One of the great mystery writers of recent times, Sue Grafton has passed away aged 77. Grafton came to prominence in the 80s when she began her alphabetical series of Kinsey Millone private eye novels.
The private eye story, once the preserve of pulp magazines, were for the new breed of women writers such as Grafton, a vehicle for bringing together a good mystery with a female investigator that could empathise with the clients. Kinsey was both a crime solver and a fully developed character; based at a fictionalised Californian resort town she would uncover the lives of a vivid variety of characters. Her own helpers included a Mohawk hair-cut youth and a much older woman. She charted a new path for the crime novel that others, particularly women writers such as best sellers Louise Penny and Ann Cleeves would follow.
When she attended the 1990 crime convention in London, the Bouchercon, Grafton was up to “G” is for Gumshoe . She was already in the space of eight years a favourite with many mystery fans winning the best novel (the Anthony Award) on several occasions. One of the less well-known reasons for her success was her talent for screenwriting for television, particularly working on plots that pulled the audience in. She worked on Agatha Christie adaptations, soaps such as Rhoda, and many of these were with her husband Steven Humphrey,
Sue Grafton was in my view a great mystery writer. Back in the 90s when I was building the Scorpion Press list of authors with American writers such as Sara Paretsky and Michael Connelly I invited Sue to join us. She replied with a touching letter saying that she would be honoured. However, she had to decline because her husband held the rights to limited editions of her books.
She was one author we would have liked to have published but it was not to be!