S is for Sue

I admit I’m late in paying tribute to an amazing writer.  Late in joining the ranks of all those friends and fans who were heartbroken at the news of Sue Grafton’s death at the end of 2017.  I think it’s just taken me this long to accept she’s no longer with us and that, as her daughter Jamie Clark has written, the alphabet now ends at Y.

I was late in discovering Kinsey Millhone as well.  One night, hungry for a good mystery book, I was browsing through a Crown Books.  Yes, that’s how long ago it was.  Remember those stores?  Something caught my eye and I picked up K is for Killer.  That was the beginning and needless to say, you know I went back and started at A is for Alibi and didn’t miss another story from then on.  As I cracked open each book, I took a deep breath and got ready to embark on an adventure with an old friend – with Kinsey.

The California Crime Writers Conference, sponsored by Sisters in Crime and SoCal Mystery Writers of America takes place every other summer.  In 2015, Sue was our guest of honor and I was involved by virtue of organizing the craft track program at the conference.  A dinner was planned to welcome Sue on the Friday night before the start of the conference.

As one of the organizers I was invited to the event.  I was terribly curious to meet the woman who had offered so much entertainment through her books.  But I hesitated.  Part of me wanted to go and part of me held back in trepidation.  I still remember my ambivalence, my hesitation.  I was worried.  What, I thought, if she’s not at all the person I imagine her to be.  What if, heaven forbid, she’s not very likeable?  My image would be shattered.  Would the alphabet series be spoiled for me?  So, for that reason and a few others due to time constraints, I begged off the dinner and to this day I’m still kicking myself.

Fortunately, at the conference, I did get to meet Sue and chat with her.  I found her alone at a signing table.  No crowds, no fans.  A rare moment.  She signed her book Kinsey and Me, a revealing autobiographical account of her life and as a gushing fan girl, I told her how much I had enjoyed every single one of her books and how much she had inspired my writing.

And guess what?  She was delightful!  She still had a Kentucky accent even after many years in California.  She was utterly charming, warm and friendly, and put me at ease immediately.  Her daughter said recently at Sue’s memorial service in New York this past April that: “. . . .  no amount of fame, or money, or acclaim changed who my mother was.”

That day Sue and I chatted for a bit and then she did something that I will always remember.  She wiggled her fingers in my direction and said, “Fairy dust . . . fairy dust . . .” to wish me well in my writing journey.

Thank you, Sue.  I hope you’ll forgive me for passing up that first chance to meet you.  And I hope your journey is peaceful and blessed for all time.  You have given us so much.

 

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