Sara Paretsky and Liza Cody bid their farewells to Sue Grafton (April 24, 1940 – December 28, 2017).
Chicago, January 2018
Sue Grafton and I published our first novels in 1982 ( A is for Alibi and Indemnity Only). We weren’t the first writers to create women detectives but ours were the first in the hard-boiled tradition. Kinsey and VI were tough, could have sex lives, could drink and still hold their own in complex investigations involving desperate villains.
Liza Cody’s Anna Lee predated us by two years; Marcia Muller’s Sharon McCone first appeared in Edwin of the Iron Shoes in 1977. The four of us broke the mold of the crime novel. We showed that women could be center stage in books that readers wanted to read. We were soon followed by Linda Barnes with her Boston P.I., Carlotta Carlisle, and then Eleanor Taylor Bland gave us police detective Marti McAllister, Patricia Cornwell followed with forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta, and Val McDermid with the openly Lesbian Lindsay Gordon. Today women — and now men — have created women protagonists doing every conceivable job in law enforcement or law breaking.
In the early years, Sue, Liza, Marcia and I were often mixed and matched on panels and in interviews. We were seen almost as interchangeable: women writers with resilient women heroes. In fact, in Japan, our books appear in bookstores in sections labeled “Four F”: female author, female protagonist, female translator into Japanese, and female Japanese editor.
Sue worked with great focus and drive, two qualities which I always admired. Her experience, like mine, was that books get more difficult to write, not easier as your backlist grows. She was asked about this once in an interview by someone who was surprised to hear her say this and Sue replied that only thing you learn from the book you are currently writing is how to write that book – not every subsequent book. She thought carefully about our craft and our art and shared her ideas freely at different conferences and seminars. Some of her insights can be found in the documentary that Pamela Beere Briggs created, Women of Mystery, in which Sue, along with Marcia and me, talks about her life and the influences that made her the writer she became.
Sue once wryly remarked that she and I must have been conjoined in an early incarnation because we were twinned so often at Bouchercons and in media interviews. I thought of that when I read of her death: we weren’t close in later years but I was always aware of her and what she was doing and her death left me with a sense that I had lost a limb.
I know a lot of people will regret that she didn’t complete the alphabet. But I felt it was fitting in a weird way. In many cultures a work of art is always left unfinished – there should be a space for the spirit to come in. Or get out. Like Leonard Cohen said: ‚Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.‘
Editor’s note: Ausgespielt. R wie Rache (R Is for Ricochet, 2004) was the last book by Sue Grafton translated into German. Her books from A to R are available as German eBooks.
Liza Cody in Germany: See her in our 2017 Year’s End Issue.
Her books at Argument Verlag:
Krokodile und edle Ziele, 2017
Miss Terry, 2016 (2012)
Lady Bag, 2014 (2013)
Was sie nicht umbringt, 2015, reloaded (Bucket Nut, 1992)
Eva sieht rot, 2015, reloaded (Monkey Wrench, 1994)
Eva langt zu, 2015, reloaded (Musclebound, 1997)