In any list of influential writers in my life, Donald J. Sobol has to appear pretty high on it. He created the Encyclopedia Brown series, featuring an amateur sleuth that solved school day crimes. He uncovered lunch money thieves and gambling rings, usually dropping clues along the way so you could be in on the big "Ah-Ha" moment at the end of the book.
They're all short, goofy and a lot of fun and have never been out of print since he wrote the first novel, Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective back in 1963. Sobol wrote 28 of them before his death on July 11th at 87.
While I eventually moved on to more influential authors, which I'll write about later, Encyclopedia Brown and his mysteries have always held a special place in my heart. And my books - The main character in my Moonstone Bay Mysteries is named Smith, after the Smithsonian and is a bit of a tribute to Sobol's boy detective.