The Alphabet Ends In Y [In Memory of Sue Grafton]

I understand, “An alphabet that ends in Y.”

It’s December 29, 2017, almost 5 p.m. on Friday [yep, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere]. So, before I write another letter or paragraph or whatever, I’m pouring the single malt, two fingers, not more or less.

First, let me take you back to a sabbatical leave I took as Conference Minister, probably 2003. Stayed in a family’s condo in Frisco, Colorado. Had a regular schedule, write in the morning, nap in the afternoon and learn how to fly fish with Matthew Krane, who became my Rabbi Guide. Worked pretty well focused on my first novel, ‘Murder On Tillamook Bay,” even wrote a synopsis.

Returned to Austin—Diane and I had been married two years. Saw in the Austin paper that Sue Grafton the novelist would be speaking in Austin at a bookstore, the night I returned. Quickly typed out the synopsis, fueled more by energy and enthusiasm and anticipation than any skill, put it in the envelope, and wrote Sue Grafton on the envelope. Showed up at the bookstore. I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t see any other men…all women, many of whom were Kinsey Millhone wannabees. Sue explained how she got into writing novels, how many books publishers refused. She then said she’d sit at a table and sign her new book. For info she was the alphabet mystery writer…forget the letter of that book.

Instead of standing in line [I hadn’t purchased the book] I put on my dash and run hat, went in front of the first person [hey, this wasn’t Southwest Airlines with a number in hand], smiled, “Thank you, Ms. Grafton,” and laid the envelope on the table in front of her. Never looked back.

The next morning my phone rang, didn’t recognize the number. I answered. A question, “Hello, is this Dr. Miller?” I agreed to the question. She then said, “Dr. Miller, this is Sue Grafton calling from the Austin Airport, about to get on my plane for Santa Barbara. I read your synopsis. It is remarkable and very grasping. Would you do me a favor and send me the first fifty pages? I’d like for my staff and I to read it.”

WHAT? I’m not sure I answered, my hand shook so damned much I wasn’t sure I wrote down her address correctly! Again, WHAT?

Then my imagination kicked into gear. Who could play Tricia Gleason—maybe Gail Foster? Who could play Creighton Yale? Morgan Freeman was a cinch. I had a friend who helped Robert Redford in “River Runs Through It” and was told my “Murder on TB” was the Oregon Coast version of “River Runs Through It.” Do they give Pulitzer’s for novels? Didn’t consider it out of control fantasy…nope, just a fertile imagination. Tricia? We gonna make it woman!
Three months passed. Then. A personal hand-written letter from Sue Grafton. I probably offered 1,000 prayers and turned East or maybe West, opened it. A short note, “Dr. Miller, good luck in your writing.”


Folks, that was my first memory, but not overruling. What overruled was for years Sue Grafton didn’t stop writing me, ALWAYS showed interest in my writing. How good is that?

I would write her about how much I appreciated her wordsmithing.

Then yesterday. I shared with friends personally it was a banner day, the current Tricia Gleason novel, “Truth Uncovered” was sent by my publisher to the printer. I then learned the NW fishing magazine, SALMONTROUTSTEELHEADER, its January issue, included two articles about the salmon trip with Brian and catching my first 20# steelhead. Wow, what a day.

Then. Now. Sue Grafton died at 77. My age! I believe we were born in June of 1940. My eyes flooded with tears. She finished the Y novel in August, but hadn’t started the Z novel. Her husband and a daughter said, “Our alphabet will now end with Y.” Poignant. Touching. Powerful.

Sue Grafton? In a way I now realize, she was always part of Tricia’s next steps. No, Tricia wasn’t Kinsey, but for me Tricia Gleason is so very special and dear.

On this day, I tip and sip the single malt. And offer prayers of thanksgiving for the caring spirit of Sue Grafton and her interest in my writing. I know. I know so well. Because of her call and initial reaction to the synopsis of my first novel, there is something there. Maybe I’m still trying to find it…but I know that Tricia will help me, no less than Kinsey helped Sue. God Bless you Sue Grafton and give rest to your soul. My life is so much better because you called me from the Austin Airport. Amen!


About Mark H Miller

Diane and I live in Leander, Texas. This past June 17, 2015 I celebrated the 49th anniversary of my ordination. We returned to Texas after three years in Washington, during which I served as interim minister in Bellevue/Eastgate and Mercer Island. Am planning to begin a 5th novel that will have my protagonist, Tricia Gleason, serve a year in licensed ministry in Snoqualmie, Washington. The novel, "The Lemon Drop Didn't Melt," will find Tricia wrestling with ministry challenges. None of which more daunting than someone wanting her breathing to stop. All the published novels are available on Amazon and Amazon Kindle under Mark Henry Miller. A primary goal in our return to Texas is to make sure grandchildren get lots of attention--here and in Chicago and Washington, D.C. Traveling is definitely an activity that will not slow down. With that, of course, fishing will happen. To that the t-shirt is apt, "I fish; therefore I am." In addition to novels, the book of Blogs, "Voice Of My Heart," is also available on Amazon.
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