Sue Grafton

Sue Grafton was an American author of suspense novels. Sue passed away on December 28th, 2017.

She was most well known for her detective stories. Sue Grafton was born on April 24, 1940 in Louisville, Kentucky. She is the daughter of famed detective novelist C.W. Grafton. Sue Grafton has stated that one of the biggest influences on her writing is the writer Ross Macdonald. She has been writing before her novels were published, writing scripts for made for television movies. Her mother is Vivian Harnsberger, the daughter of a Presbyterian minister.

Grafton grew up in Louisville with her sister. She first attended the University of Louisville and then attended the Western Kentucky University and then graduated in 1961 from the University of Louisville with a Bachelor of the Arts in English literature and minors in fine arts and the humanities. She was also a member of the sorority Pi Beta Phi. She worked as a clerk, cashier, and secretary after graduating from University of Louisville.

She began writing when she was eighteen. Sue Grafton completed her first novel at twenty two and wrote a total of seven manuscripts. Two of these seven manuscripts ended up getting published. She then spent fifteen years writing scripts for made for television movies. Some of the scripts Sue Grafton wrote included the projects “Nurse”, “Mark, I Love You”, “Sex And The Single Parent” and “Walking Through The Fire”. She adapted “A Caribbean Mystery” and “Sparkling Cyanide” by Agatha Christie for made for television movies. She also helped write “Killer In The Family” as well as “Love On The Run”. Sue Grafton also came up with the concept and story for the 1983 made for tv movie “Svengali”. Grafton used this experience in writing to confidently return to make an attempt at fiction writing once more, all the while being embroiled in a nasty divorce and custody case for her children that lasted six years. Grafton has been divorced twice and is married to Stephen Humphry.

Sue Grafton had long liked the idea of having connected titles, such as colors a la the works of John D. Macdonald. She came up with the concept of naming each novel for a letter in the alphabet when reading “The Gashlycrumb Tinies” by Edward Gorey, in which a disastrous or melancholy thing happens in each square, which designates a letter of the alphabet. Sue Grafton liked the concept and decided to integrate it into her books, coming up with as many mystery themes for letters of the alphabet as she could. This led to the writing and publication of the series for which Sue Grafton is famous for, the alphabet detective series.

Books And Series Sue Grafton Has Written

Sue Grafton is most famous for the Kinsey Millhone series, the alphabetized detective novel series based in Santa Theresa, California, which is based on Santa Barbara, near to where Sue Grafton lives. It follows Kinsey Millhone, a licensed private investigator. Sue Grafton was able to quit her screenwriting job and begin writing the series full time. The series don’t always take place in the time they are read, rather taking place in the past in place of current times. Grafton’s early novels include 1967’s “Keziah Dane” and “The Lolly-Madonna War”, published in 1969.

The Kinsey Millhone Series: A Is For Alibi

“A For Alibi” is the first novel in the alphabet detective series. It was first published in 1982. The novel is actually also set in the year 1982. The first print was of 7,000 copies. Grafton admits that she got a lot of inspiration and conceived a lot of the book over fantasies of murdering her ex-husband, who she was going through a divorce and custody battle with at the time. Kinsey Millhone is a thirty year old insurance investigator and private detective who lives in Santa Theresa, California, a tip of the hat from Grafton to her inspiration from John Macdonald’s novels. Santa Theresa is also the pseudonym John Macdonald used to substitute for Santa Barbara.

Kinsey is investigating the suspicious death of a well known and successful divorce lawyer, Laurence Fife. The homicide occurred eight years ago, and his wife was sent to jail over it. Now out of the clinker, Nikki Fife contacts Kinsey Millhone to help her clear her name and figure out what really happened. Kinsey becomes acquaintances with the wife’s former business associate Charlie Scorsoni while investigating, and begins to get a little warmer to the trail. She discovers that Laurence Fife’s death can be linked to the strange death of a woman in L.A. and that both died as a result of taking allergy pills that turn out to be laced with extract of oleander, a poison derived from a beautiful but deadly white flower that grows abundantly or as decoration on lawns in California. Kinsey goes to LA to interview Fife’s former secretary, but she is murdered before Kinsey can speak to her. Kinsey begins to find out more and more strange things. That Laurence was having an affair with his first wife, Gwen, while he was married to Nikki. As she begins to go deeper, she discovers that the truth may just be that simple, and that the killer is right under her nose.

The Kinsey Millhone Series: B Is For Burglar

“B Is For Burglar” is the second novel in the Kinsey Millhone series. In “B For Burglar”, Kinsey Millhone is called upon yet again. This time it’s to help a wealthy lady find her missing sister, Elaine Boldt. Elaine disappeared a while ago while in transit to Boca Raton, Florida. Her sister needs her signature on a form regarding an inheritance. Along the way, Kinsey thinks that the death of a neighbor and Elaine’s case may be related. Meanwhile, someone breaks into Kinsey’s apartment, apparently after Elaine’s passport. Kinsey is concerned for Elaine’s safety but when her sister objects to them going to the police and reporting Elaine missing, Kinsey ends their working relationship. But as Millhone goes along, the plot thickens, and even Millhone isn’t prepared for what comes next.

Books Made Into Movies By Sue Grafton

Sue Grafton’s early novel “The Lolly-Madonna War” was made into a movie in 1973 called “Lolly-Madonna XXX”. Directed by Richard C. Serafian, this movie starred Rod Steiger as Laban Feather, Robert Ryan as Pap Gutshall, and Jeff Bridges as Zach Feather. Her novel “B Is For Burglar” was adapted into a Japanese television movie called “Kako Kara No Koe” in 1988. Her novel “D Is For Deadbeat” was made into a TV movie in Japan in 1989.

Books in order of publication by series:

Kinsey Millhone Books

A is for Alibi(1982) 
B is for Burglar(1985) 
C is for Corpse(1986) 
D is for Deadbeat(1987) 
E is for Evidence(1988) 
F is for Fugitive(1989) 
G is for Gumshoe(1990) 
H is for Homicide(1991) 
I is for Innocent(1992) 
J is for Judgment(1993) 
K is for Killer(1994) 
L is for Lawless(1995) 
M is for Malice(1996) 
N is for Noose(1998) 
O is for Outlaw(1999) 
P is for Peril(2001) 
Q is for Quarry(2002) 
R is for Ricochet(2004) 
S is for Silence(2005) 
T is for Trespass(2007) 
U is for Undertow(2009) 
V is for Vengeance(2011) 
W is for Wasted(2013) 
Y is for Yesterday(2017) 

Kinsey Millhone Collections

Kinsey and Me(2013)

Standalone Novels

Keziah Dane(1967) 
The Lolly-Madonna War(1969) 

Short Stories

A Poison That Leaves No Trace(2002) 

Best American Mystery Stories Anthologies

The Best American Mystery Stories 1998(1998) 

Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

Writing Mysteries: A Handbook by the Mystery Writers of America(2002)
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