Once they had three children, the Sobols decided to raise their kids someplace warmer than New York.They picked Miami, which then had a population of 291,688 (it’s now 463,347).
Sobol’s sleuth has a keen eye and a prodigious memory for arcane facts—hence his nickname.
(These days he’d have to be Wikipedia Brown, which just doesn’t sound as authoritative.) He solves small mysteries for his friends and sometimes helps out on big cases that baffle his police chief dad, exposing robbers and con men by spotting the clue everyone else missed. In each story, someone would present Encyclopedia with a puzzle.
Sobol—the J was just that, no middle name, just an initial—was born and raised in New York City, where his father owned gas stations.
As a child, he was more like Brown’s frequent nemesis, inept gang leader Bugs Meany, than his hero, “but only in that I thought up devilish pranks.
He would carefully examine the clues, listen to what the witnesses said, then compare that with his vast store of knowledge gleaned from reading as well as his own common sense.
Then he would indicate he had the solution—but he wouldn’t explain it, not right then.In addition to his “Two-Minute Mysteries” column, which ran for 10 years, he cranked out more than 60 books, including non-fiction books for kids on the American Revolution, the Wright Brothers and the Knights of the Round Table.He and his wife co-wrote a book for children explaining stocks and bonds, too., in just two weeks.Most authors would love to be a big name—a Stephen King, a James Patterson, a John Grisham. When he talked with newspaper and magazine reporters, he did so by telephone.People buy their books not for the title or cover image or first page, but because it’s the new King, the new Patterson, the new Grisham. That way they couldn’t take his picture or even describe what he looked like.After the last class, he asked the professor if he could take an advanced writing course. Sobol said later he just stared at the professor “like a dim-witted penguin watching water freeze.”“Without his help, I probably never could have had a career as a freelance writer.I owe him so much,” Sobol told the alumni magazine.That first book contained all the elements that would show up in all the other books: the idyllic setting, the 25-cent fee, the roster of regular baddies like dimwitted Bugs Meany, leader of the Tigers gang.In inventing his hero, Sobol started with Brown’s nickname, then fleshed out the character from there.Not only did the professor help him become a better writer “but he instilled faith in me, in myself.I will always be grateful.”Sobol’s first foray into the dark genre started when he began writing a syndicated column called “Two-Minute Mysteries.” Those flash fiction columns helped him hone his ability to sprinkle clues through a very short story.