“My name is Kinsey Millhone. I’m a private investigator, licensed by the state of California. I’m thirty-two years old, twice divorced, no kids. The day before yesterday, I killed someone and the fact weighs heavily on my mind…”
—Sue Grafton, A Is for Alibi
A Is For Alibi
Kinsey Millhone first came to the pages of crime fiction when Sue Grafton created her in 1982 for A Is for Alibi. A former police officer turned private investigator, Kinsey was one of the earliest female investigators along with Sara Paretsky’s V. I. Warshawski. The novels make up the extremely popular Kinsey Millhone Alphabet Series.
Grafton set the stories in Santa Teresa, California, a fictionalized town based on Santa Barbara, California. Although books came out nearly a book a year, Grafton minimized Millhone’s aging by having each of the character’s years covered in three books.
Millhone was the model of a modern female detective, feisty and smart but not above going against the rules.
The classical mystery story came to its heyday in the 1920s and 30s. World War I had just ended, and the world was coming through the 1918 flu pandemic that infected a third of the world’s population.
In England, the classic mystery had already been established by Edgar Allen Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The stories showed the reader a very upper society, very proper, with tea being served often. The detective often had a tie to police, but were intellectually superior. They were often given a reluctant acceptance by the local law enforcement officer. Sometimes, the police would call them in because they couldn’t solve the case, but more often the detective burst onto the scene, showing up the helpless officer.
But in America, we saw the emergence of a different type of detective in the hardboiled detective mysteries. In another kind of society, Dashielle Hammett and Raymond Chandler introduced us to the private eye. Often a lone wolf, who tried to dispense his own style of justice in a world with few rules.
[bctt tweet=”The hardboiled American detective was much more cynical than his English counterpart. It wasn’t a game or puzzle to him, but a more personal battle against evil, even of life or death. ” username=”httpstwittercomTimSuddeth”] Continue reading