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Sue Grafton: To me, mysteries are appealing because they have a strong story line — beginning, middle, and end — a hero, a villain, and with luck a satisfying resolution. Most of writing is in the preparation; research, plotting, character development, and the outlining of sequences. Most of the cases I write about are fiction. In the real world, murder seldom makes sense, and the motives for such crimes are absurd, given all the pain and suffering involved.

Ransom Notes: : In Q Is for Quarry , the publisher included a forensically reconstructed portrait of the real murder victim that story was based on, in the hope that the victim might finally be identified. Has there been any progress on that real-life investigation? Most of what she does is related to crime and criminals, but certainly her personal life and her personal development work hand-in-hand with her professional life.

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In many ways, R is about romance, which seems like the perfect counterpoint to murder and death. RN: Do you plan to continue to write about Kinsey after you finish the Alphabet series, or in books outside of that sequence?

SG: I did a great deal of writing before I launched myself into the current Alphabet series. I wrote and published two mainstream novels, plus articles and short stories.

Sue Grafton

I also worked in Hollywood for 15 years before Ms. Millhone came along. I discover as I go, which is anxiety-producing but keeps me on my toes. Certainly, I intend to go all the way to Z…at which point I may retire! RN: Do you like readers to contact you? I can be reached through my publisher, or through P. Box , Santa Barbara, CA Sue Grafton. Sign me up for news about Sue Grafton.

I wanted to be more in control of everything my characters did, so I decided to write detective fiction because that's what my father had done. It was an act of imitation, if not homage, which I acknowledged by dedicating A is for Alibi to him. I wanted to surprise him with the first finished copy, so he died without knowing. From that moment, I decided that if I ever had another good idea, I was going to do it right away. There were other, less pragmatic, connections Grafton might have made between the timing of her father's death and the publication of her first detective novel. One was that by his death she had been denied a final opportunity to gain his approval; of him for once putting her achievements before his own needs.

The other is the more macabre thought that her father's death liberated her in some way.

That it was only with his passing that she could finally shake off the wreckage of her childhood and free herself up creatively. If not, it is quite a coincidence that her own and Kinsey's careers took off quite so spectacularly.

I've come to realise that I'm not always that nice a person. But that's life. And it's why Kinsey is the way she is, too. In K is for Killer, she makes a phone call, knowing the call is going to get someone killed. And she doesn't feel bad about it because she thinks that person deserves to die.

Another consequence of being such a late developer is that Grafton has found she enjoys being a grandparent far more than she did a parent. When they asked me to read the same story night after night, it would drive me nuts. I'd think, haven't we all heard this enough times already? Let's have something else. I was too wrapped up in my world and what I wanted to do. I can give them the time to develop at their own pace.

Grafton goes on to say she has finally cracked the denouement of W is for … — what is W for? Is it Witness? I can also promise you I won't kill Kinsey off. And though Grafton seems certain to have worked through all her issues in her writing by then, Kinsey may still have one or two to deal with on her own. A few days before your 29th birthday, he writes you a letter, this father of yours, and in it, he tells you what he remembers of you. You won't remember, but what I suggested to you and Del was that instead of saying goodbye, I would come to attention, and so would you and Del — and then we would salute each other, as I had taught you to do.

Del burst into tears and ran upstairs to her room, but you came to a very exaggerated state of attention, with your chest out and belly in, and chin very straight — and we saluted — and then I went out to the taxi, scarcely able to see what I was doing. I looked back and waved, and you waved too; and then I looked up at Del's window, and she was standing there, with a handkerchief against her mouth, and she waved finally.

A memory that is very sweet, and very upsetting and almost unbearable all at the same time.


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And in those evenings I made up Silly Mongoose, and the story about the little white dog and the blind horse that the French family had to leave behind when they fled in front of the German armies in — and other rambling tales I can't remember any more. Sometimes I would start one without the foggiest notion of where it was going, or how it would end … and those seemed to be the ones you liked best.

One time I got so engrossed in my own story that I was crying with you! Doesn't seem possible but it's true. I had to find a happy ending for that one and in a hurry. Then I blew my nose and felt better. You were groggy with sedation and kept urping up frightening amounts of blood and with your eyes still closed, the first thing you said was, 'I want my daddy.

Twenty-five years are missing in his recollection of you, and in those 25 years you have lived out all the consequences of the first four or five. There was a time in your life when you didn't believe in psychology, when you didn't believe that intelligent, rational people were the product of anything more than their own intelligence and their own rationality.


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Now you believe in everything; past, present, and future. You believe in memories. You believe in the suffering of truth and all that it requires. You believe that you are exactly the life-sized projection of that child sitting on the front steps of that house, listening to stories that were rescued, always, at the brink of truth. You do remember the day your father went away. You remember your own confusion about your sister's sudden tears and her running to her room.

P is for Peril by Sue Grafton - Interview | BookPage | BookPage

That was not what your father had asked you to do. Your father had told you to salute and so you saluted proudly and you knew, even at the age of three, that you would do anything he asked, at whatever the cost. Now that you are nearly 30, you are writing letters to him and what you say to him is this: we did, yes, fail in our lives, the four of us; you and Vanessa, Del and me. We died of all the unwept tears and all the things we never understood. You talk to him about your mother's death, about her need to die, about the ways in which her death has set you free, and how her death has bound you, broken you, and mended you again.

You tell him, as a mother would, that you have loved him, whatever his failings, that you forgive him, that you have failures, too, which require forgiveness of him. You tell him that you have loved your life, that you are at peace with the person you have become and that he may have that peace too in your behalf.

And what you want for him is that he may weep too, for himself, for the ruin of all those years.