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Kentucky native and celebrated mystery author Sue Grafton dies

Sue Grafton talked about her then-new book, "S is for Silence", in Azalea Restaurant, Louisville, Ky., Monday, November 28, 2005. Grafton died Dec. 28, 2017.
Sue Grafton talked about her then-new book, "S is for Silence", in Azalea Restaurant, Louisville, Ky., Monday, November 28, 2005. Grafton died Dec. 28, 2017. Herald-Leader

Mystery author Sue Grafton died Thursday in Santa Barbara, Calif. She was 77.

The Louisville native had been battling cancer. Her husband Steve Humphrey and daughter Jamie confirmed her death, as did a family friend, Steve Bass.

Grafton’s daughter took over her mother’s Facebook page to announce the writer’s death.

“Although we knew this was coming, it was unexpected and fast,” Clark wrote. “She had been fine up until just a few days ago, and then things moved quickly.”

Grafton attended Atherton High School and the University of Louisville. She became well known for her alphabet series of mysteries featuring detective Kinsey Millhone.

In 2006, on the occasion of the release of “S is for Silence,” she spoke to the Herald-Leader about the challenges of launching a career as a novelist.

“I started writing in 1962 seriously and didn’t publish A until ’82,” she said. “You teach yourself to write by writing badly for a very long period of time.”

She said advice from her father C.W. Grafton, a Louisville attorney who published three mystery novels, helped sustain her.

“What he taught me was how to survive as a writer, which is the most valuable lesson there is,” she said. “What he always said was, ‘Bend with the wind. When disappointment comes along, don’t stiffen, ... just bend with the wind and then come back up again.’”

Crime writer Lisa Scottoline, author of “Exposed,” Tweeted that Grafton “forged a path for women in crime fiction, and all of us followed and adored her.”

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said in a statement that the world “has lost a great talent and prolific author in Sue Grafton — and in Louisville we have lost a citizen, friend, neighbor, a master gardener and hometown hero.”

Radio and TV personality Terry Meiners tweeted that Grafton was “an American literary legend.”

Grafton recently appeared in Lexington with fellow writer John Grisham at an event at the Kentucky Theatre on Nov. 1.

Grafton’s first Kinsey Millhone novel, “A is for Alibi,” was published in 1982. Her most recent book in the series, “Y is for Yesterday,” was published earlier in 2017.

Jamie Clark’s note said that “out of the deep abiding love and respect for our dear sweet Sue, as far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y.”

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