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Local Best-Selling Author Sue Grafton Dies at 77

Her most recent release for her well-known "alphabet mystery series" was 'Y is for Yesterday'; she had homes in Montecito and Louisville, Kentucky

Sue Grafton, center, stands with her husband Steve Humphrey and longtime friend Susan Miles Gulbransen at Grafton’s Louisville home, in this undated photo. Click to view larger
Sue Grafton, center, stands with her husband Steve Humphrey and longtime friend Susan Miles Gulbransen at Grafton’s Louisville home, in this undated photo. (Susan Miles Gulbransen photo)
Sue Grafton Click to view larger
Sue Grafton (Susan Miles Gulbransen photo)

Local best-selling author Sue Grafton passed away Thursday at the age of 77, according to her family.

Grafton, a native of Louisville, Kentucky, was known for her “alphabet mystery series,” starting with A is for Alibi and with Y is for Yesterday as her most recent release, according to her website.

Her daughter, Jamie, posted a message about her passing on Grafton’s Facebook page.

“I am sorry to tell you all that Sue passed away last night after a two year battle with cancer,” Jamie wrote in the message. “She was surrounded by family, including her devoted and adoring husband Steve. Although we knew this was coming, it was unexpected and fast.

“She had been fine up until just a few days ago, and then things moved quickly. Sue always said that she would continue writing as long as she had the juice. Many of you also know that she was adamant that her books would never be turned into movies or TV shows, and in that same vein, she would never allow a ghost writer to write in her name. Because of all of those things, and out of the deep abiding love and respect for our dear sweet Sue, as far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y.”

Grafton, who had homes in Louisville and Montecito, used Santa Barbara as the inspiration for the fictional town of Santa Teresa, where her mystery novels were set.

She was involved in the local literary scene, including the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, and was one of 80 authors in the Santa Barbara Friends of the Library’s Library Book: Writers on Libraries anthology released to celebrate the Central Library’s 100th anniversary this year. 

She was also a frequent speaker at CALM’s Celebrity Authors Luncheon events.

“I’ve known her since the early ’80s, we were such good friends,” said Susan Miles Gulbransen, a writer, book reviewer, Noozhawk columnist and teacher at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference.

She was assigned to meet Gulbransen for an interview at the time, she said, “and we just had so much fun talking and laughing and immediately became good friends.”

They traveled together – including to the Kentucky Derby and Grafton’s Louisville home – and took weekly walks, with a favorite route along the waterfront from the Cabrillo Pavilion to the Santa Barbara Harbor, Gulbransen said.

“Her loss in my life is a big one,” she said. 

“How hard to lose a close friend who was so special. Fortunately as today goes on, my mind is loaded with fun, unique and meaningful memories of our years together,” she said.

Grafton participated in the Santa Barbara Writers Conference for years, as a speaker or leading a workshop, including in 1989, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1998, 2001, 2008 and 2013, said Grace Rachow, the current conference director.

Rachow said she and other organizers had been recently talking about inviting Grafton back, not knowing how ill she was.

Sue Grafton, seen here with Monte Schulz, attended the 2013 Santa Barbara Writers Conference. Click to view larger
Sue Grafton, seen here with Monte Schulz, attended the 2013 Santa Barbara Writers Conference.  (Contribued photo)

 “We want the ‘Z,’ we’re not going to get the ‘Z’ and that’s a shame,” Rachow said of Grafton’s nearly-complete detective novel series.

Grafton supported other writers and was very generous with her time, even after she was well-known and successful, Rachow said.

“I remember may years back in the ’90s I was attending an adult ed writing class and she showed up as a guest, the instructor invited her in,” Rachow said. “Several people got her email and asked if they could send her a manuscript, and I couldn’t believe she said yes.”

She added, “a friend of mine in the writer’s group did send it, she read it, and said, ‘It was really good, and I’m going to give you the name of two agents I think you should send it to.’ That was the kind of generosity she had for fellow writers.”

Grafton is survived by her husband Steve Humphrey, her three children and five grandchildren. 

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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