An Incomplete Alphabet

This weekend, people around the world were saddened to hear about the passing of author Sue Grafton. I never had the pleasure of meeting her, and now that opportunity has passed forever. From everything I’ve heard and read about Ms. Grafton, she was a wonderful lady and enjoyed meeting her fans. Her illness was kept quiet, and she passed away surrounded by those she loved.

Even if you have never read her novels, I’m sure you are aware of them. She is the lady responsible for the popular mystery series with titles based on the alphabet, beginning with A is for Alibi. Her most recent novel was released earlier this year, Y is for Yesterday, and with her death ended the alphabet series. Fans have long wondered what would happen after Z, and now we will never know.

With Ms. Grafton’s death, the question was switched to “What will happen after Y (as Z is for Zero was tentatively scheduled for release in 2019).” The answer? The alphabet ends at Y. The author never wanted her books used for films or television, nor did she ever want to use a ghost writer. The family is respecting those wishes.

For those of us in the writing and publishing community, this brings up questions regarding our own mortality and legacy that we may not have thought to address before. What will happen to our work after we are gone? What happens if our demise is sudden and unexpected? How do we want our legacies handled—not just the monetary aspects, but the creative aspects as well? Because for most artists, it is the creativity that is most important. Sure, the money is nice if it comes, but if you’re in this business for the purpose of getting rich, you might want to look elsewhere.

The people I know and work with  are driven to write, to draw, to create, to share their creativity with others. What happens if that creativity suddenly ceases to exist through illness or death? Is the end really The End? Or will we see that The Show Must Go On? It is a decision as personal and individual as the person who makes the choice, and I hope each of us takes the time to decide for ourselves, instead of letting others make that determination when we cannot do so.

As for myself, I am perfectly happy to let the alphabet end with Y. To me, that is a beautiful legacy that speaks volumes for Sue Grafton. If the series ends here, it ends where she left it. And her fans should respect that as much as her family has.