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Sue Grafton

"My name is Kinsey Millhone.  I'm a private investigator, licensed by the state of California.  I'm thirty-two years old, twice divorced, no kids.  The day before yesterday I killed someone and the fact weighs heavily on my mind."

With just such simplicity of style and straightforward prose, Sue Grafton has won a place in popular American literature.  Best known for her series of novels featuring female private investigator Kinsey Millhone, she has written mysteries, non-mysteries, and miscellaneous fiction.

Born on April 24, 1940, in Louisville, Kentucky, Grafton grew up with two alcoholic parents.  She once said, "When you grow up in a dysfunctional household, you quickly tune in to what's going on under the surface.  From age five or six, I was scanning, figuring out all the stuff not being discussed."

She started writing novels while she was working in a series of secretarial jobs and raising her children.  Her first published books were non-mysteries that received poor reviews.  She began writing made-for-TV series screenplays, but she soon came to hate how executives and marketing committees rewrote her scripts.  "I finally reached a point where I felt that if I wanted to redeem whatever minimal writing skills I had left, I'd better get back to solo work."

The idea for her first mystery novel came to her when she was embroiled in a custody battle with her second husband.  She began fantasizing about murdering him, but she said, "I knew I couldn't pull it off.  So I decided to just put this in a book and get paid for it."  She took five years to write the novel, spending much of that time researching things such as insurance fraud, toxicology, lock-picking, and how to handle a gun.  She finally published the book in 1982 as "A" Is for Alibi, and it was a huge success.

"I like to read biographies of writers who really trashed their lives.  People like Edna St. Vincent Millay.  It makes me feel so much better." - Sue Grafton

Grafton's Kinsey Millhone has proven so popular that she even has her own Web site, as well as a book called "G" Is for Grafton, a look at the author who created her.  Grafton has since gone on to publish many more novels in her popular series, each book beginning with the next letter of the alphabet—"C" Is for Corpse (1986), "D" Is for Deadbeat (1987), "E" Is for Evidence (1988), and so on.  She plans to keep writing the novels until she gets to the letter Z and says she'll name that book, "Z" is for Zero.

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