uncovered of both women. Not only are they scattered about the Web, but they are also printed inside some of the ladies’ novels. This would be unheard of if it were only one woman writing both series. For instance, Carolyn Keene or Franklin W. Dixon, pen names for the same group of writers who wrote the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys detective novels, never printed their picture, because they didn’t exist.
So, M.E., this is a coincidence, though not exactly mind-boggling. The cat detective novel is a widely recognized genre and Brown and Braun are simply two of its most notable authors. Ace wishes he could give you more, but that’s the whole kitten caboodle.
You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 18 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to email@example.com.