I read my first Sue Grafton book over twenty years ago. We had just moved to a small town and of course one of the first places I visited was the local library. It was housed on the main floor of an old house on Main Street at that time. The collection was small, but the enthusiasm of the librarian evident. I asked her if she could suggest a good read, nothing too heavy as I had a newborn and long reading periods were non-existent and oh, I did like mysteries.....Well, you guessed it - she put A is for Alibi (originally published in 1982) in my hand - and a fan was born. I've read every one since and am looking forward to W is for ?, due out later this year.
This 'alphabet' series features private eye Kinsey Millhone who lives and works in Santa Teresa, California. The books are set in the 1980's, so our sleuth uses 'old fashioned' methods to solve her cases. I can open the latest book and feel like I'm catching up with a familiar friend. Kinsey is wry and witty. She's a darn good sleuth and a really nice person. Grafton always comes up with a plausible plot that keeps me interested from first page to last.
Kinsey and Me was originally released in 1992 with a limited run of 326 copies. This newest version is just released.
The book is divided into two parts - the first half is a collection of Kinsey stories and the smaller second half is a set of stories featuring Kit Blue.
What made reading these special was the foreword where Grafton explains writer's craft - specifically that of a detective short story. It was really interesting to see the method behind the result.
"For me, the mystery short story is appealing for two reasons. One, I can utilize ideas that are clever, but too quirky or slight to support the extended trajectory of the novel. And two, I complete a manuscript in two weeks as opposed to the longer gestation and delivery time required of a novel. The short story allows me to shift gears. Like an invitation to go outside and play, the shorter form offers a refreshing change of pace."
Some of the Kinsey stories I had come across before in various anthologies. But I enjoyed each one thoroughly. They were like a little Kinsey microcosm, offering the reader a glance and a taste of this iconic character.
But, it was the introductions that really made this book personal. Grafton offers up Kinsey as her alter ego - "The person I might have been had I not married young and had children." We become privy to the similarities between the fictional Kinsey's life and Sue Grafton's.
The Kit Blue stories were new to me and I think they affected me the most. "If Kinsey Millhone is my alter ego, Kit Blue is simply a younger version of me." Sue Grafton's parents were both alcoholics. The Kit stories were written ten years after the death of Grafton's mother. "...my way of coming to terms with my grief for her." They are raw, powerful and real, filled with overwhelming emotion and honesty. These are the stories that stayed with the longest.
I really enjoyed Kinsey and Me - an opportunity to visit with a familiar character, but also a chance to learn more about a favourite author.
"It amuses me that I invented someone who has gone on to support me. It amuses her, I'm sure, that she will live in the world long after I am gone. I trust that you will enjoy her companionship as I have." Indeed we do, Sue, indeed we do.
Read an excerpt of Kinsey and Me. You can find Sue Grafton on Facebook.