Cover of the first edition of Encyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective (1963)
Cover of the first edition of Encyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective (1963)

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[1][2] of 29 children's novels was written (one co-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.

Sobol's first Encyclopedia Brown book was written in two weeks; subsequent books took about six months to write.[3] Its main publisher was Bantam Skylark.

Style

Each book in the Encyclopedia Brown mystery series is self-contained in that the reader is not required to have read earlier books in order to understand the stories. The major characters, settings, etc. are usually introduced (or reintroduced) in each book.

Books featuring Brown are subdivided into a number—usually ten or more—of (possibly interlinked) short stories, each of which presents a mystery. The mysteries are intended to be solved by the reader, thanks to the placement of a logical or factual inconsistency somewhere within the text.[4] This is very similar to the layout of Donald Sobol's other book series, Two-Minute Mysteries. Many of the mysteries involve Brown helping his father, the local police chief, solve a crime; Brown outwitting town bully Bugs Meany, the leader of a gang known as the Tigers; or Brown being aided by Sally Kimball, his partner, close friend, and bodyguard. Brown, his father, or Sally invariably solves the case by exposing this inconsistency, detailed in the "Answers" section in the back of the book.[5]

Legacy

The Encyclopedia Brown books experienced some enduring popularity.

In 1976, the Mystery Writers of America honored Sobol and his Encyclopedia Brown series with a special Edgar Award.[6]

Educators have used Encyclopedia Brown in classrooms to instruct students in skills such as writing reports. In 1986, the Society for Visual Education, Inc. published a filmstrip series, produced and written by Lynne V. Gibbs, with accompanying audio cassette tapes and workbooks for elementary and middle schools' use. The following four Encyclopedia Brown stories were utilized: The Case of the Missing Statue, The Case of the Happy Nephew, The Case of the Kidnapped Pigs, and The Case of the Marble Shooter. According to WorldCat's library catalog listing, "As super-sleuth Encyclopedia Brown solves four mysteries, he shows students how he fills out his reports, including selecting a topic, gathering information, taking notes, making an outline, and revising and editing."[7]

Adaptations

Comic strip

From December 3, 1978, to September 20, 1980, Encyclopedia Brown was a daily and Sunday comic strip syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate. The artwork was done by Frank Bolle, and Donald J. Sobol was credited as the writer.[2] When the strips were collected into books in the mid-1980s, the strip was credited to Elliot Caplin, based on Sobol's characters. The strips adapted Sobol stories, both ones that had originally been Encyclopedia Brown tales and ones that had been part of Sobol's syndicated Two-Minute Mysteries features.[8]

TV series

A live action television series adaptation, also called Encyclopedia Brown, ran on HBO starting in 1989. Scott Bremner played the title role, with Laura Bridge playing Sally. The series ran over 8 episodes. It was produced by Howard David Deutsch and directed by Savage Steve Holland.[9][10] Parts of the series were filmed in Provo, Utah.[11]

The series began with an hour-long special, "The Case of the Missing Time Capsule", and subsequent six episodes were 30 minutes long.

Many of these episodes were later released on VHS.

Film

In June 2013, Warner Bros. optioned the Encyclopedia Brown books into a feature film.[12][13] Matt Johnson was in talks to write the movie. Roy Lee and Howard David Deutsch (producer of the 1989 Encyclopedia Brown TV series) and Jonathan Zakin were announced as producing.[14]

Books

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

  1. Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective (1963, illustrated by Leonard Shortall ISBN 0-525-67200-1, 1982 reissue ISBN 0-553-15724-8)
  2. Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Secret Pitch (1965, illustrated by Leonard Shortall ISBN 0-525-67202-8, reissued in 1976 as Encyclopedia Brown Strikes Again, ISBN 0-590-01650-4)
  3. Encyclopedia Brown Finds the Clues illustrated by Leonard Shortall (1966, ISBN 0-525-67204-4)
  4. Encyclopedia Brown Gets His Man (1967, illustrated by Leonard Shortall ISBN 0-525-67206-0)
  5. Encyclopedia Brown Solves Them All (1968, illustrated by Leonard Shortall ISBN 0-525-67212-5)
  6. Encyclopedia Brown Keeps the Peace (1969, illustrated by Leonard Shortall ISBN 0-525-67208-7)
  7. Encyclopedia Brown Saves the Day (1970, illustrated by Leonard Shortall ISBN 0-525-67210-9)
  8. Encyclopedia Brown Tracks Them Down (1971, illustrated by Leonard Shortall]] ISBN 0-553-15721-3)
  9. Encyclopedia Brown Shows the Way (1972, illustrated by Leonard Shortall]] ISBN 0-553-15737-X)
  10. Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Case (1973, illustrated by Leonard Shortall]] ISBN 0-553-15723-X)
  11. Encyclopedia Brown Lends a Hand (1974, illustrated by Leonard Shortall]] 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. Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Dead Eagles (1975, illustrated by Leonard Shortall]] ISBN 0-590-43343-1)
  13. Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Midnight Visitor (1977, ISBN 0-553-15586-5)
  14. Encyclopedia Brown Carries On (1980, ISBN 0-02-786190-2)
  15. Encyclopedia Brown Sets the Pace (1981, ISBN 0-02-786200-3)
  16. (15​12) Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Cake (1982, ISBN 0-590-07843-7) (Co-written with Glenn Andrews)
  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)

