If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.


Look for our new bloggers this month. Debra Sennefelder will blog on 1/15, and Debra Goldstein debuts on 1/22. Please welcome our double Debs to WWK.


Don't miss our January author interviews: 1/10-Lawrence H. Levy, 1/17-Kaye George, 1/24-Janet Bolin, 1/31-Kathy Aarons. And E. B. Davis will interview Shari Randall on Monday 1/29 about the publication of her first novel, Curses, Boiled Again. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.


Our January Saturday Guest Blogger Schedule: 1/6-Becky Clark, Pat Hale, Leslie Karst, Edith Maxwell, Shawn McGuire, C. Perkins, and Sue Star, and 1/13-Polly Iyer. WWK's Margaret H. Hamilton will blog on 1/20, and Kait Carson on 1/27.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.


In addition, our prolific KM has had the following shorts published as well: "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017 and "Turkey Underfoot," appears in the anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: a Fifth Course of Chaos.

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Friday, January 5, 2018

The Alphabet Ends with Y: An Appreciation of Sue Grafton’s Books by Warren Bull




Image from NewYorkTimes.com

It will be hard for new readers to understand how important Sue Grafton was to mystery fiction. From their point of view, her work will be remarkable for her skill and her evident evolution as a writer from book A to book Y. Interested readers will be able to read her honest blogs about writing a mystery as she writes one. What they will not be able to fully grasp is her contribution to writing and reading mysteries. She, along with Marsha Miller, Sara Paretsky, Maxine O’Callaghan and others, infused private eye mysteries from the hard-edged style of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald with new life by writing about female private detectives who were competent, commanding and feminine— not men in drag.

Kinsey and her clan felt no need to apologize for their gender. They were clear-eyed realistic, and they knew how to cope with a world dominated by men, just as their authors coped with the male domination of mystery writing. The detectives worked well, sometimes at a sacrifice to their personal lives. They cared about their clients family and friends without sentimentalizing them. In one way or another people generally got what they deserved.

Part of Kinsey’s attraction for me as a reader and a writer was her slowly developing relationship with those around her, especially with her elderly but spirited landlord and neighbor, Henry. That was sufficient reason to read her books and there were many other reasons. I admit a fondness also for her yellow Volkswagen. I am one of those people. I name the cars I own.

Of course I enjoyed reading from letter to letter and seeing how her writing expands and acquires depth and nuance over the course of her work.  I admire the authenticity of Grafton’s writing. If there is a form to be filled out, it is the exact form needed in the time and place of Kinsey’s world. I also respect Grafton’s complete refusal to use cardboard cutouts in place of actual characters. If Kinsey calls a stranger, that stranger will have a distinct personality by the end of the call. 

It is such fun to watch Kinsey lie and charm her way to find out what she needs to know. Her quick thinking and ability to “read” people is like improvisational theater.

Grafton chose to have time pass slowly in the world she created. A to Y took six years, while thirty five years have passed in this world. Agatha Christie lamented the age she selected for her  characters when she began writing because time had to pass in each novel and by the end of her writing they would have been ancient.

I truly love the surprises and humor that ambush the reader. For example, in T is for Trespass Kinsey finds a professional caretaker who has worked with the caretaker she is investigating. The caretaker’s description of her coworker is delightful.  

Her most autobiographical book, Kinsey and Me is, a gem. First she lays out am unparalleled description of the process of writing mystery short stories. Then she demonstrates how well short stories can be written. She follows that with a group of the most revealing short stories she has ever written.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Sue Grafton, but like readers everywhere, I will miss her.


11 comments:

E. B. Davis said...

Oh, Warren. I wish I'd been able to meet her. You are one of the lucky few. I will miss her stories just as I miss Robert Parker's. They both added a delightful element to my reading (and that means my life, too).

We also name our cars. I have to admit, we also had a birthday party for our 1986 GMC Jimmy when he turned 30. I often refer to Jimmy as my son's older brother since Jimmy is one year older than he is. Yes--totally weird, but that's the way it is.

I sure wish Sue had lived longer. Her books are treasures. I will get Kinsey and Me this morning.

Jim Jackson said...

I had the pleasure of hearing Sue Grafton speak at a Left Coast Crime at which she was honored. She was a straight-talker, funny, and not someone to put up with bullshit. I liked her a lot.

~ Jim

Anonymous said...

Thank you sooooo much for this delicate and loving but not sappy blog. It was a breath of fresh air... after the sobbing. How wonderfully ironic that she will not end with the "Z"

Kait said...

What a wonderful blog. I never had the pleasure of meeting Sue Grafton, but her books were an inspiration. Like EB, I'm off to buy Kinsey and Me.

Carla Damron said...

Thank you for this tribute. Grafton inspired me when I was Tthinking about trying to write a novel. What a legacy she left us.

Margaret Turkevich said...

Kinsey is so real to me...where she lives, her office, her car, the neighborhood bar and restaurant where she eats dinner. Her friendship with her landlord and his relatives. I'm familiar with Santa Barbara and could envision the streets, beach, and hills in the area.

A good tribute, Warren.

Peggy Rothschild said...

I did have the good fortune to meet Sue Grafton once. I think I may have frightened her a tad with my over-the-top enthusiasm for her writing. I've looked forward to each letter as it came out and was re-reading Y when I heard the news of her passing.

Such a lovely tribute -- thank you for sharing it.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Warren,

I never met Sue Grafton but my husband and I enjoyed reading her novels. You wrote a lovely blog tribute.

KM Rockwood said...

She will be missed.

Susan Oleksiw said...

I'm heading to the library for a copy of KINSEY AND ME. It sounds terrific. Thanks for the thoughtful and wide-ranging appreciation of Sue Grafton and her work.

Maggie King said...

She was a gem. The ending for Y was fitting.