Tag: alphabet mysteries

sue grafton

Sue Grafton Has Passed, but the Books That Inspired Her Remain

Sue Grafton, a prolific detective novelist, was best known for the ‘Alphabet Mysteries,’ the first of which, A Is for Alibi, was published in 1982. 


In a post on the author’s Facebook page, her daughter Jamie stated:


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.


Seemingly, this implies there will be no final book. Although The New York Times notes that her husband Stephen F. Humphrey states she always said the last book would be titled Z is for Zero. She may not have made it to Z, but she leaves behind a legacy of detective novels, having published several, prior to the Alphabet series.


The idea for the series theme was inspired by The Gashlycrumb Tinies, Edward Gorey’s poetry book from 1963 in which twenty-six children suffer strange and unusual deaths. In 2015, she told The New York Times:


I was smitten with all those little Victorian children being dispatched in various ways,  ‘A is for Amy who fell down the stairs; B is for Basil assaulted by bears; C is for Clara who wasted away; D is for Desmond thrown out of a sleigh.’ Edward Gorey was deliciously bent.


Image Via Brain Pickings

Image Via Brain Pickings


As a child, Grafton read the Nancy Drew mysteries and Agatha Christie’s novels. She loved I, The Jury by Mickey Spillane, saying “after Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie, what a revelation! It may have been the moment when the spirit of Kinsey Millhone [protagonist of the Alphabet series] first sparked to life.” 


Grafton was lauded for introducing a female protagonist into a male-dominated genre. When reviewing F Is for Fugitive in 1989, Ed Weiner said:


Ms. Grafton and P. I. Millhone floated in on the same zephyr of welcome fresh air that during the past decade has brought us a number of other women writing about women operatives in the traditionally male-dominated genre of American private eye fiction.


Sue Grafton passed away last week after a two year battle with cancer. Our condolences to her family and friends. 


Featured Image Via The Star