Well, my two weeks between blog posts has turned into a month…go figure! I was so certain I could stick to a regular blogging schedule, but as we all know, life gets in the way.
Over a year ago, maybe almost two (seeing as how the time goes), I decided to listen to the complete Kinsey Millhone series by Sue Grafton, starting with “A” is for Alibi. I’ve read all of them before, more than once, and listened to them too, also more than once, but I wanted to listen to the entire series in order. It does make a difference. Not only for the character’s development, but also to observe the growth and mastery of a gifted writer. It didn’t disappoint.
Kinsey is a great character. She’s flawed and perfect at the same time. She’s fiercely independent. She’s brave and loyal. She manages to survive betrayals and deceptions, assaults and gunshot wounds. She’s falls in and out of love, but has a constant, unwavering devotion to her 80-something landlord, Henry Pitts. She’s a fashion and food mess, always sticking to her favorites, no matter how much guff she gets. Jeans, turtleneck and boots are her uniform; with peanut butter and pickle sandwiches and a glass of Chardonnay, along with frequent visits to McDonald’s, her definition of Michelin 5-star delights. As for family; well, about half-way through the series, she discovers long-lost relatives, and it’s unclear if she’s better for that or not. And she solves everything that comes her way, along with many cases that just, somehow, land in her lap.
I first read “A” is for Alibi around 1992, about 10 years after it was first published. I could not put it down; I found it at the library, and sat, transfixed, as I read it. I devoured each subsequent book in the series as they were released, and then picked them up again when I decided to try my hand at creating a female sleuth and writing a series. I studied them, or tried to, inexpertly dissecting character and storylines and themes.
The first half or so of the series, books “A” through “N”, were narrated by Mary Pfeiffer, with the remaining ones narrated by Judy Kaye. I found both narrators solid, but Judy Kaye injected such personality into Kinsey and her voice that I often felt that I was a fly on the wall as a conversation or event was underway.
Sadly, Sue Grafton died in 2017. She completed the series through “Y”, with “Y” is for Yesterday, and was under contract for “Z” is for Zero when she died. Apparently, she had not yet started it at the time of her death. Even through Sue Grafton wrote twenty-five books with the same character living in the same town, each book was fresh and new, revealing aspects of Kinsey’s character, along with startling new themes, that hadn’t surfaced before. Genius, that’s all I can say — Sue Grafton’s writing was pure genius.
Check this out, 25 books, can you imagine?!
When Ms. Grafton was alive, she swore that she’d come back from the dead to prevent her heirs from selling her series to TV. But, times have changed. Her family sold the rights to A+E in 2021, saying that writing for television now is far more sophisticated than when Ms. Grafton was writing for TV in the 80s (Sue Grafton’s alphabet novels headed to television). I, for one, can’t wait and look forward to finding out who will bring Kinsey to life.
Until next time,