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Overview for Clive Graham
Clive Graham

Clive Graham


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Best-selling mystery writer Sue Grafton enjoyed more than three decades of popularity with a series of detective novels featuring her hard-boiled female detective, Kinsey Millhone. Born Sue Taylor Grafton on April 24, 1940 in Louisville, Kentucky, she was the daughter of bond attorney and occasional mystery novelist C.W. Grafton and his wife, Vivian Harnsberger. Both were avid readers, and encouraged Grafton and her older sister, Ann, to take an omnivorous approach to literature, while Grafton's father schooled her on writing and editing; both parents were also alcoholics, and left the siblings to fend for themselves from a very early age. Grafton attended Atherton High School in Louisville before enrolling at the University of Louisville for her freshman year and then at Western Kentucky University (then known as the Kentucky State Teachers College) for the next two years before returning to graduate from the University of Louisville in 1961. While supporting herself through a variety of jobs, including hospital admissions, Grafton wrote in her off-hours, a practice she had honed since her late teens. She completed her first novel at the age of 21 and penned six more, of which two, Keziah Dane (1967) and The Lolly-Madonna War (1969) - both concerning dark deeds among rural Southern families - were published. Grafton also wrote the screenplay for a 1973 film adaptation, "Lolly Madonna XXX" (1973), and for the next decade, worked almost exclusively on scripts for film and television. Among these efforts was "Nurse" (CBS, 1980), a TV-movie with Michael Learned as a widow who resumes her career in the medical field, which later became a series for CBS from 1981-1982, and two adaptations of Agatha Christie novels, including "Sparkling Cyanide" (CBS, 1983), which she wrote with her third husband, Steve Humphrey. But Grafton grew tired of working in Hollywood, and decided to turn her attention back to fiction. Reportedly inspired by her anger over a bitter divorce from her second husband, Al Schmidt - whom she fantasized dispatching in a variety of macabre ways - she gravitated towards mysteries, and borrowed from the hardboiled tradition of Dashiell Hammett to create her protagonist, a flinty, California-based private eye named Kinsey Millhone, though her investigations often explored the emotional impact of the crime in addition to the hunt for clues. The first of Millhone's investigations, "A" is for Alibi, was published in 1982, and the next 24 books followed a similar alphabetical path, from 1985's "B" is for Burglar until her final effort, "Y" is for Yesterday in 2017. The success of the Millhone novels, which included 11 titles at the top of the New York Times' best seller list and translations in 26 languages, allowed Grafton to leave screenwriting and focus solely on her fiction. Between 1986 and 1991, she won three Anthony Awards for Best Novel from the Mystery Writers of America, and she would go on to collect the organization's Grand Master Award in 2009, as well as the Cartier Grand Dagger from the British Crime Writers' Association the year before. Between these laurels and her Millhone novels, Grafton also published a collection of short stories, some involving her own mother, in 2013, as well as an essay on knitting for a 2013 anthology. After completing "Y" is for Yesterday, Grafton said that she would complete the Millhone series with the final novel, ostensibly titled "Z" is for Zero, but she died in Santa Barbara, California after a two-year battle with cancer on December 28, 2017. Her daughter, Jamie Clark, told the press that no ghostwriter would pen this final effort, and as far as the family was concerned, the "alphabet now ends at Y."

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