Sue Grafton: the job is no easier
Excerpts from the interview by Gary Warren Niebuhr in the August/September 2004 issue of Mystery News
Chapter One: "The basic question is this: given human nature, are any of us really capable of change?"
Sue Grafton has released her eighteenth Kinsey Millhone private eye novel entitled "R" is for Ricochet (G.P. Putnam's Sons, July 2004, $26.95, 0-399-15228-8). The book opens with an homage to The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler, and Marlowe's famous entrance into the mansion of his rich client; in this case, Kinsey is asked to visit the very rich but sickly octogenarian Nord Lafferty. Lafferty wants Kinsey to shepherd his wayward daughter Reba home from women's prison, then see that she settles into life on the outside. Jailed for embezzling funds from her employer Alan Beckwith, Reba is evidently forgiven for her sins when Kinsey accidentally witnesses a liaison between Alan and Reba in a parked car. When the IRS and the FBI want to turn Reba against Alan, the forces of law create a whirlwind that neither they, nor Kinsey, can control.
If there's anything really distinctive about "R" it is that it is really Reba's story. In the epilogue to the book, Kinsey herself admits, "I'm simply a minor character in someone else's play." Longtime readers of this series are used to cringing when Kinsey decides to lie, cheat and steal--but in this book Reba outdoes her. In a sense, Reba is Kinsey's bad angel in full force, acting as the id while forcing Kinsey to be the ego. This is an unusual role for our heroine, a role normally given to Henry, her landlord, father figure and wise counsel. This change in "R" comes on the heels of Kinsey's unusual team player role adopted in the police procedural-like "Q" is for Quarry (a must read for fans of this series with a surprise ending that will chill any reader!).
This change in focus made me wonder if perhaps "Q" and "R" serve as attempts by Sue Grafton to write a non-series book within the series. Many authors today are writing "standalone" novels. So I asked Sue if she has any desire to publish outside of the series? She replied, "Before Ms. Millhone took over my life, I'd written 7 full-length novels, of which numbers 4 and 5 were published. After novel number 5 sold to Hollywood, I spent fifteen years out there writing teleplays, screenplays, and pilots for TV shows. For the time being, Kinsey requires my full attention. I'm not allowed to write anything else. Sorry about that."
Read the complete interview in the August/September 2004 issue of Mystery News