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Thursday, 4 January 2018

D is for Deceased - An appreciation of Sue Grafton

I'm old enough to remember reading the first book in Sue Grafton's Kinsey Malone series not long after it first came out - A is for Alibi was originally published in 1982, I was seventeen at the time, and I can clearly recall picking up the brand new paperback copy in the Wishing Well, a great bookshop that once stood in Tonypandy. Thinking back I reckon that this must have been around 1984 or possibly 85.

Since then there have been another 24 books, the series ended with Y is for Yesterday, which was published earlier this year. Fans of the series, which has become known as the alphabet mysteries, know that the final book in the series, Z is for Zero was due to be published sometime later this year - this was already set in stone before the recent news that author, Sue Grafton had passed away at the age of 77 from cancer. However Grafton's estate have stated that the author became ill after completing Y is for Yesterday and couldn't start work on Z is for Zero. They have ruled out the use of ghostwriters to finish the final book in the series, so it seems that the alphabet will end with Y. In a strange way it's almost fitting since many of the cases in Grafton's books remained open after the final page, so the alphabet series will, by all accounts, never be closed.

Grafton's private eye novels were trailblazing in that they were the first to truly represent a female protagonist in the hard boiled crime setting - with Kinsey Millhone she showed that a female heroine could carry a series just as well as the more traditional male dicks. Back when Grafton started out the hardboiled mysery genre was pretty bleak for females - female characters were either femme fatales or the corpse, but Grafton and other writers (Sara Paretsky introduced her gal gumshoe, V.I. Warshawski that same year.) changed the face of the genre and entertained scores of readers along the way.

'She is my alter-ego,' Grafton told the Seattle Times of her series character, Kinsey Millhone. 'I’m an introvert, so doing half of what Kinsey does is beyond my poor capabilities. But it’s fun to get to live her life without penalty!”

Over the years Grafton has won just about every award crime fiction can offer, and has picked up a legion of readers. There is no doubt that her series featuring the tough, Kinsey Millhone will continue to pick up readers for years and years to come. The author has left a significant legacy behind her. Published in 28 countries and 26 languages-including Estonian, Bulgarian, and Indonesian. She's was an international bestseller with a readership in the millions. She will be remembered  for her distinctive style, her realism, her deft hand with character, her acute social observances,
and an incredible gift for storytelling.

Grafton was a giant in the crime fiction field and she will be greatly missed - RIP.

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