It's the birthday of mystery writer John Ball, born July 8, 1911 in Schenectady, New York. After graduating from Carroll College he began his career as a music critic and reviewer. During World War II he was a pilot and flew supplies over the treacherous Himalayas for troops fighting in Asia.
He wrote for magazines and newspapers and even worked as a sheriff's deputy before turning to fiction.
He wrote several novels featuring pilots flying planes under difficult circumstances. But his most famous fictional character was Virgil Tibbs, a black man investigating crime in a white man's world. His first novel featuring the soft-spoken but competent detective was In The Heat of the Night. It won the Edgar Award in 1966 for Best First Novel, and was made into a movie starring Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger. The movie won an Academy Award for Best Picture in 1967.
Ball wrote 6 more novels featuring Tibbs, including The Cool Cottontail, Five Pieces of Jade, Singapore. Johnny Get Your Gun, The Eyes of Buddha, and Then Came Violence.