Biography (Critical Survey of Mystery & Detective Fiction, Revised Edition)
Donald Jay Donaldson grew up in Sylvania, Ohio, and married his wife, June, in Florida in February, 1961. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Toledo and returned to Sylvania to become a teacher of ninth-grade general science. This lasted only six months until Donaldson began pursuing a doctorate in human anatomy.
Donaldson relocated to New Orleans and spent five years at Tulane University working on his doctorate. He has admitted that New Orleans did not impress him while he was there. It was not until he began writing fiction that he came to appreciate all that New Orleans had to offer, saying that there was only one place he wanted to write about, “mysterious, sleazy, beautiful New Orleans.”
After finishing his degree, Donaldson moved again, this time to Tennessee, where he became a professor of anatomy and neurobiology at the University of Tennessee Medical School, teaching microscopic anatomy. Although he enjoyed teaching, he felt that something was missing, and he determined that he wanted to try his hand at writing fiction.
To prepare for writing what would ultimately become the Broussard and Franklyn series, Donaldson spent some time at the county forensic center with medical examiner Jim Bell. He attributed much of his first novel, including the inspiration for his primary character, to Bell:Unfortunately, Jim died unexpectedly after falling into a diabetic coma a few months before the first book was published. Though he was an avid reader, he never got to see a word of the book he helped me with. In many ways, Jim lives on as Broussard. Broussard’s brilliant mind, his weight problem, his appreciation of fine food and antiques, his love for Louis L’Amour novels . . . that was Jim Bell.