Posted on writer Sue Grafton’s Facebook page Friday December 29th…
“Hello Dear Readers. This is Sue’s daughter, Jamie. I am sorry to tell you all that Sue passed away last night after a two year battle with cancer. She was surrounded by family, including her devoted and adoring husband Steve. Although we knew this was coming, it was unexpected and fast. She had been fine up until just a few days ago, and then things moved quickly. Sue always said that she would continue writing as long as she had the juice. Many of you also know that she was adamant that her books would never be turned into movies or TV shows, and in that same vein, she would never allow a ghost writer to write in her name. Because of all of those things, and out of the deep abiding love and respect for our dear sweet Sue, as far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y.”
The first Sue Grafton novel I read was “D is for Deadbeat.” It was around 1989 and the book came as part of my new book club offering. For those who are unfamiliar (or are too young to remember books before the internet), mail order book clubs would gain new members by offering a number of books for a dollar if you committed to joining the club and purchasing 3 or 4 other books at regular price within the next year. I was always part of at least one book club then and often surfed from one to another collecting my discount novels. Usually they were books that were left from previous years.
It didn’t take me long to get hooked on Sue and her character Kinsey Millhone. I went through letter “D” pretty fast and then immediately fulfilled my membership agreement by ordering “A” “B” and “C”! I was 27 years old in 1989 and reaching the end of my first marriage. My life was in a place where Kinsey’s independence and moxie appealed to me. I wanted to live in a converted one car garage and run my own private detective agency. I wanted to make all my own choices (good or bad), drink wine and eat peanut butter and pickle sandwiches instead of figuring out a grocery list and doing laundry. Kinsey rocked, even if people did occasionally shoot at her.
Over the next twenty something years, my life included some big changes but Sue and Kinsey remained a constant. Every year I looked forward to the next letter, the next novel, to see what they were up to. Surprisingly, even after so many books, Sue was able to keep the character and the stories fresh and interesting. In some of the more recent novels she began writing entire chapters from a different characters point of view, or taking the reader back in time to the original crime and then switching back to Kinsey’s take on the situation. Another quirk about Kinsey’s world that appealed to me was that she was still still living and detecting in the 1980s, each of her stories moving just months beyond the one before. This meant she didn’t have cell phones or the internet and had to solve her mysteries using good old fashioned brain power aided only by library cross reference books, microfiche, and what ever info she could get out of the witnesseses. She also had a habit of keeping notes on 5×7 index cards that she could shuffle and rearrange to see if a pattern appeared.
I was already a dedicated fan and quite in love with Sue Grafton by the time “X” came out in 2015. We had a relationship dating back years and I had my favorite books and characters already but this novel quickly became the most favorite because on the beginning page of a chapter half way through, quite by happenstance, Sue used my son’s full name for a minor character. Seeing his name in print was pretty cool and then when I glanced up at the number of the chapter, I realized it was also my son’s favorite number, the number he wore on every sports jersey through out high school because he considered it lucky! It was a weird enough coincidence that I was compelled to send a note to her Facebook page. I explained what a big fan I was and how she had simply made my day with this happy accident. Two days later I received this reply:
“What a lovely surprise for you. Can’t remember where I came up with the name. Maybe a spirit visit in the dead of night. Tell him he’s now been immortalized and not even as one of the criminal element. Thanks for your note. What a hoot.”
I regulary go through my Messenger account and delete messages so the fact that this note is still on my feed should tell you what a big deal it is to me!
Now, sadly, there will be no more Kinsey. Her story and the stories of all the other characters Ms Grafton so lovingly brought into existence are now in limbo. I suppose that its up to each of us, those readers, who have invested so much in Sue’s world to finish their stories as we see fit. It will never live up to the endings she would have chosen but I’m just happy I was along for the ride. For me, personally, my thoughts and sympathies go out to Sue’s family with love and appreciation for all the enjoyment Sue Grafton brought to me and to all the other countless fans of Kinsey Millhone. For us, as her daughter so perfectly stated , “the alphabet now ends in Y.”