Inducted 2019
Born: April 24, 1940 – Louisville, Kentucky
Died: December 28, 2017 – Santa Barbara, California

Upon Sue Grafton’s death in 2017, the online site Literary Hub commented on the legacy of her 40-year career writing mysteries: “. . . the familiar sight of one of Grafton’s alphabet novels has served as a reliable sign whether a hardcover on the shelf or a well-traveled paperback poking out of an overnight bag that somewhere nearby was a reader. And not just any reader, nor the kind who puts out books for show or piles them on the nightstand with good intentions, but an honest to God, dyed in the wool reader, someone who wears pages ragged then reaches for more, a middle-of-the-night joneser with a vast appetite for the art of character, words come to life, and, most of all, suspense.”

Grafton was born in Louisville, the daughter of C.W. Grafton, a mysterywriting lawyer who stayed late at work to turn out his three novels, and Vivian Harnsberger, a high school chemistry teacher. She grew up in the same neighborhood as “gonzo journalist” Hunter S. Thompson and was a few years behind him at Atherton High School. She attended the University of Louisville (B.A. 1961) and completed some graduate work in literary analysis at the University of Cincinnati.

She wrote two mainstream novels in the 1960s: Keziah Dane and The Lolly-Madonna War. She adapted the latter into the 1973 MGM movie Lolly-Madonna XXX, directed by Richard C. Sarafian. She did three other screen and tele-plays in the 1970s, including Rhoda in 1975, before writing the first of her 25 “alphabet” mystery novels, A Is for Alibi, in 1982.

Grafton said that 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 an alphabetically titled series of novels. She immediately sat down and made a list of all of the crime-related words she knew.  The central character, private investigator Kinsey Millhone, appears in each novel. The books have been translated into Dutch, Russian, Polish, Spanish, and French. Grafton’s detective is a traditional heroine: a loner, with a code, who works for just causes.  

Selected bibliography

Keziah Dane, New York: The MacMillan Company, 1967.

The Lolly-Madonna War (1969).  (Filmed as Lolly-Madonna XXX, 1973)

A is for Alibi (1982)

B is for Burglar (1985)

C is for Corpse (1986)

D is for Deadbeat (1987)

E is for Evidence (1988)

F is for Fugitive (1989)

G is for Gumshoe (1990)

H is for Homicide (1991)

I is for Innocent (1992)

J is for Judgment (1993)

K is for Killer (1994)

L is for Lawless (1995)

M is for Malice (1996)

N is for Noose (1998)

O is for Outlaw (1999)

P is for Peril (2001)

Q is for Quarry (2002)

R is for Ricochet (2004)

S is for Silence (2005)

T is for Trespass (2007)

U is for Undertow (2009)

V is for Vengeance (2011)

W is for Wasted (2013)

Kinsey and Me, a collection of Kinsey Millhone short stories along with other short stories about Grafton’s mother. (2013)

X (2015)

Y is for Yesterday (2017)

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