Sue Grafton grew up pulling noir crime fiction off her father's shelves in their Louisville home. But it wasn't until she was in her 40s, already a published novelist and Hollywood screenwriter, that she tried her hand at the genre. In part, it was to escape the movies. "I'm just not a team player," she told Kurt Andersen. "I don't like to write by committee and I don't like help. In Hollywood if you're not interested in collaboration, you have no business being there." Grafton has refused to sell movie rights to her crime novels, and she threatens to haunt her heirs if they do.
Her first detective novel, A is for Alibi, published in 1982, stood out for its female private eye, the tomboyish Millhone. "I was out of my element," she explained. "I didn't know what a private investigator did, I had to read up on police procedure, California criminal law, ballistics, and toxicology. I figured my only area of expertise was being female and I better take advantage of that." But the book audaciously promised to be the first of many. "Looking back, I think, what nerve, what cheek I had ... thinking I could do 26 novels," Grafton says. "I was flying by the seat of my pants."
Next month Grafton will publish her latest book, W is for Wasted. After that, she'll have the grueling task of writing and naming the final novels of the series. "I hope someone will invent an entirely new crime" for X or Z, Grafton laughs. "I hope it's going to be really juicy and nasty."
After that? "I will be close to 80 years old, and I personally think I should be allowed to take a long nap and then party."
(Originally aired: January 25, 2013)
Bonus Track: An excerpt from W is for Wasted