Sue Grafton

Sue Grafton Age, Bio, Husband, Family, Daughter, Net Worth

On April 24, 1940, Sue Taylor Grafton was conceived in Louisville, Kentucky. She is well recognized for writing detective stories. Grafton is most known for writing the alphabet series, which stars private eye Kinsey Milhone and is set in the imaginary city of Santa Teresa, California.

The author of mystery fiction C.W. Grafton’s daughter is Sue Grafton. The novels “Keziah Dane” and “The Lolly-Madonna War” were written by her. With “A is for Alibi”, Grafton launched her alphabet series in 1982.

Sadly, Sue Grafton lost her bout with cancer on December 28, 2017, at the age of 77.


Real NameSue Grafton
Personal Life
Date of Birth24 April 1940
Date of Death28 December 2017
Age When Died77 years, 8 months, and 4 days
BirthplaceLouisville, Kentucky, United States America)
Zodiac SignTaurus
SchoolAtherton High School
College/UniversityLouisville University
Educational QualificationNot Available
Physical Stats
Height (approx.)in centimeters- N/A
in meters- N/A
in feet inches- N/A
Weight (approx.)in kilograms- N/A
in pounds- N/A
BeginningA is for Alibi in 1982
Relationships & Affairs
Marital statusMarried
Husband* James Leslie Flood [1959 - 61]
* Edward Allyn Schmidt [1962 - 72]
* Steve Humphrey [1978 - 2017]
ParentsFather- C. W. Grafton
Mother- Vivian Harnsberger
SiblingsSister- Ann Grafton
ChildrenDaughters- Leslie Flood, Jamie Schmidt
Son- Jay Schmidt
Net Worth [approx.]$75 million
Social Media

Early Life

C. W. Grafton, whose writing career spanned from 1909 to 1982, and Vivian Harnsberger, both of whom were the offspring of Presbyterian preachers, had Sue Grafton in Louisville, Kentucky.

Her mother was a prominent high school chemistry professor, and her father was a municipal bond attorney who also authored mystery thrillers. When she was three years old, her father served in the military during World War II.

When he came home, Sue was at age five. Post this her family life began to disintegrate. Grafton stated that “from the age of 5 years onwards, I was left to raise myself” when both of her parents developed alcoholism.

Grafton was raised in Louisville, Kentucky, along with her older sister Ann, and attended Atherton High School there.

Sue Grafton
[Image Credit: Sue Grafton’s Facebook]

Before earning a bachelor’s degree in the English language from the University of Louisville in 1961, she spent her initial year at Western Kentucky State Teachers College, which is now recognized as Western Kentucky University.

She also took a course in humanities and fine arts. She belonged to Pi Beta Phi, an international women’s fraternity founded at Monmouth College.

Grafton worked in Santa Monica as well as Santa Barbara, California, as a cashier, a clinical assistant, and a hospital admittance clerk after graduation.

After coming back home from a procedure to cure esophageal cancer due to years of smoking as well as drinking, Grafton’s mother committed suicide in 1960. A few months before A is for Alibi was released in 1982, her father passed away.

Family, Relationship, Husband

Sue Grafton was born to a Christian family in the United States of America. Her parents are – C. W. Grafton and Vivian Harnsberger. Information concerning her brothers and sisters is not known.

With James L. Flood, whom she originally married in 1959 at the age of 18, she has a girl with him. By the time Grafton received her undergraduate diploma in 1961, the couple had separated.

Al Schmidt was the second husband she had, and they divorced after a protracted custody battle for their daughter, Jamie Schmidt in 1962. Together they also have a son, Jay Schmidt.

In 1978, she wed Steven F. Humphrey, her third spouse. They spent time in both Louisville, Kentucky, and Santa Barbara, California.

In both cities’ universities, Humphrey was a professor. The pair acquired Lincliff, a 28-acre Louisville home formerly owned by hardware tycoon William Richardson Belknap, in 2000.

Grafton lost her battle with appendix cancer on December 28, 2017, at Cottage Hospital near Santa Barbara.

In 2019, G.P. Putnam’s Sons created a prize in Grafton’s honor, which is administered by the Mystery Writers of America.


Grafton was the younger of two girls born to a former chemistry teacher and her husband, a bonds attorney and occasional mystery novelist. Both parents were voracious readers who urged their kids to read a variety of genres.

Grafton later blamed their intentional parenting and drunkenness for giving her the opportunity to roam Louisville alone at a young age. In 1957, she applied to the University of Louisville and declared English as her major.

Sue Grafton
[Image Credit: Sue Grafton’s Facebook]

Before returning to the University of Louisville to finish earning her bachelor’s degree in 1961, she spent the next two years studying at Western Kentucky State Teachers College (later Western Kentucky University).

Grafton next enrolled in a Ph.D. degree at the University of Cincinnati. However, she quickly dropped out because the curriculum concentrated on literary analysis.

After relocating to California in 1962, she spent time in several locales until residing in Santa Barbara in 1964. She held jobs as a medical secretary and a hospital admissions clerk during that time.

Sue Grafton’s Career

Grafton’s father wrote at midnight and loved detective fiction. He prepared Grafton to become a writer by instructing her in the composing as well as proofreading process. Grafton started writing at the age of 18 and wrote her first book four years later, encouraged by her father.

