Sue Grafton Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

When Sue Grafton created Kinsey Millhone, a wisecracking, tough private investigator in 1982, she successfully recast the hard-boiled detective character type made famous by Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald as a woman. Kinsey’s self-reliance, humor, and dedication to her job make her admirable, and her weakness for fast food, difficulty maintaining a relationship with a man, and missteps as she investigates cases make her a sympathetic and believable character. Grafton’s success as a writer is due largely to the popularity of the Kinsey character, with whom women identify.

Grafton’s novels have been translated into twenty-six languages, and more than ten million copies of her books are in print. Her mystery and detective fiction has earned many awards, beginning with the Mysterious Stranger Award from the Cloak and Clue Society for “A” Is for Alibi (1982).“B” Is for Burglar (1985) received Shamus and Anthony awards; “C” Is for Corpse (1986) won an Anthony; “G” Is for Gumshoe (1990) earned Shamus and Anthony awards, and “K” Is for Killer (1994) won an Anthony. Grafton received the Maltese Falcon award for “F” Is for Fugitive (1989), the American Mystery Award for “H” Is for Homicide (1991) and “A Poem That Leaves No Time,” and the Ridley Award for “O” Is for Outlaw (2001). Six of her Kinsey Millhone series novels won Doubleday Mystery Guild Awards. Her short story “The Parker Shotgun” received the Macavity and Anthony awards. She has served as president of the Mystery Writers of America (1994-1995) and of the Private Eye Writers of America (1989-1990) and been a member of the Writers Guild of America, West, and the Crime Writers’ Association.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

DuBose, Martha Hailey, with Margaret Caldwell Thomas. Women of Mystery: The Lives and Works of Notable Women Crime Novelists. New York: St. Martin’s Minotaur, 2000. Contains an essay on Sue Grafton that looks at her life and how it influenced her writing. It describes the exhaustive research that Grafton puts into her work and notes her primary influences, Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald, and her favorite contemporary writer, Elmore Leonard.

Grafton, Sue. Sue Grafton: Author of the Kinsey Millhone Mysteries. The author’s official Web site contains a biography, information on the series novels, links to interviews and reviews, photographs, and copies of some of the journals Grafton keeps as she develops a book.

Grafton, Sue. “Sue Grafton: Death and the Maiden.” Interview by Jonathan Bing. Publishers Weekly 245, no. 16 (April 20, 1998): 40-41. Grafton discusses her childhood, her motivation to write the Kinsey Millhone series, and how she came to choose the alphabetized titles.

Grafton, Sue, ed. Writing Mysteries: A Handbook. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer’s Digest Books, 1992. A collection of essays on how to write a mystery, from start to finish, with an introduction by Grafton that provides insights into her own writing.

Herbert, Rosemary. The Fatal Art of Entertainment: Interviews with Mystery Writers. New York: G. K. Hall, 1996. In her interview, Grafton states that what interests her is the “psychology of homicide.” However, she prefers to examine the killer from the outside, rather than writing from the murderer’s point of view.

Kaufman, Natalie Hevener, and Carol McGinnis Kay. “G” Is for Grafton: The World of Kinsey Millhone. Rev. ed. New York: Owl Books, 2000. This book about the character Kinsey Millhone contains chapters on her biography, her personality, her relationships, her work history, the settings in which she finds herself, and her moral code as well as chapters on Grafton’s writing style and her place in the genre.

Nicholls, Jane, and Bonnie Bell. “Banishing Old Ghosts.” People Weekly 44, no. 18 (October 30, 1995): 115-116. Profile of Grafton looks at her childhood in Kentucky and her relationship with her parents and her attitude toward her home state.

Waxman, Sharon. “Mystery Writer in the Mirror: ’A’ Is for Alter Ego—Like Her Heroine, Sue Grafton Values Her Freedom.” Washington Post, November 1, 2001, p. C01. This feature article provides an examination of Grafton’s personal history and of how she came to write the Kinsey Millhone series.