The alphabet has begun again with V.
For many of us readers, the alphabet ended with Y with the passing of Sue Grafton following the publication of her last Kinsey Millhone novel, Y Is for Yesterday.
The V is in this case is for V.I. Warshawski, the heroine of Sara Paretsky’s long-running series.
Paretsky’s latest novel Shell Game (HarperCollins/William Morrow) has been honored with the first G.P. Putnam’s Sons Sue Grafton Memorial Award, which was presented on April 25, 2019 during Mystery Writers of America’s 73rd Annual Edgar® Awards in New York City.
The award is designed to recognize the best novel in a series featuring a female protagonist in a series that hallmarks Grafton. (Details below)
Paretsky’s honor is significant for several reasons.
The memorial award by Grafton’s publisher is a way of keeping the author’s memory going while respecting the wishes of Grafton and her estate. They were adamant that Kinsey’s story will not be continued by another author nor would the Santa Teresa detective’s adventures become a TV series or a movie.
Paretsky’s honor continues the legacy that Grafton, along with Paretsky and Marcia Muller, started back in the day.
These authors were in the trenches together as they each launched a tough female private detective within a couple of years of each other.
Their vision heralded a new era for the genre.
Before, women who were the lead sleuth were seldom private detectives; instead women sleuths were relegated to either amateur sleuths or worked with their husbands or another man.
If she did run a private detective agency like Honey West, she relied more on sex appeal, and there was always Sam Bolt to bail Honey out of tough situations.
But here were Grafton, Paretsky and Muller challenging that old guard, showing that women could be tough and battle the bad guys one on one. We already knew that women could be sleuths a la Miss Marple. But now we were shown women’s investigative skills, ferreting out information and uncovering motives of the evil that men and women do.
Kinsey first came on the scene in 1982 with A Is for Alibi, a naming convention that would prove more than a gimmick but also a foreshadowing of the plot. The only variation was the singular X, which came out in 2015 and soon landed in the top spot on several best-sellers lists.
Grafton’s first lines are unforgettable:
“My name is Kinsey Millhone. I am a private investigator, licensed by the state of California. I am thirty-two years old, twice divorced, no kids. The day before yesterday I killed someone and the fact weighs heavily on my mind.”
the opening lines of A is for Alibi
Chicago-based V.I. Warshawski also made her debut in 1982 with Indemnity Only. Paretsky took more of a social issues approach to her character with plots that included insurance fraud, the homeless, etc. In one book—and maybe readers will remember the title better than me—V.I. mentions that she wishes was as organized as Kinsey.
Sue Grafton died Dec. 28, 2017, following a battle with cancer. She was born April 24, 1940, and that day often falls during Edgar Week. It was fitting that last year her memorial service was held on April 24, a couple of days before the Edgar Awards, in the Celeste Bartos Forum in the New York Public Library. Grafton had served as MWA president in 1994 and was the recipient of three Edgar nominations as well as the Grand Master Award in 2009.
I have tried to write about this memorial several times in the past year but for some reason the words would not come. But this is a fitting time.
This memorial was, most of these are, a remembrance and celebration of her life, a combination of sadness and happy memories that Grafton had been a part of our lives. About 300 people attended, including authors such as Megan Abbott, Kate White, Karin Slaughter, Alafair Burke, and so many more, publishing colleagues and friends and family.
The testimonials were heartfelt and humorous. Marian Wood, Grafton’s publisher and editor, talked about how no one initially wanted Kinsey’s story. Wood’s talk became a master class in publishing, how hard it is for authors whose stories burst the current trends, and the power of not giving up. Grafton also knew the importance of the “back of the office people” and inspired loyalty in people.
Michael Connelly’s short and personal talk focused on how Grafton maintained the importance of treating people with respect and kindness --- a lesson Connelly said he took to heart. Indeed he does, as Connelly has a reputation of being one of the nicest authors around.
Author J.R. Ward considered Grafton her mentor and remembered her last conversation with Grafton: “That’s the problem with life—you can’t see how few pages are left.”
Harlan Coben discussed—with a lot of humor—how Grafton was one of those people who make life better. A trip to a horse farm was a hoot of a story. At the end of his speech, Coben showed his “alphabet” tie with all the letters except Z—as a tribute to Grafton’s legacy. Coben presented the tie to Grafton’s husband following the ceremony.
Memories also were recounted by Molly Friedrich, Grafton’s long-time agent, who talked about her last visit with Grafton. Despite being ill, Grafton baked her agent a birthday cake from scratch. Lucy Carson read a remembrance from Judy Kaye, the voice of Kinsey Millhone in the audiobooks. Author and journalist Sarah Weinman said, “Trailblazers don’t announce themselves upon arrival.”
