Sue Grafton: My Tribute

I discovered Sue Grafton back in the early 90s. Up till then my mystery reading was limited to Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie. The writing leg of my career was a distant dream. I started with E is for Evidence (I never was one for reading series in order) and Sue had an instant fan. To this day when someone asks, “Who’s your favorite mystery writer?” I don’t hesitate: “Sue Grafton!”

I identified with Kinsey Millhone in many ways: I’m a loner, a non-conformist of sorts, and care little about material possessions. But I’m not very neat and I do have pets and houseplants. I love Santa Barbara and enjoyed seeing it through Kinsey’s eyes.

I loved the laugh-out-loud asides. And this from A is for Alibi is a favorite passage:

She was a chatty little thing, full of pep, and I wondered if she wasn’t about perfect for Henry Pitts. Since Charlie Scorsoni was keeping me waiting, I took my revenge by eliciting as much information from Ruth as I could manage without appearing too rude. She told me she had worked for Scorsoni and Powers since the formation of their partnership seven years ago. Her husband had left her for a younger woman (fifty-five) and Ruth, on her own for the first time in years, had despaired of ever finding a job, as she was then sixty-two years old, “though in perfect health,” she said. She was quick, capable, and of course was being aced out at every turn by women one-third her age who were cute instead of competent.

“The only cleavage I got left, I sit on,” she said and then hooted at herself. 

Sue admitted that her inspiration for A is for Alibi came from her fantasies of murdering her husband during their divorce proceedings.

Over the years I eagerly anticipated each installment of the series. There was only one that I didn’t like and one that I didn’t like that much (no, I won’t tell which ones), but 2 out of 25 is a damn good record.

I recently read Y is for Yesterday and loved every word of it. Kinsey resolved some issues and seemed to be settling into a satisfying life with a ragtag adopted family. So, while we won’t get Z, Y ended on a good note for the series.

It’s almost like Ms. Grafton knew her alphabet would end in Y.

I cried when I heard the news on NPR almost two weeks ago. I didn’t even know she was ill.

For a while I’ve been entertaining thoughts of creating a private investigator. Maybe Sue’s given me a sign that there’s no time like the present to put my thoughts to paper.

Godspeed, dear Sue. Thanks for Kinsey, Henry, Rosie, Vera, and all the gang.

Sue Grafton’s website

NPR announcement










Sue Grafton: My Tribute — 12 Comments

  1. She definitely popped on the scene and seemed to be a success immediately to most of us who discovered her books. What a legend. The fact that she missed the alphabet by one letter is something I keep thinking of. Do we say, she missed it by one or she made it to all but one? Either way she came almost completed the alphabet.

    • I’d say she made it to all but one. We can always lobby Congress to alter the alphabet—lol. Have you read Y yet, Linda? I wonder if you would agree with me that the ending could well be a series ending.

  2. What a lovely tribute, Maggie! I’ve only recently discovered her books. I haven’t read all of them, but enjoyed every one that I have except for one where the subject matter was distasteful to me. It comes out toward the end, so wouldn’t be a problem for most readers, but I tend to skip ahead.

    Technology has changed so much since the nineties that I had an odd sense of reading a historical mystery when I was reading the first few in the series. And I kept thinking how hard it would be to get the details right as the series continued. If the time period remained the same, that is to say.

    • Nupur,
      I think if I was starting the series now I’d have the same thoughts about technology. Technology has changed our culture in so many ways and I get vicarious enjoyment from stepping back thirty years to a simpler time.

  3. A few years ago, I was on a panel of private investigators (I’m a retired PI as well as an author) at Left Coast Crime, and I was asked by the moderator to state which author I believed wrote the most authentic PI character. I said, “Sue Grafton.” It has always amazed me how well she did her research and wrote such a believable character in Kinsey. To my amazement, Sue Grafton was in the audience and came up and gave me a hug afterwards. I hope some of her special magic rubbed off on me.

    • Pamela, what a great experience. I hear about so many friends who met her. I wish I had. Are you familiar with Marcia Muller? I also like her PI and discovered her about the same time as Sue.