Thursday, 4 January 2018


My obituary of the mystery novelist Sue Grafton went online at the Guardian yesterday; you can link to it here. It should be in the paper paper soon. It is pretty much as it was written, including great quotes from my friend Meg Gardiner and from Jeff Abbott, both of whom were gracious enough to let me poach from their reminiscenses. I would have liked to include Meg's story about being a Grafton fan-girl: driving on the 101 in Santa Barbara she followed a car with the vanity plate THNXKNZ (Thanks, Kinsey) all the way to its home, only to realise it was Graftons husband driving! Could happen to anyone!

I opened with the word 'hard-boiled', although the Millhone books aren't really hard-boiled. Her world view isn't as hard-boiled as Lew Archer's; I would have liked to get further into the debt she owed Ross MacDonald. Where I should have gone was to point out that the alphabet titles were a good device to bring 'mystery' fans to her books: they had enough of the 'cozy' puzzle about them to satisfy those, while Kinsey Millhone was boiled hard enough to appeal to the Megs and Jeffs and many many other readers.

I also spent some time trying to see if I could make sense of a link I felt between the Millhone books (first published in 1982) and the TV series Cagney & Lacey, which also debuted in 1982, though the pilot aired in October 1981. I thought about it and concluded it was just something in the zeitgeist that meant America was ready for women in those classically male roles with some classically male attitudes. I do think there's a certain flow in her writing that reflects those years writing for television, though. I also spent some time trying to link Millhone's name and Dr Kinsey, but that didn't go anywhere. But I will have to dig up a viewing of Lolly Madonna XXX someday....RIP Sue Grafton

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