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Sue Taylor Grafton (born April 24, 1940) is a contemporary Americanmarker author of detective novels.


Early years

Born in Louisvillemarker, Kentuckymarker, Sue Grafton is the daughter of novelist C. W. Grafton and Vivian Harnsberger, both of whom were the children of Presbyterian ministers. Grafton and her sister Ann were raised in Louisville. She attended both the University of Louisville (freshman year) and Western Kentucky State Teachers College (sophomore and junior years) before graduating from the University of Louisvillemarker in 1961 with a bachelors degree in English Literature and minors in Humanities and the Fine Arts.

After graduating, Grafton held various jobs as a hospital admissions clerk, cashier, and medical secretary in Santa Monica, Californiamarker and Santa Barbara, Californiamarker.

Writing career

Grafton began writing when she was 18 and finished her first novel four years later. She continued writing, and completed six more manuscripts. Two of these seven novels were published. Unable to find success with her novels, Grafton turned to screenplays. She spent the next fifteen years writing screenplays for television movies, including Sex and the Single Parent, Mark, I Love You, and Nurse. Her screenplay for Walking Through the Fire earned a Christopher Award in 1979. In collaboration with her husband, Steven Humphrey, she also adapted the Agatha Christie novels A Caribbean Mystery and Sparkling Cyanide for television, as well as cowriting Killer in the Family and Love on the Run.

Her experience as a screenwriter taught her the basics of structuring a story, writing dialogue, and creating action sequences, and Grafton felt ready to return to writing fiction. While going through a "bitter divorce and custody battle that lasted 6 long years" Grafton would make herself feel better by imagining ways to kill or maim her ex-husband. Her fantasies were so vivid that she decided to write them down.

She had long been fascinated by mysteries that had related titles, including those by John D. MacDonald, whose titles referenced colors, and Harry Kemelman, who used days of the week. While reading Edward Gorey's The Gashlycrumb Tinies, which is an alphabetical picture book of children who die by various means, she had the idea to write a series of novels based on the alphabet. She immediately sat down and made a list of all of the crime-related words that she knew. This exercise led to her best known works, a chronological series of mystery novels. Known as "the alphabet novels," the stories are set in and around the fictional town of Santa Teresa, Californiamarker, which is based on the author's primary city of residence, Santa Barbara, Californiamarker. (Grafton chose to use the name Santa Teresa as a tribute to the author Ross Macdonald, who had previously used this as an alternative name for Santa Barbara in his own novels.)

All novels of the series are written from the perspective of a female private investigator named Kinsey Millhone who lives in Santa Teresa, California. In apparent further tribute to Ross Macdonald, Millhone always refers to her private investigator license as a "photostat," as did Macdonald's character Archer. Grafton's first book of this series is "A" Is for Alibi, written and set in 1982. The series continues with "B" Is for Burglar, "C" Is for Corpse, and so on through the alphabet. After the publication of "G" Is for Gumshoe, Grafton was able to quit her screenwriting job and focus on her novels. The timeline of the series is slower than real-time - "Q" Is for Quarry, for example, is set in 1987, even though it was written in 2002. Her latest book, "T" Is for Trespass, was released in December 2007, and "U is for Undertow" is set to release on December 1, 2009. Grafton has publicly stated that the final novel in the series will be titled "Z" Is for Zero.

Grafton's novels have been published in 28 countries, in 26 languages including Bulgarian and Indonesian. She has refused to sell the film and television rights to her books, as her time writing screenplays had "cured" her of the desire to work with Hollywood. Grafton has even threatened to haunt her children if they sell the film rights after she is dead.

Lawrence Treat has written several short stories - most appearing in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine - with similar titles - "A as in Accident", "B as in Bullets", etc.


Grafton's "B" Is for Burglar and "C" Is for Corpse won the first two Anthony Awards, which are selected by the attendees of the annual Bouchercon World Mystery Convention, ever awarded. She has won the Anthony Award once more, and has been the recipient of three Shamus Awards.

On June 13, 2000, Sue Grafton was the recipient of the 2000 YWCA of Lexington Smith-Breckinridge Distinguished Woman of Achievement Award.

In 2004, Grafton received the Ross Macdonald Literary Award, given to "a California writer whose work raises the standard of literary excellence."

In 2008 Grafton was awarded the Cartier Dagger by the Britishmarker Crime Writers' Association, honoring a lifetime's achievement in the field.

In 2009 Grafton received the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America.


Grafton, who has been divorced twice, has been married for more than 20 years to Steven F. Humphrey. She has three children from previous marriages and several grandchildren, including a granddaughter named Kinsey and Kinsey's older sister, Erin. They live in Santa Barbara, Californiamarker and Louisville, Kentuckymarker, as Humphrey teaches at universities in both cities.


Early novels

Kinsey Millhone series

For more on Kinsey Millhone see Kinsey Millhone

Also published

  • Kinsey and Me (1992) - a collection of Kinsey Millhone short stories along with other short stories about Grafton's own mother.
  • The Lying Game (2003) - a Kinsey Millhone short story which appeared in the September 2003 special 40th anniversary Lands' End catalogue.

In popular culture

  • In the "Mayham" episode of The Sopranos, Carmela sits by Tony's bedside in the hospital, reading Sue Grafton's "G" Is for Gumshoe.
  • In the "Local Ad" episode of The Office, Phyllis went to the mall to a Sue Grafton book signing to try to get her to be in the Dunder Mifflin Scranton Branch commercial. She was told by Michael Scott to not take "no" for an answer. After waiting in line, Phyllis' turn comes, only to be rebuffed by Sue Grafton. Phyllis continues to ask until being thrown out of the store. Meanwhile, Andy and Creed talk about how "crazy hot" the author is.
  • A scene in the film Stranger Than Fiction shows Prof. Hilbert, reading a Sue Grafton novel ("I" Is for Innocent) while serving as a lifeguard.
  • In the Season 7 episode of Gilmore Girls titled "To Whom It May Concern", Sookie confesses that she sits at the ski lodge reading R Is for Richocet and S Is for Silence.
  • In Reaper, one of the things Ben looks for in his ideal woman is an interest in Sue Grafton novels.



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