Brown, Rita Mae

About the author

Rita Mae Brown (b.1944) was born almost on the Mason Dixon Line, to a mother who “possessed the best eye for a horse I have ever witnessed.” She was a constant inhabitant of the racetrack, and her children went with her (which apparently would not be allowed now lest they see gambling). Rita’s mother, Julia Ellen Buckingham, had a good enough eye to come out on top, normally. Her father died relatively young at the age of 56, and gave her “a tempered view of life.” She won a scholarship to Washington Square College, New York University, and emerged as a PhD. Not, she felt, cut out to be an academic, she was drawn into politics, started to write, and published her first novel, Rubyfruit Jungle, in 1973. Rubyfruit Jungle was notable for its explicit portrayal of being a lesbian; not something literature was known for at the time.

She has now published over 30 novels, most of them animal based. Her Sneaky Pie series, featuring a detective cat, is a bestseller. She is Master of the Oak Ridge Foxhounds, and says: “We don’t kill foxes, so don’t get your knickers in a twist. They are too smart even if I did want to dispatch them to The Great Fox in the Sky, and I don’t.” Her Sister Jane series has as its heroine the septuagenarian Master of a Hunt, and a whole host of talking animals are present too.

Rita Mae Brown sums up her life thus:

What I have done that I care about is I have cherished life. I’ve rescued by now hundreds of cats, dogs, foxes and hounds, and found homes for them. Too many stay here, so I am wearing the same dress and shoes I wore twenty years ago. So what? I was never going to make the cover of Vogue anyway.

Finding the books
All easy to find on both sides of the Atlantic. First editions in very good condition of the earlier titles can be pricey.

Links and sources
Time Magazine interviews Rita Mae Brown, March 18th, 2008


“Sister” Jane Mysteries

Full Cry
Hunt Ball
The Hounds and the Fury
The Tell-Tale Horse
Hounded to Death

Bibliography (horse books only)

Riding Shotgun

Bantam Books, New York,1996, 341 pp. Cover art Tom Hallman
Wheeler Pub, Inc, 1996, large print edn.
Bantam Books, New York, 1997, pb
Bantam Books, 2000, pb

A time slip mystery: Cig Blackwood, now a single mother, is spending the first anniversary of her husband’s death hunting, something they both loved. She then discovers that when her husband died, it was in the arms of another woman, and she is whisked back in time to 1699.


Ballantine Books, New York,  2000, cover: design Kristine V. Mills-Noble, 409 pp.
Ballantine Books, New York, 2000, pb 343 pp.
Ballantine Books, New York, 2005, pb 343 pp.

Jane Arnold is master of the venerable Jefferson Hunt, and is more than a tad worried about who will succeed her. Two unworthy candidates try for the post, one of whom is found murdered in the middle of the season’s opening meet: almost worse, a fox is found murdered too.


Ballantine Books, New York, 2002, cover Dreu Pennington-McNeil;
Title page illustration Lee Gildea, Jr. 345 pp.
Ballantine Books, New York, 2003, pb

When a beloved horse dies and is buried, a skeleton is uncovered when the grave is dug. It belongs to a girl who disappeared from a party 21 years ago; eloped, everyone thought…

Full Cry

Ballantine Books, New York, 2003, cover: design Dreu Pennington-McNeil;
photo WBob Kristill & Deni McIngyre/Getty Images, 387 pp.
Ballantine Books, New York, 2004, pb
Thorndike Press, 2004, large print

The New Year’s Hunt is something you do not miss, no matter how hungover. Everyone
struggles out, and Sister Jane announces her new joint master. The festivities are spoiled by the discovery of a body: Sam Lorillard, a shining star, but by the end of his life, a hopeless drunk.

Hunt Ball

Ballantine Books, New York, 2005, cover art Peter Malone, title page illustration Lee Gildea, Jr. (identical to that in Hotspur), 310 pp.
Ballantine Books, New York, 2005, pb

A group of students demonstrate about the unacknowledged role of slaves in a prep school’s history. A member of staff is found murdered, and things get tense at Custis Hall. The hunt ball, soon to happen, provides distraction.

The Hounds and the Fury

Ballantine Books, New York, 2006, 315 pp.
Ballantine Books, New York, 2007, pb

Sister and her host of dogs, horses, birds and foxes have their work cut out for them when a rival hunt is set up, going over some of the Jefferson Hunt’s traditional territory. Crawford Howard hunts with an outlaw pack, and the whole thing threatens to tear the community apart.

The Tell-Tale Horse

Ballantine Books, New York, 2007, 278 pp.
Thorndike, Center Point Large Print edn, 2007, 316 pp.
Ballantine Books, New York, 2008, pb, 294 pp.

A nude female corpse turns up, tied to a fixture in a saddlery. This is bad enough, but then a missing trophy turns up in Sister Jane’s stables.

Hounded to Death

Ballantine Books, New York, 2008, 276 pp.
Thorndike, Center Point Large Print edn, 2008
Ballantine Books, New York, 2008, pb

It is the hunting off season, so Sister Jane is showing her hounds at the Mid America Hound Show in Kentucky. During the show, an unpopular master is shot; a member of Sister Jane’s hunt disappears, and a local vet apparently commits suicide.