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Meet the WritersImage of Sue Grafton
Sue Grafton
Biography
Sue Grafton is published in 28 countries and 26 languages -- including Estonian, Bulgarian, and Indonesian. She's an international bestseller with a readership in the millions. She's a writer who believes in the form that she has chosen to mine: "The mystery novel offers a world in which justice is served. Maybe not in a court of law," she has said, "but people do get their just desserts." And like Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald, Robert Parker and the John D. MacDonald—the best of her breed—she has earned new respect for that form. Her readers appreciate her buoyant style, her eye for detail, her deft hand with character, her acute social observances, and her abundant storytelling talents.

But who is the real Sue Grafton? Many of her readers think she is simply a version of her character and alter ego Kinsey Millhone. Here are Kinsey's own words in the early pages of N Is for Noose:

"So there I was barreling down the highway in search of employment and not at all fussy about what kind of work I'd take. I wanted distraction. I wanted some money, escape, anything to keep my mind off the subject of Robert Deitz. I'm not good at good-byes. I've suffered way too many in my day and I don't like the sensation. On the other hand, I'm not that good at relationships. Get close to someone and the next thing you know, you've given them the power to wound, betray, irritate, abandon you, or bore you senseless. My general policy is to keep my distance, thus avoiding a lot of unruly emotion. In psychiatric circles, there are names for people like me."

Those are sentiments that hit home for Grafton's readers. And she has said that Kinsey is herself, only younger, smarter, and thinner. But are they an apt description of Kinsey's creator? Well, she's been married to Steve Humphrey for more than twenty years. She has three kids and two grandkids. She loves cats, gardens, and good cuisine—not quite the nature-hating, fast-food loving Millhone. So: readers and reviewers beware. Never assume the author is the character in the book. Sue, who has a home in Montecito, California ("Santa Theresa") and another in Louisville, the city in which she was born and raised, is only in her imagination Kinsey Millhone -- but what a splendid imagination it is.

Biography from author website



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Interview
From the September/October 2002 issue of Book magazine

By Sue Grafton's reckoning, the clock is ticking. The 62-year-old writer has been turning out tales of private investigator Kinsey Millhone at the rate of almost one a year for the past two decades. With the publication of her latest "alphabet book," Q Is for Quarry (following A Is for Alibi, B Is for Burglar, etc.), Grafton is nine books from her end goal of 26 volumes. She's 20 years older than when she started, but she's kept Kinsey in her 30s -- stuck in the era of Family Ties, New Wave and Reaganomics. By the time the series reaches its culmination with Z Is for Zero (she's already got the title picked out), Kinsey will be 40 and Grafton is likely to be, by her estimation, at least 75. And that's got some fans a bit concerned.

"Back when I was writing H Is for Homicide, I had a letter from a reader who said, 'Love your work, but hey, I'm in my 90s. You gotta hurry!' " Grafton says. "I feel the same way myself."

However, Grafton's appearance belies any age-oriented anxiety -- fit and elegant, she's vivacious as she shows a visitor her renovated home in Santa Barbara, California. She started writing the series in 1982 -- when she and Kinsey were only ten years apart in age. At the time, Grafton was stranded in Hollywood doing screenplays and fantasizing about killing her ex-husband, with whom she was involved in an ugly custody battle for her three kids. Stuck with various deadly ideas and no outlet, law-abiding Grafton wrote A Is for Alibi, in which the husband of Kinsey's client is killed by poison-laced allergy pills.

Almost immediately, Grafton's career took off, as readers were won over by the stubborn, big-mouthed P.I., who has much in common with the author. (Both women, for instance, enjoy exercising along the Santa Barbara harbor. Grafton, however, rarely indulges in Kinsey's favorite food -- peanut-butter-and-pickle sandwiches -- preferring a healthier Mediterranean diet.)

By any estimation, creator and creation are inextricably linked, but Grafton doesn't seem to mind being dedicated to one character and one timeline. "I backed myself into a corner," she says. "So far I haven't thought of an ingenious escape from the time warp." That Kinsey's adventures unfold before the advent of today's high-tech forensic techniques only lends to their charm. In Q, for instance, while investigating the death of an unidentified woman, Kinsey has to use old-fashioned sleuthing -- no DNA tests or Internet databases -- to solve the case. "By the end," Grafton says of the series, "I'll be writing historical fiction, looking back with fondness at times gone by."

Clearly, Grafton's not afraid to go back to the future. "Seventy used to be old. Now it's nothing," she says. "Actually, I intend to live to 108, so that gives me time for another couple of quick ten-book series."   (Susan Gulbransen)

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About the Writer
*Sue Grafton Home
* Biography
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Chronology
*"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