Her daughter Jamie Clark said her mother taught the power of words and about dealing with “pickle and peanut butter world.”
Her husband Steve Humphrey lovingly recounted their life together. The couple had met when he was 23 and she was 34 and they lived in the same building. They were together 43 years.
Afterward, the attendees were served high end appetizers and Kinsey’s favorites—buttery chardonnay and pickle and peanut butter sandwiches.
INFLUENCE OF BOOKS
I didn’t personally know Grafton—I interviewed her several times for profiles, met her a few times at events and, of course, reviewed most of her novels.
But I, like many readers, felt I knew her through her books. Her novels spoke to me and, and along with Paretsky and Muller, brought me back to mysteries and put me on a career path. I identified with Kinsey from the first pages of A Is for Alibi. We were single women, making our own way, navigating a new world and reveling in being independent.
I was so longing for "Z Is for whatever" to see how Kinsey’s story would end. But I hope her estate continues to maintain that the alphabet ended with Y. Each reader can write her story in our hearts and mind.
Putnam’s is partnering with Mystery Writers of America to create the Sue Grafton Memorial Award honoring the best novel in a series featuring a female protagonist in a series that hallmarks her writing and Kinsey’s character.
The award is to be presented annually during the Edgar Awards. The nominees for the inaugural award were chosen by the 2019 Best Novel and Best Paperback Original Edgar Award judges from the books submitted to them throughout the year. The winner was chosen by a reading committee made up of current National board members.
Each of this year’s nominees are top authors.
The nominees for the inaugural Sue Grafton Memorial Award are:
Lisa Black, Perish, Kensington
Sara Paretsky, Shell Game, HarperCollins/William Morrow
Victoria Thompson, City of Secrets, Penguin Random House/Berkley
Charles Todd, A Forgotten Place, HarperCollins/William Morrow
Jacqueline Winspear, To Die But Once, HarperCollins/Harper
Oline H. Cogdill
Sue Grafton photo by Steve Humphrey
The Edgar® Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2018, were presented by Mystery Writers of America during its 73rd Gala Banquet, April 25, 2019 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City.
Those who took home an Edgar are in bold with ** in front of their names.
Congratulations to all of the winners and nominees. Each of these categories is comprised of strong nominees so we consider everyone a winner.
**Down the River Unto the Sea by Walter Mosley (Hachette Book Group - Mulholland)
The Liar’s Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard (Blackstone Publishing)
House Witness by Mike Lawson (Grove Atlantic – Atlantic Monthly Press)
A Gambler’s Jury by Victor Methos (Amazon Publishing – Thomas & Mercer)
Only to Sleep by Lawrence Osborne (Penguin Random House – Hogarth)
A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn (Penguin Random House – Berkley)
BEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR
**Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin (HarperCollins Publishers - Ecco)
A Knife in the Fog by Bradley Harper (Seventh Street Books)
The Captives by Debra Jo Immergut (HarperCollins Publishers - Ecco)
The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs (Simon & Schuster - Touchstone)
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Penguin Random House – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL
**If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
Hiroshima Boy by Naomi Hirahara (Prospect Park Books)
Under a Dark Sky by Lori Rader-Day (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani (Penguin Random House – Penguin Books)
Under My Skin by Lisa Unger (Harlequin – Park Row Books)
BEST FACT CRIME
**Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge First and the Rise of Gay Liberation by Robert W. Fieseler (W.W. Norton & Company - Liveright)
Sex Money Murder: A Story of Crack, Blood, and Betrayal by Jonathan Green (W.W. Norton & Company)
The Last Wild Men of Borneo: A True Story of Death and Treasure by Carl Hoffman (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk Wallace Johnson (Penguin Random House - Viking)
I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara (HarperCollins Publishers - Harper)
The Good Mothers: The True Story of the Women Who Took on the World's Most Powerful Mafia by Alex Perry (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
**Classic American Crime Fiction of the 1920s by Leslie S. Klinger (Pegasus Books)
The Metaphysical Mysteries of G.K. Chesterton: A Critical Study of the Father Brown Stories and Other Detective Fiction by Laird R. Blackwell (McFarland Publishing)
Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession by Alice Bolin (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow Paperbacks)
Mark X: Who Killed Huck Finn's Father? by Yasuhiro Takeuchi (Taylor & Francis - Routledge)
Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life by Laura Thompson (Pegasus Books)
BEST SHORT STORY
**“English 398: Fiction Workshop” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Art Taylor (Dell Magazines)
“Rabid – A Mike Bowditch Short Story” by Paul Doiron (Minotaur Books)
“Paranoid Enough for Two” – The Honorable Traitors by John Lutz (Kensington Publishing)
“Ancient and Modern” – Bloody Scotland by Val McDermid (Pegasus Books)
“The Sleep Tight Motel” – Dark Corners Collection by Lisa Unger (Amazon Publishing)
**Otherwood by Pete Hautman (Candlewick Press)
Denis Ever After by Tony Abbott (HarperCollins Children’s Books – Katherine Tegen Books)
Zap! by Martha Freeman (Simon & Schuster – Paula Wiseman Books)
Ra the Mighty: Cat Detective by A.B. Greenfield (Holiday House)
Winterhouse by Ben Guterson (Macmillan Children’s Publishing Company – Henry Holt BFYR)
Charlie & Frog: A Mystery by Karen Kane (Disney Publishing Worldwide – Disney Hyperion)
Zora & Me: The Cursed Ground by T.R. Simon (Candlewick Press)
BEST YOUNG ADULT
**Sadie by Courtney Summers (Wednesday Books)
Contagion by Erin Bowman (HarperCollins Children’s Books - HarperCollins)
Blink by Sasha Dawn (Lerner Publishing Group – Carolrhoda Lab)
After the Fire by Will Hill (Sourcebooks – Sourcebooks Fire)
A Room Away From the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma (Algonquin Young Readers)
BEST TELEVISION EPISODE TELEPLAY
**“The One That Holds Everything” – The Romanoffs, Teleplay by Matthew Weiner & Donald Joh (Amazon Prime Video)
“The Box” - Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Teleplay by Luke Del Tredici (NBC/Universal TV)
“Season 2, Episode 1” – Jack Irish, Teleplay by Andrew Knight (Acorn TV)
“Episode 1” – Mystery Road, Teleplay by Michaeley O’Brien (Acorn TV)
“My Aim is True” – Blue Bloods, Teleplay by Kevin Wade (CBS Eye Productions)
ROBERT L. FISH MEMORIAL AWARD
“How Does He Die This Time?” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Nancy Novick (Dell Magazines)
THE SIMON & SCHUSTER MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD
**The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey (Soho Press – Soho Crime)
A Death of No Importance by Mariah Fredericks (Minotaur Books)
A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman (Kensington Publishing)
Bone on Bone by Julia Keller (Minotaur Books)
A Borrowing of Bones by Paula Munier (Minotaur Books)
THE G.P. PUTNAM’S SONS SUE GRAFTON MEMORIAL AWARD
Shell Game by Sara Paretsky (HarperCollins – William Morrow)
Martin Cruz Smith, best known for his eight-novel series featuring Arkady Renko, who first appeared in Gorky Park
Previous Grand Masters include William Link, Peter Lovesey, Jane Langton, Max Allan Collins, Ellen Hart, Walter Mosley, Lois Duncan, James Ellroy, Robert Crais, Carolyn Hart, Ken Follett, Margaret Maron, Martha Grimes, Sara Paretsky, James Lee Burke, Sue Grafton, Bill Pronzini, Stephen King, Marcia Muller, Dick Francis, Mary Higgins Clark, Lawrence Block, P.D. James, Ellery Queen, Daphne du Maurier, Alfred Hitchcock, Graham Greene, and Agatha Christie.
The Raven Award
(recognizes outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing)
Marilyn Stasio, the mystery critic for the New York Times Book Review (and other magazines) for 30 years, since 1988.
Previous Raven winners include the Raven Bookstore in Lawrence, Kansas, Dru Ann Love, Kris Zgorski, Sisters in Crime, Margaret Kinsman, Kathryn Kennison, Jon and Ruth Jordan, Aunt Agatha’s Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Oline Cogdill, Molly Weston, The Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore in Chicago, Once Upon a Crime Bookstore in Minneapolis, Mystery Lovers Bookstore in Oakmont, PA, Kate’s Mystery Books in Cambridge, MA, and The Poe House in Baltimore, MD.
The Ellery Queen Award
(established in 1983 to honor “outstanding writing teams and outstanding people in the mystery-publishing industry.”
Linda Landrigan, editor since 2002 of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine
Previous Ellery Queen Award winners include Robert Pépin, Neil Nyren, Janet Rudolph, Charles Ardai, Joe Meyers, Barbara Peters and Robert Rosenwald, Brian Skupin and Kate Stine, Carolyn Marino, Ed Gorman, Janet Hutchings, Cathleen Jordan, Douglas G. Greene, Susanne Kirk, Sara Ann Freed, Hiroshi Hayakawa, Jacques Barzun, Martin Greenburg, Otto Penzler, Richard Levinson, William Link, Ruth Cavin, and Emma Lathen.
The EDGAR (and logo) are Registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by the Mystery Writers of America, Inc.