Encyclopedia Brown

When I was a kid, I read a lot. I worked my way through the Hardy Boys mys­ter­ies, and even read a Nan­cy Drew book or two before I decid­ed those were more in line with my sis­ter’s sen­si­bil­i­ties.

One day I dis­cov­ered Ency­clo­pe­dia Brown in the local pub­lic library, in a book of ten short mys­ter­ies whose end­ings were hid­den at the back of the book, like a puz­zle book. I was hooked. I read all the EB books the library had, and—if I recall correctly—I also dis­cov­ered that inter­li­brary loan would bring me new tales.

As I aged, I dis­cov­ered that names like “Franklin W. Dixon” and “Car­olyn Keene”, authors of the Hardy Boys and the Nan­cy Drew mys­ter­ies, respec­tive­ly, were “house names”, false iden­ti­ties adopt­ed by writ­ers who would write one or two or ten nov­els in the series, then move on. I long assumed that Don­ald J. Sobol, the name on the spine of the Ency­clo­pe­dia Brown col­lec­tions, was also a house name.

I was wrong. Don­ald J. Sobol was a real per­son, a sin­gle, sin­gu­lar author, and this is his sto­ry.