Sue Grafton

Sue Grafton

Author Sue Grafton is the creator of the popular mystery novels featuring private investigator Kinsey Millhone, which began with 1982's A Is for Alibi.


Born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1940, author Sue Grafton started writing as a teenager. She graduated from University of Louisville in 1961. Six years later, Grafton published her first novel, Keziah Dane. Her next book, The Lolly Madonna War (1969), was turned into a feature film. After working as a television writer for several years, Grafton debuted her first Kinsey Millhone novel, A Is for Alibi, in 1982. Her most recent title in this best-selling series is V Is for Vengeance (2011).

Childhood and Education

Born on April 24, 1940, in Louisville, Kentucky, novelist Sue Grafton is considered one of the leading mystery writers working today. Her father, a lawyer, had penned several mystery novels himself. Her mother was a teacher. But neither of them was much of a role model for Grafton. They both suffered from alcoholism, and she was often left to fend for herself. "One of my theories is that no one with a happy childhood ever amounts to much in this world," Grafton told The New York Times.

In her late teens, Grafton discovered her passion for writing. "I started writing seriously when I was 18, wrote my first novel when I was 22, and I've never stopped writing since," she explained on her website. Grafton attended University of Louisville for her first year and last year of college—she spent her sophomore and junior years at Western Kentucky State Teachers College. At the University of Louisville, she earned her bachelor's degree in English in 1961. She worked a number of jobs after college to support herself and her writing. In her personal life, Grafton married twice and had three children.

Early Career

In 1967, Grafton published her first novel Keziah Dane. She followed up this effort with 1969's The Lolly Madonna War, which was made into a feature film in 1973. Grafton helped write the screenplay for the movie, which was called Lolly-Madonna XXX and starred Rod Steiger and Jeff Bridges.

After the film's release, Grafton found more work in Hollywood. She wrote for such shows as Rhoda starring Valerie Harper and Nurse starring Michael Learned in the 1970s and 1980s. Grafton also penned the script for a number of television movies, including Sex and the Single Parent (1979). With her third husband, Steve Humphrey, she also adapted some Agatha Christie novels for television around this time.

World Famous Mystery Novelist

In 1982, Grafton introduced readers to Kinsey Millhone, a hardnosed private investigator, in A Is for Alibi. She told USA Today that Millhone is based, in part, on herself. "She is the person I might have been had I not married young and had children. She is my unlived life." The Kinsey Millhone series is set in the 1980s—a time when a private eye had to rely more on legwork than technology to close a case.

Grafton's Kinsey Millhone is often compared with Sara Paretsky's V.I. Warshawski, which debuted around the same time. Both writers helped popularize the tough female private eye character in mystery novels. After A Is for Alibi, Grafton has continued having her investigator work her way through the alphabet with such titles as C Is for Corpse (1986) , H Is for Homicide (1991) and P Is for Peril (2001). Her most recent title in the series is 2013's W Is for Wasted. Translated into 26 languages and sold in 28 countries, Grafton's books have become best-sellers around the world.

In 2013, Grafton reflected on her own life as well as offering up some Kinsey Millhone stories in Kinsey and Me.

Fact Check

We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!