PASSINGS: Lilian Jackson Braun, Harry Bernstein, Adolfas Mekas

Lilian Jackson Braun

Author of ‘The Cat Who…' mystery series

Lilian Jackson Braun, 97, an author who wrote 29 books in the “The Cat Who …" mystery series, died of natural causes Saturday at a hospice center in Landrum, S.C.

Braun, who also compiled two short story collections, published her first book, “The Cat Who Could Read Backwards,” in 1966. She took an 18-year hiatus between “The Cat Who Turned On and Off” and “The Cat Who Saw Red,” published in 1986.


She also worked for 30 years as a writer and editor for the Detroit Free Press until her retirement from the newspaper in 1984. She retired from writing for good in 2007 after the publication of “The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers.”

Her books about sleuth Jim Qwilleran and his Siamese cats, Koko and Yum Yum, were regulars on the New York Times bestseller lists and were translated into 16 languages.

She was born June 20, 1913, in Chicopee Falls, Mass., and started out writing advertising copy for a Detroit department store.

She had lived in Tryon, N.C., for the last 23 years with her second husband, Earl Bettinger.

Braun’s books were so popular, her husband said, because her characters weren’t mean and the cats didn’t do anything that a cat wouldn’t do. “No cats danced and no cats sang,” he said.

But the woman who wrote about cats didn’t own any in the last years of her life. She was losing her sight, and a kitten kept getting underfoot, Bettinger said.

Harry Bernstein

Writer who first published in his 90s


Harry Bernstein, 101, whose acclaimed memoir of an English childhood haunted by anti-Semitism — “The Invisible Wall” — was published when he was 96, died Friday at his daughter’s home in Brooklyn, N.Y., Bruce Frankel, a friend and author, told the Associated Press.

Bernstein had written 40 other books but destroyed most of the manuscripts after they were rejected by publishers. It wasn’t until he was 93, grieving his wife of seven decades, that he produced his first published works.

Bernstein sent the finished manuscript of “The Invisible Wall” to the London office of Random House. The book sat for about a year until it was noticed and then published in 2007.

In “The Invisible Wall,” Bernstein wrote about his bleak childhood in an English mill town, with Christians and Jews coexisting uneasily. For eight years he served as a messenger between his sister and the Christian youth she was dating, who lived across the street from their house in Stockport, near Manchester. The two had to keep their love secret because of religious prejudice.


After “The Invisible Wall,” Bernstein continued writing and publishing. “What Happened to Rose” is to be published next year in Italy, where he has a following.

Born in 1910 in Stockport, England, Bernstein immigrated with his family to Chicago, then moved to New York as a teenager. He earned a living as an MGM movie script reader and as editor of a construction trade magazine.

In 2008 — at age 98 — he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to pursue his writing.

Adolfas Mekas


Lithuanian-born member of New American Cinema movement

Adolfas Mekas, 85, a member of the avant-garde New American Cinema movement of the 1960s and longtime professor of film at New York’s Bard College, died May 31 at a hospital in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., the college announced. The cause was not given.

The Lithuanian-born artist came to the United States in 1949 after time spent in a Nazi concentration camp and later in displaced-persons camps in Germany, where he studied theater arts and literature.

He served as a still photographer in the U.S. Army Signal Corps from 1951 to 1953. Mekas and his brother Jonas founded the journal Film Culture in 1954 and the Filmmakers’ Cooperative, an independent cinema distribution house owned by artists.


Mekas was associated with the neo-Dadaist Fluxus movement and participated in the first Fluxus performance in 1961. He made several short films and then the comedy feature “Hallelujah the Hills,” which played at the Cannes Film Festival in 1963.

Another feature, “Going Home,” and his brother’s feature “Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania,” in the early 1970s chronicled their first trip to their Lithuanian hometown since the end of World War II.

Mekas founded the film program at Bard in 1971 and directed it until 1994. He retired from active teaching in 2004 and was a professor emeritus at the campus in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.

-- Los Angeles Times staff and wire reports