Six additional novels were finished by her as she carried on writing. Only Keziah Dane and The Lolly-Madonna War, two of these seven works, were made available for reading. The five early, unreleased drafts of Grafton’s novels would subsequently be destroyed.

Grafton switched to scripts after struggling to sell her novels.

For the following fifteen years, Grafton worked as a screenwriter for television films like Sex and the Single Parent, Mark, I Love You, and Nurse.

Grafton co-wrote the script for the major motion picture and sold the streaming rights to The Lolly-Madonna War. Starring Jeff Bridges and Rod Steiger, Lolly-Madonna XXX was the 1973 adaptation.

In 1979, she won a Christopher Award for Walking Through the Fire, her script.

She co-wrote A Killer in the Family as well as Love on the Run. Sue Grafton, along with her husband Steven Humphrey, produced the Agatha Christie books – A Caribbean Mystery and Sparkling Cyanide for broadcast.

She is best known for writing the scenario that served as the basis for the 1983 television movie Svengali. She learned the fundamentals of plot structure, dialogue composition, and action sequence creation from her work as a scriptwriter.

Grafton was prepared to start writing novels again. Grafton dreamed up ways to harm or murder her ex-husband while going through a “bitter divorce and custody fight that lasted six long years.” She decided to record her fantasies because they were so vivid.

Grafton had been captivated by mystery series whose titles were correlated. For instance, Harry Kemelman’s Rabbi Small series and John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee series, each of which had a day of the week in the title.

Grafton decided to create a series of books whose titles would follow the alphabet after reading Edward Gorey’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies. It is a picture book that features an alphabetized list of ways for kids to pass away.

She instantly sat down and compiled a list of all the words she knew that had to do with crime.

These eventually evolved into the alphabet books series, which starred detective and private eye Kinsey Millhone. In a fictitious version of Santa Barbara called Santa Teresa, the television series is set.

Grafton followed Ross Macdonald’s example when he built the city’s imaginary counterpart. Grafton identified Kinsey Millhone as her alter ego or the person I might have been if she had not been married and had kids so young.

The first book in the series, A is for Alibi, was released and is set in 1982. The titles of each book, with the exception of X, combine a letter with a word. The first is B is for Burglar, followed by C is for Corpse.

Grafton was able to leave her work as a screenwriter and devote herself full-time to writing after the success of G is for Gumshoe. Since A is for Alibi’s publication, a brand-new episode has been made available every few years or so.

Each book’s title was the subject of conjecture. Grafton stated to Media Bistro in May 2009 that she was “simply having a hard time figuring out how to get from U is for Undertow to Z is for Zero.”

She also claimed that just because she knows the ultimate title for Z does not guarantee she would obviously know what V, W, X, and Y will be.

Grafton predicted that Z is for Zero would be the final book in the series, but she passed away before she could start writing it.

Grafton’s daughter asserted that the alphabet now terminates at Y and that Grafton would never permit a ghostwriter to write under her name.

26 different languages and 28 different nations have published Grafton’s books. The fact that she had written screenplays had cured her of the urge to collaborate with Hollywood. Thus she would not sell the film and television rights.

On the other hand, B is for Burglar and D is for Deadbeat were turned into TV movies in Japan. Grafton warned her kids that if they traded the movie rights after she passed away, her ghost would follow them.

The series had a total of roughly 400 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list. The first book in the series, F is for Fugitive, debuted at number 10 on the hardcover list; in 1995. L is for Lawless debuted at number one and was followed by ten other books in the series.

The first two Anthony Awards for Best Novel ever presented went to Grafton’s B is for Burglar and C is for Corpse. The participants of the yearly Bouchercon Convention choose them.

She once again took home the Anthony Award for Best Novel in 1991 for G is for Gumshoe. She has also received three Shamus Awards. The Parker Shotgun, a short story by Grafton, also received the Anthony Award for Best Short Story in 1987.

Grafton was given the Smith-Breckinridge Distinguished Woman of Achievement Award by the YWCA of Lexington on June 13, 2000.

The Ross Macdonald Literary Award, given to “an American author whose work increases the level of literary brilliance,” was granted to her in 2004. The British Crime Writers’ Association presented Grafton with the Golden Dagger in 2008. She was given the dagger in recognition of her lifetime of accomplishments in the genre.

2009 saw Grafton win the Mystery Writers of America’s Grand Master Award.

The Lifetime Achievement Award from Bouchercon was given to her in 2013. In 2014, she attended Left Coast Crime as a Guest of Honor.

She had earlier won the Best Hardcover Novel Shamus Award three times and was again nominated for it in 2014.

Net Worth

At the time of her passing in 2017, American author Sue Grafton had a net worth of $75 million. During her lifetime, Sue Grafton became one of the richest novelists in the world thanks to the success of her “alphabet” series of books. This series collectively sold tens of millions of copies.

Sue’s beautiful two-acre home in Montecito, California, was her principal abode for a long period. Beginning in 2019, her heirs put the estate up for sale for $8.5 million. In November 2019, the price was lowered to $6.99 million.

The home was created by Sue with her husband Steve Humphrey. Additionally, they possessed the 28-acre Lincliff estate in Kentucky, which they diligently renovated.

Interesting Facts about Sue Grafton

  • She claimed that author Ross Macdonald had the biggest inspiration for her crime thrillers.
  • In the years 1981 to 1982, Grafton created and scripted the television show Nurse.

Read More: Anne Perry | Kristin Hannah


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