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Grafton gifts fans with compelling short-story set

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‘Kinsey and Me: Stories'

Author: Sue Grafton

Publisher: Marian Wood Book/Putnam, $27.95, 304 pages

By Carol Memmott
Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013, 8:56 p.m.


Every two years, fans of Sue Grafton's Alphabet mystery series are over the moon. They don't need detective skills to know 2013 is time for the next installment in the crime-solving adventures of detective Kinsey Millhone.

“V Is for Vengeance,” the most recent in Grafton's popular series, was released in 2011. “W Is for ...” is due later this year, title and release date to come. But right now, Grafton is giving her fans something terrific while they wait.

“Kinsey and Me: Stories” was published privately in 1991. The 300 copies were for Grafton's friends and family. This is its first publication for the general public.

It's perfect for the über fans of Grafton, because it gathers in one place nine previously published short stories, mostly in magazines and anthologies, about the super sleuth.

It also offers a closer look at what makes Grafton tick. The 13 semi-autobiographical Kit Blue stories also included in the collection go a long way toward explaining why the book is called “Kinsey and Me,” not Kinsey and Kit.

“If Kinsey is my alter ego, Kit Blue is simply a younger version of me,” writes Grafton in an introduction that precedes the Kit stories. She shares in them what she calls “that rage, that pain, all the scalding tears” of her younger self and all its heartbreak.

The Kinsey stories and the Kit stories, together, open a window into Grafton's soul.

The Kinsey stories, published between 1986 and '91, spotlight the short story as art form. Each one, including the darkly comedic “Falling off the Roof,” in which Kinsey joins a book club and nearly turns the final page on her own life, exemplifies Grafton's writing prowess.

The Kit Blue stories are different.

They were written in the 10 years after the death of Grafton's mother, on Grafton's 20th birthday. In these stories, Kit's mother was a barely functioning alcoholic. Her father was a heavy drinker, too.

The stories follow the young Kit from childhood to adulthood, more mother to her mother than her child. The stories are filled with confusion, anger, helplessness and profound sadness for Kit's lost childhood, and the loss of her mother to drink and then to a horrific form of cancer.

Grafton deserves thanks for bringing back the Kinsey stories. She's to be applauded for the compelling Kit stories and for what one can't but think is bravery for sharing them.

Carol Memmott is a staff writer for USA Today.

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