Follow @sotherans
Follow Me on Pinterest

Friday, 5 January 2018

"The alphabet now ends at Y". Sue Grafton 1940-2017.

We were greatly saddened to hear of the death of Sue Grafton, who lost her battle with cancer on 28th December 2017. Sotheran's has stocked many of her books over the years and they have always found a loyal readership. Grafton had a fine reputation as a writer of crime novels, her most famous work being the "alphabet series" of books featuring the detective Kinsey Millhone. Starting with "A" Is for Alibi in 1982, the novels followed Millhone, described by Grafton as her alter ego, through 25 adventures in the small fictional town of Santa Teresa, California, culminating in "Y" Is for Yesterday, which was published only last year.

Herein lies the tragedy of a creative life - it can't be guaranteed that you will live long enough to complete your magnum opus. As Schubert, Bruckner and Elgar could all tell you, the physical realities of old age or illness are no respecters of artistic inspiration. A project that Sue Grafton began 36 years ago will never see its conclusion, even though she had begun to plan "Z" Is for Zero and had presumably planned the culmination of her life's work. According to Grafton's daughter, no ghostwriter will ever be allowed to write in her name and  "as far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y".

This is very different from the approach of, for example, the estate of Ian Fleming, which continues to keep James Bond alive through distinguished writers such as Sebastian Faulks and William Boyd (although these are more than ghostwriters, producing new Bonds under their own names). There must be a huge temptation for artists' families to see an unfinished work through to its completion, just for the sheer satisfaction as well as for financial reasons. Grafton's readers will surely be saddened that they will never see Kinsey Millhone bow out as her creator intended. Nevertheless, there is something quite noble about the Grafton family wanting to keep her creation her own. She was a single-minded writer who refused to sell her books to Hollywood as she couldn't bear to see Millhone in someone else's hands; it seems a fitting memorial that her work is left untouched.