G is for . . . Goodbye

From Jane/Sadie/Susannah, who is heading off on retreat in Vermont tomorrow and can’t wait …

Hey, Wicked People. Don’t let the title of this post surprise (or, dare I say, concern) you. I’m not going anywhere, except on the aforementioned retreat. But the mystery world got some sad news last month: the death of beloved mystery author Sue Grafton. That’s the goodbye I’m talking about.

While I never met her in person (I was not at the Crime Bake she attended, and it’s probably just as well because I would have fangirled all over her and embarrassed everyone), I have been deeply influenced by her work. Yes, I have read every single one of her novels, in order. She, along with Diane Mott Davidson, Janet Evanovich, and Rett MacPherson, are the modern authors who inspired me to write a mystery. Not only did these writers get me started toward living my own dream of authorship, they’ve given me countless hours of reading pleasure. How many people you’ve never met can you truthfully say changed your life? And when my first Sadie novel came out (Yarned and Dangerous), it was shelved right next to Sue Grafton’s book X at my Barnes and Noble. I actually cried. I sometimes still tear up when I think about it.

When I heard about her death, my first, very selfish thought, was But What About Z???? Which was followed almost immediately by guilt at my self-centeredness and then empathy for her family. I too have lost more family members than I care to count to lingering illnesses, so believe me, I understand something of what they went through. It didn’t take me long to realize that the family is absolutely right to carry out Sue’s wishes that the alphabet –and the series–now ends at Y. (Although, again, selfishly, I really hoped that she had finished that last manuscript and that it would be released).

Before I got there, though, I did the But Surely exercise. But surely she left notes! But surely she told someone what was going to happen to Kinsey! But surely somebody could finish that novel…

And then, I thought back to another author who left an unfinished manuscript: Elizabeth Peters (a/k/a Barbara Michaels/Barbara Mertz) . She died while The Painted Queen was in process and it was finished by her friend Joan Hess (who also recently passed). And while Joan, who is a legend in her own right, did a really good job, it just wasn’t the same. And it couldn’t be the same, not ever, because there was only one Elizabeth Peters. Just like there was only one Joan Hess. And one Sue Grafton. And one you, dear reader. So I’m just going to be grateful for what these authors gave me, and stop gluttonously wishing for more.

And now I get the joy of imagining my own ending to the series. I’m certain I know which guy she ended up with (it’s been fairly obvious to me for quite  few books where that was going). I’m less certain, but suspicious, about the fate of Henry, Kinsey’s nonagenarian landlord, and her cousin Anna’s onboard passenger, and whether Kinsey will break down and get some 1990-vintage electronics.

If you haven’t read the series, who are the authors whose work you miss dreadfully? If you have, any predictions about what happened to Kinsey after the events of Y is for Yesterday?



20 Thoughts

  1. I was stunned when I heard the news, Jane. I hadn’t known she was sick. And I got to fangirl all over her more than once at conferences! It’s a huge loss to our crime-writing world and the world as a whole.

  2. I was also influenced by Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky, and Janet Evanovich. Not that my books are anything like theirs except in trying to create a strong female character. I was lucky enough to talk to her one on one for about ten minutes at Crime Bake and met her again at Left Coast Crime. She is truly and amazing woman.

  3. My husband and I just loved the “Spenser” series by Robert Parker. Although they are still being published by various authors, they are not the same I also loved the Sue Grafton books, however, I am now more interested in cozy mystery series. Not a lot of violence and blood and gore!

  4. I’m very much going to miss Sue Grafton’s books and I’m sorry that she didn’t leave behind Z. Imagining a future life for Kinsey will be a fun exercise in creativity, though. As far as authors I miss — Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels is at the top of my list. Another is Robert B. Parker. Although other authors have picked up Spenser and Jesse Stone, the books just aren’t the same. Hazel Holt also. Yearly visits to Taviscombe were fun and educational. And although she didn’t write mysteries, I’ll miss Ursula Le Guin, too.

      1. You’ll love the books. They’re very literate, very English, and full of intriguing characters.

  5. I was concerned when I saw that header! Sue Grafton influenced so many writers. I feel for her family and I think they made the right decision to end the alphabet at Y. I’ve read other author’s work that has been carried on by other writers and no matter how stellar the work is, it just isn’t the same.

  6. I am so embarrassed to say I only finished the first, A IS FOR ALIBI, last night.

    And I really liked it. I liked how Kinsey was smart and independent without being…a stereotype, I guess.

    At least I have 24 more books waiting for me!

    1. Oh, Liz, don’t be embarrassed, LOL! You have almost a whole lovely alphabet in front of you. Some of the books are better than others, of course. But you are in for a real treat (and writing education) if you stick with the series to the end.

  7. I have read a lot of wonderful posts about Sue Grafton’s passing and yours was very special. I never could keep up with that alphabet–I always had something new to read and figured I could ‘fill in’ with those letters, they’d always be there when I needed something to read. Well, they will still be there, but it is sad to think there won’t be any more. I still feel that way about the Mrs. Pollifax books, I know some of those last ones weren’t the best, but I was always glad Gilman kept writing. A friend and I have even sought out her young adult books to fill the void, and a couple of them, while very dated, have been quite good.

  8. I finally started the series on audio a few years back. I’m only on I so I still have a ways to go.

    Like you, I’m sorry we won’t get the official word on how the series ends. She was so close, too, which is part of what makes it so hard. I really do wish we could see her notes on what she had in mind.

  9. Kinsey Millhone fans will also love Marcia Muller’s Sharon McCone. Muller, along with Grafton and Paretsky, pioneered the hard boiled female detective. I actually like her books the best of the three. The series is 32 or 33 books long now. Definitely not cozy, but no gratuitous sex, not much graphic violence, and “language” is kept to a minimum. The reason I like these books best is because Sharon exhibits a lot of personal growth over the course of the series. She grows and changes and becomes a different, better person because of her experiences.

  10. I can never get enough of Agatha Christie, and I love Peters’ Amelia Peabody. Another favorite is Ngaio Marsh’s Roderick Alleyn. Great authors who wrote a lot of books, but never enough.

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