Today, I heard that Sue Grafton died.
I enjoyed her "Alphabet Series" so much! Her writing was crisp and smart. I admired her savvy in handling this franchise (refusing to allow made-for-tv movies, keeping it set in the 1970s). I loved
her characters, especially Kinsey and Henry. Her last book, Y Is for Yesterday, is currently on the best seller list and was one of the books I just picked up this past week.
Sue Grafton mattered to me. So, in tribute, I'm reposting a Thursday Thirteen from 2008
THIRTEEN THINGS ABOUT KINSEY MILHONE
Milhone is Sue Grafton’s creation, the heroine of the popular “Alphabet
Mysteries.” So I realize Kinsey is fictional, even though she seems
like a buddy. After all, we’ve gone from A Is for Alibi
through T Is for Trespass
Earlier this year, I did a TT on Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta
the bigger-than-life, this-close-to-perfect doctor/lawyer/gourmand.
While Kay is the kind of woman I hopelessly aspire to be, Kinsey is far,
far more accessible. There’s nothing intimidating about my buddy
Kinsey. Down-to-earth, no-nonsense, fabulously flawed and very funny,
she’s as comfortable as a pair of old running shoes (her favorite
1. When she was 5 years old, she and her parents were
in a car accident. Kinsey was the only survivor. While she grew up to be
a successful and self-sufficient woman, Kinsey has intimacy and
abandonment issues, and it’s not hard to see why.
2. She was
raised by her Aunt Gin. A contented and single woman living in Santa
Theresa, California, Aunt Gin did the best she could. But she never
planned on having a family, and didn’t quite know what to do with a
traumatized little girl. So while these two lived in the same house, we
really don’t imagine them together
Her career at Santa Theresa High seems to have been devoted to smoking
pot, cussing, and doing only what was necessary to not flunk. After
graduation, Kinsey joined her aunt at California Fidelity Insurance,
working as a receptionist and hating it, until she was old enough to try
her hand at police work.
4. It was joining the Santa Theresa
Police Department that straightened our girl out. While she had big
problems with the regimentation that went with being a cop – she left
the force after just two years – she discovered she had a passion for
investigating and protecting the good guys from the bad ones.
Kinsey endured two short, unsuccessful marriages. The first, to Mickey,
occurred after she left the force, when her Aunt Gin died and she was
emotionally adrift. Her second husband was a musician named Daniel.
Since they each turn up in books, and so as not to be a spoiler, I shall
say no more. Of her husbands, Kinsey has said, “I dumped the first and
the second dumped me.”
6. She’s had a few lovers throughout the
alphabet – Charlie, Jonah, Dietz (my favorite) and Cheyney. None of
these relationships have lasted because we all know her great love is
7. Henry Pitts, her landlord and best friend. He’s in
his 80s, but that doesn’t stop her from completely adoring him. She
mentions his blue eyes often. He bakes for her, shares Happy Hour with
her (he has Jack Daniels on ice, she has her wine), celebrates Christmas
and birthdays with her.
8. Rosie runs Rosie’s Tavern, Kinsey’s
favorite restaurant. Rosie has brightly dyed hair and wears print
muumuus and annoys Kinsey no end. She is also a fabulous cook, and her
tavern is Kinsey’s refuge after even the most dangerous “day at the
office.” Rosie, Henry, and Henry's various siblings make up Kinsey's
9. Kinsey has some unconventional talents,
which come in very handy in her chosen profession: lying, picking locks
and snooping. She enjoys all three equally (which is to say she enjoys
them all a great deal).
10. She’s not a fitness nut, but she
understands that being in shape is as important to her job as a good set
of picklocks. So she jogs 3 miles every day. Sometimes she enjoys it,
11. She owns a single, all-purpose black dress,
doesn’t wear makeup and has been known to hack at her curly hair with
12. She drinks lots of coffee and loves
McDonald’s. Especially Q-Ps with cheese and Egg McMuffins. She has
referred to fats and carbs as “nature’s antidepressants.”
Unlike other fictional crimefighters (like Scarpetta or Robert Parker's
Spenser), Kinsey often has to resort to markedly unglamorous tasks to
pay the rent. She’s served subpoenas, investigated car insurance claims
and taken jobs with clients she hasn’t really cared for. Seeing her in
workaday situations makes her seem more real to me.
I know that
since she's already on "T," Sue Grafton will reach the end of the
alphabet, and this series, soon. Too soon for my taste. I'll miss
Kinsey: she who writes clues down on index cards and arranges and
rearranges them, trying to solve the crime; she who cleans compulsively
and never leaves home without a paperback in her purse; she who has a
strict personal code and lives by it. I've enjoyed every moment I've
spent with her.