Sue Grafton, the New York Times best-selling author behind the Alphabet Series, died Thursday night after a two-year battle with cancer. She was 77.
Grafton’s daughter, Jamie, announced the news on the writer’s official Facebook page.
“She was surrounded by family, including her devoted and adoring husband Steve,” Jamie wrote in a message addressed to Grafton’s readers. “Although we knew this was coming, it was unexpected and fast. She had been fine up until just a few days ago, and then things moved quickly. Sue always said that she would continue writing as long as she had the juice.”
The Alphabet Series, about private investigator Kinsey Millhone in the fictional town of Santa Teresa, California, kicked off in 1982 with A is for Alibi.
“I was reading an Edward Gorey cartoon book, and it went ‘A is for Amy, who fell down the stairs, B is for Basil, assaulted by bears, C is for Clara’ … and I thought, God bless America, what a great way to link titles!” Grafton told The New York Post. “So I wrote as many crime-related titles [alphabetically] as I could think of to see if there were enough for 26 books. Again, not having finished the first. I was completely free to do anything I wanted and had nothing at stake. When that sold, I thought, ‘Uh-oh. Now I’m in trouble!’”
Set in the 1980s, the series included subsequent titles like B is for Burglar, H is for Homicide, M is for Malice, and T is for Trespass. Natalie Hevener Kaufman and Carol McGinnis Kay also penned a companion book called G Is for Grafton: The World of Kinsey Millhone.
Grafton’s last entry, Y is for Yesterday, was released this year with Z is for Zero meant as the final installment for release in 2019.
Her husband, Steve Humphrey, told the Associated Press “nothing’s been written” for the Z book. As he explained, Grafton struggled for an idea while undergoing treatment for a rare cancer of the appendix. “There is no Z,” he said.
“Many of you are asking (some quite plaintively) what I intend to do when I get to ‘the end’ of the alphabet,” Grafton wrote in a letter published on her website. “I’ve been consistent in my response which is ‘no clue.’ I want to see what kind of shape I’m in mentally and physically. I don’t want to keep on writing if the juice is gone. These novels about Ms. Millhone take incredible focus, ingenuity, energy, and imagination. If I have the wherewithal, I may write a Kinsey Millhone standalone or two. If I feel I’ve lost my touch, I’ll retire with grace.”
As far as Grafton’s family is concerned, “the alphabet now ends at Y.”
“Many of you also know that she was adamant that her books would never be turned into movies or TV shows, and in that same vein, she would never allow a ghost writer to write in her name,” Jamie wrote. “Because of all of those things, and out of the deep abiding love and respect for our dear sweet Sue, as far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y.”