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Sue Grafton’s A- Z Books and Authors Who Write Too Many Novels

June 25, 2011


Sue Grafton

Sue Grafton may be wondering how she can begin the title of her 27th Kinsey Millhone novel with an ampersand (&). Image via Wikipedia

When I first saw A is for Alibi and B is for Burglar, I thought to myself, no way.  There is no way this author is going to get through the entire alphabet.  Well, I have to give Sue Grafton credit for persistence; it looks like she’s going to make it.  I’ve been mocking Grafton’s ploy for more than a decade now (R is for Repetitive and U is for Unreadable), but I guess the laugh is on me because I got assigned to review her collection for Dysfunctional Literacy.


Get a bunch of people and recite the alphabet using Sue Grafton books.  A is for AlibiB is for Burglar!  When somebody messes up (“F is for… F***, I Can’t Remember!” followed by drunken hysterical laughter), that person takes a drink.  Once participants complete the first round, then everybody has to do it backwards.  V is for Vengeance!  Yeah, it’s not out yet, but if you start with U is for Undertow, you have to take a drink.  In the third round, contestants have to think of possible titles for X, Y, and Z.  Z is for ZZZZZZZ because once you get to Z, everybody will be passed out sloppy drunk.


It’s a 380 page book with a 150 page story.  There were entire pages that could have been chopped, paragraphs of conversation that could have been paraphrased in one sentence and move on.  My guess is that this is what happens when you’ve written over 20 books with the same character.  Grafton’s loyal readers might actually be interested in every conversation and detail from her life.  We dysfunctional literates don’t care.  Solve the mystery, and let us readers get satisfaction from seeing justice done.

Evidently, Sue Grafton readers like U is for Undertow.  And I’ll admit that we dysfunctional literates aren’t her target audience.  But if she’s interested in dysfunctional literates (and there are lots of us out there), give me a couple days and a red marker, and I could edit that book down to 200 pages and make it much more readable.  Of course, if we follow Dysfunctional Literacy’s Rule #2, we’re not going to read more than three of her books, so from her point of view, why bother?


The mystery is interesting.  The first chapter sets up the plot very well, and when I read it, I thought maybe I had been misjudging the series all these years.  Then I got to chapter 2 and was given a bunch of unnecessary information about the main character’s daily routine.  When Grafton sticks to the plot, she’s great.  If you choose to read it, you may have to skim through some pages and then read more carefully in other areas, but you have to be careful doing this because  it’s not always easy to tell what parts are skimmable and what parts are important to the plot.  If you don’t mind getting sidetracked with seemingly unnecessary details, you’ll probably enjoy the book.

More good news is that Sue Grafton has become the perfect example of Dysfunctional Literacy’s Rule #4.


Don’t read authors who write too many books.

If an author writes too many books (One a year is too many.  One every two years is pushing it.), it’s a sign that the author is not taking the craft seriously.  Money, not quality, is probably the author’s first priority.  I, as a dysfunctional literate, have no problem with an author trying to make as much money as possible.  Go for it.  But I, as a dysfunctional literate, choose not to read books by authors who churn out material that quickly (unless the sex and violence scenes are really well written).


I pity the fool who back in 1982 saw Grafton’s A is for Alibi and thought to herself (or himself, but probably herself), “I wonder what she’ll come up for the letter ‘Z.’  I can’t wait to read it.”

To be fair, Grafton is not the only author who writes too many books.  John Sandford has written 20 Prey novels where all his characters talk the same way.  Bernard Cornwell has written a bunch of Sharpe books that use the exact same formula (It’s a miracle that the French won any battles during the Napoleonic Wars).  I haven’t read a Stephen King novel since Pet Cemetery (Yeah, I know I’ve missed out on a couple good ones, but those are outweighed by the stinkers I’ve avoided).  Ever since The Pelican Brief, John Grisham has developed a very detached style that keeps me from caring what happens to the characters.

If authors can get away with writing this many books, there’s really no incentive for them to stop.  As dysfunctional literates, we should realize that life is too short to read 26 Kinsey Millhone  adventures.  Surely one or two are enough.  There must be at least 20 other books that are better than the Grafton novels (or the King novels, or the Clancy novels, or… You get the idea!) you miss by reading something else.

And yes, it really is an “either/or” situation.  Our time is limited, and reading O is for Oh, I Really Don’t Want To Look it up is going to keep me from reading something else.

And that something else might be awesome!


Yeah, I probably shouldn’t say anything about famous authors when I’m trying to pitch my own ebook, but here it is anyway:

The true story about a YA romance that went horribly wrong…

Now available on the Amazon Kindle!

Now available on the Amazon Kindle!

  1. SwagReader permalink

    For anyone wanting to know Sue Graftons novels are always wonderful so boo on anyone who says she writes to much. I hope she finishes her series.

    • Hey, I respect her for (nearly) finishing her series. I also respect her for building a fan base and giving her audience what they want. It’s just that for me, a series over 20 books with one main character is a bit much . Man, I can’t believe you booed me over this.

  2. sandi permalink

    Whoever is writing dysfx.lit. needs to get a life or a real job.

    • I do have a real job (and a life too… I think). That’s why I don’t have time to read all 24… 25 (?) Sue Grafton books. But I respect what she’s done, and at least she writes her own books, unlike James Patter… aw, never mind.

  3. You are absolutely right in my opinion, so let them boo me all they want. They’ll never get it anyway. The fact is, once it’s about putting food on the table, that’s honest, and I’ll support it to the max. When it get’s to where it’s about putting the third Lamborghini in the garage, then it’s no longer about the necessities of life, or about the writing, so I’m off looking for a writer who still cares about their craft. Or I’m reading one of the thousands of classics that make up a list no human being could ever get through in their life-time, but a list that most dysfunctional literates at least have tried to put a dent into, as opposed to Sue Grafton cult readers who still think Albert Camus is a cigarette manufacturer. Well, that was fun, but they shouldn’t boo you for your opinion.

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