The Crime Writers' Association

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RIP Sue Grafton

The crime and thriller community mourns the loss of Sue Grafton. Not only was she a magnificent writer and the alphabet series, featuring doughty sleuth Kinsey Millhone, which began with A Is For Alibi in 1982 and ended just prematurely with Y Is For Yesterday only last year (as per Sue’s express request there will not be a Z volume written by another) stands as a towering and pioneering achievement in the way it presents a positive female character, but we will all also miss her as
a person.

I had the privilege of spending time with her on the occasion of several on-stage interviews at a variety of festivals and conferences in the UK and overseas, as well as hosting her numerous times for signings at Murder One, and she was the most authentic and delightful of persons. She was affable, congenial, funny and just downright normal for someone who was such a  worldwide and on-demand bestselling author.

Herself the daughter of a crime writer, her father C.W. Grafton having penned a few much underrated novels which bear re-examination, she began her career with two gritty novels about the dark side of America, one of which took her to the galleys of Hollywood where on one hand she met her husband Steve Humphrey, following two brief, earlier and unhappy marriages, but toiled unhappily and without recognition, and escaped the studio system with the help of Kinsey Millhone’s success. As she often mentioned when later firmly turning down all offers, however munificent, from the movies to bring Kinsey to the screen and, no doubt, betray her beloved character, ‘Kinsey helped me escape the horrors of Hollywood and I’m sure as hell not going to sell her back to them’. She stuck to this to the end.

My fellow author and interviewer Peter Guttridge once remarked accurately that Sue was by all appearance so normal and in his words ‘mumsy’ and he initially had doubts about her but was soon converted by her whip-sharp sense of humour, wit and quiet mischievousness. That was Sue in a nutshell: a mind of iron inside a velvet, comfortable glove.

Her family, her readers and the British crime community where she had so many admirers and friends, will not see her like and again, but the books remain, which is the most important.

Maxim Jakubowski
Vice Chair, the Crime Writers’ Association