Related works

Solve-It-Yourself Mystery Sweepstakes

From January 15 to June 30, 1989, a special Solve-It-Yourself Mystery Sweepstakes was held in conjunction with the Encyclopedia Brown books and Bantam Books. In the back of specially marked copies of Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Treasure Hunt, Sobol presented an unsolved mystery for the contestant to solve and submit an answer for a chance to win a prize. The mystery for the contest was called "The Case of the Missing Birthday Gift", wherein Encyclopedia had to solve the case of a stolen bicycle that was given as a birthday gift to Willie Grant on his tenth birthday. The Tigers make an appearance as the suspects in the case; Bugs Meany, Jack Beck, and Rocky Graham all show up at the Tigers' clubhouse.[citation needed]

Contestants were allowed to enter as many times as they wished, provided they used a separate envelope for each entry. The sweepstakes was only available to USA and Canada residents. No purchase was necessary, as one could either use the official form in the back of specially marked copies of Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Treasure Hunt[15][16] or send in a 3" by 5" index card with the solution and the contestant's contact information.

Parodies and tributes

The satirical newspaper The Onion ran an article in 2003 titled "Idaville Detective 'Encyclopedia' Brown Found Dead In Library Dumpster", which stated that Encyclopedia Brown, now a middle-aged police detective, had been murdered. The article parodied the books' tendency to have crimes solved through knowledge of trivia, and ended with Bugs Meany, who was now police commissioner, stating that he had an alibi for the murder in that "I was at the North Pole watching the penguins."[1]

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' Criminal: Last of the Innocent graphic novel features a reference to Encyclopedia Brown, with a grown-up analogue of Encyclopedia featured in the comic, as confirmed by Ed Brubaker himself.[17]

The Das Racist song "Rainbow in the Dark" features the lyric "Wikipedia Brown" as a reference to Encyclopedia Brown.

In Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, there is a fictional book series called "Sherlock Sammy Does It Again" and the protagonist is Sherlock Sammy and it includes twenty short stories.[18]

The protagonist of the 2020 film The Kid Detective is a former child prodigy detective, now an unsuccessful adult, living in a small town.

In The Simpsons episode "500 Keys", the grave of Encyclopedia Brown is shown briefly next to those of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, to which Lisa comments "Jeez, they're dropping like flies".[19]

References.

  1. ^ a b "Idaville Detective 'Encyclopedia' Brown Found Dead In Library Dumpster". The Onion. September 24, 2003. Archived from the original on November 16, 2020. Retrieved June 28, 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Stripper's Guide: Obscurity of the Day: Encyclopedia Brown". Strippersguide.blogspot.com. Archived from the original on 2020-11-16. Retrieved 2012-11-12.
  3. ^ King, Norma (February 17, 1989). "Encyclopedia Brown creator Sobol remains a kid at heart". The Twin Falls Times-News. p. D1. Archived from the original on 16 November 2020. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  4. ^ "Meet Encyclopedia Brown's Author". Raleigh News and Observer. April 14, 1984. Archived from the original on 16 November 2020. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  5. ^ "Encyclopedia Brown: The Great Sleuth From My Youth". NPR. July 16, 2012. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  6. ^ "The Edgar Awards". The Edgars. Archived from the original on 2019-04-04. Retrieved 2011-01-31.
  7. ^ Encyclopedia Brown Introduces Report Writing Skills. OCLC 16980494.
  8. ^ Caplin, Elliot (1985). Encyclopedia Brown's Book of Comic Strips #1. Bantam-Skylark. ISBN 0-553-15228-9.
  9. ^ "HBO's Encyclopedia Brown". TV.com. Archived from the original on 2020-11-16. Retrieved 2008-06-25.
  10. ^ "TV series-Encyclopedia Brown". IMDb. Archived from the original on 2020-11-16. Retrieved 2018-06-30.
  11. ^ D'Arc, James V. (2010). When Hollywood came to town: a history of moviemaking in Utah (1st ed.). Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith. ISBN 9781423605874.
  12. ^ "Warner Bros. to Develop 'Encyclopedia Brown' Movie". screenrant.com. Archived from the original on 16 November 2020. Retrieved 14 July 2013.
  13. ^ "Encyclopedia Brown Movie in Development at Warner Bros". movieweb.com. 25 June 2013. Archived from the original on 16 November 2020. Retrieved 14 July 2013.
  14. ^ "Matthew Johnson in talks to write movie". 14 October 2013. Archived from the original on 16 November 2020. Retrieved 14 October 2013.
  15. ^ "Image of the specially-marked cover". ImageShack. Archived from the original on 2015-10-18.
  16. ^ "Specially-marked cover". Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Treasure Hunt. ASIN B001BUCW3G. Archived from the original on 2020-11-16. Retrieved 2017-08-31.
  17. ^ Brothers, David (May 24, 2012). "Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips Play With Familiar Tropes in 'Fatale' [Interview]". Archived from the original on July 24, 2014.
  18. ^ "Sherlock Sammy". Diary of a Wimpy Kid Wiki. April 24, 2011. Archived from the original on 2020-11-16. Retrieved 2020-06-25.
  19. ^ "The Simpsons review: "500 Keys"". TV Fanatic. 2011-05-16. Archived from the original on 2020-11-16. Retrieved 2011-05-22.