Sobol’s series featured the title character, Leroy “Encyclopedia” Brown, who earned his nickname for his immediate recall of any number of random facts. Brown often was able to puzzle out the mysteries faced by his father, the police chief, before dinner time was over. He also defended his schoolmates against fraudulent get-rich-quick schemes cooked up by local troublemakers such as bully Bugs Meany or the wily Wilford Wiggins (who, in one volume, tried to sell local kids “worm pills” to lure worms to the surface).
First published in 1963, the Encyclopedia Brown books included 27 volumes, with a 28th due for release this October, and have sold millions of copies around the world. Sobol also wrote a large number of other books, many of them for children.
Sobol first worked as a journalist for publications including the Long Island Daily Press, and penned a column titled “Two Minute Mysteries” that inspired him to create the Encyclopedia Brown books.
“I am totally unqualified to be a writer,” he is reported to have said. “My childhood was unimpoverished and joyful. Even worse, I loved and admired my parents.”