Grafton, Sue: K is for Killer
(researched by Su-Hou Chen)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
The first edition was published in 1994 by Henry Holt and Company Inc. on 115 West 18th Street, New York, New York 10011. The book was also published in Canada by Fitzhenry & Whiteside ltd., 195 Allstate Parkway, Markham, Ontario in 1994.
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
The first edition was published in cloth.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
There are 154 leaves: the first eight and the last four are not labeled. All leaves in between have number labels except for the pages with chapter titles.
154 Leaves [12] 2-284
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
Not edited or introduced.
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
The book contains no illustrations.
7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available
8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)
The physical appearance of the book is very attractive. The text uses times new roman lettering and is easy to read. The ink is not smudged. The front cover consists of a hand with red lettering on black background. The back cover contains a picture of the author, Ms. Sue Grafton.
9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available
10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)
The black lettering on the sturdy yellow paper extremely attractive.
11 Description of binding(s)
The adhesive binding is holding together well.
12 Transcription of title page
"K" IS FOR/KILLER/[rule 127mm.]/SUE GRAFTON/HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY/NEW YORK
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
According to a letter that Sue Grafton has written me, she sends all her manuscripts to Boston University.
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
'K' is for Killer is the 11th book that Sue Grafton has written using the character Kinsey Millhone. The previous ten books written all start with a letter. Alphabetically their ordering is: 'A' is for Alibi, 'B' is for Burglar, and so on.
Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History
1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A
Yes, the original publisher did issue the book in another edition. The other edition is identical to the original edition except for the fact that it was in a larger print and has 524 pages instead of 284 pages, this edition was published in 1994.
2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available
3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available
4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?
N/A
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
6/94 Wheeler Publishing, MA 5/95 Fawcett Publishing (Ballantine Books), NY 9/95 Henry Holt & Co., NY 3/96 Fawcett Publishing (Ballantine Books), NY 5/97 Fawcett Publishing (Ballantine Books), NY
6 Last date in print?
This book is still in print as of 1999.
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
Unable to abtain the information.
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
488,000 copies were sold in 1994.
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
"The best first-person-singular storytelling in detective novels." -Mark Harris, Entertainment Weekly
"Grafton has moved the private-eye story closer to real life than did either Hammett or Chandler." -Dick Lochte, Los Angeles Times Book Review
*Both sources appear on the first edition of "K" is for Killer
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
On page 111 of the Winter 1995 issue of The Armchair Detective, a list of books published in April of 1994 was compiled and "K" is for Killer was on it. The title of the book, the author, and the price of the book was listed.
On page 373 and page 374 of the Summer 1994 issue of The Armchair Detective, there was a book review of "K" is for Killer. Along with the review was a picture of the cover of the book.
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
N/A
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
Japanese, by Hayakaw Shobo in Tokyo in 1995, titled "Satsugaisha no K". Hewbrew, by Shalgi in Tel Aviv in 1995, titled "Kemo Kotel".
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
N/A
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
Ms. Sue Grafton wrote 10 books using the main character Kinsey Millhone before this book: "A" is for Alibi, "B" is for Burgler, "C" is for Corpse, "D" is for Deadbeat, "E" is for Evidence, "F" is for Fugitive, "G" is for Gumshoe, "H" is for Homicide, "I" is for Innocent, "J" is for Judgement. Since the publication of this book in 1994, Grafton has written "L" is for Lawless, "M" is for Malice, and "N" is for Noose; Kinsey Millhone is the main character of all three books.
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
Sue Grafton is one of the most famous mystery writers today and her popularity continues to grow. She has published in 28 countries and in 26 different languages. Her detective series starting Kinsey Millhone is one of the longest running detective series today. The first fiction novel of this detective series was A is for Alibi; the series continues with B is for Burglar, C is for Corpse, D is for Deadbeat, E is for Evidence, F is for Fugitive, G is for Gumshoe, H is for Homicide, I is for Innocent, J is for Judgment, K is for Killer, L is for Lawless, M is for Malice, and N is for Noose. Besides this detective fiction series, Grafton has also written many screenplays and two other novels: Keziah Dane and The Lolly-Madonna War. All these novels have made it to the Publisher's Weekly Hardcover Bestseller List; Grafton's average spot on this bestseller list is 5.3. Sue Grafton was born April 24, 1940 in Louisville, Kentucky. Her father Chip Warren was an attorney/writer and her mother Vivian Boisseau was a high school chemistry teacher. Grafton is currently married to her third husband Steven F. Humphrey, a philosophy professor. Grafton has three children: Leslie Flood from the first marriage, and Jay and Jamie Schmidt from the second marriage. She received her B.A. in 1961 from University of Louisville. Six years after she received her B.A. she published her first book, Keziah Dane. Her agent today is Molly Friedrich from Aaron Priest Agency. She was a member of Writer Guild of America, President of Mystery Writers of America from 1994-95, President of Private Eye Writers of America from 1989-90, and a member of the Crime Writers Association of Great Britain. She works today mainly in her Louisville home and in her Santa Barbara home. She mainly uses a word processor and she keeps journals with research notes and character sketches in them. She sends her actual manuscript and copies of these eight journals to Boston University.
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
As the eleventh book of the Kinsey Millhone detective series, 'K' is for Killer is clearly one of the best among this popular Sue Grafton series. This book reached number two on the Publishers' Weekly Hardcover Bestseller list the first week it came out; it shows it is a favorite among the readers, and also among the reviewers. The reviewers praise this literary work claiming it offers, "a spicy plot, some very funny lines, and a raft of intriguing characters" and shows, "spunk and appeal." Kinsey Millhone shows humor and a more personable side of her in this book, allowing the readers to relate to this popular character even more. The reviewers also rave about Sue Grafton's vivid writing and her ability to capture the readers' attention from the beginning. The readers are captivated because they want to know whether Kinsey Millhone can reveal the identity of the person who killed Lorna Kepler ten months after her death; the readers have, "a fierce need to finishing it ['K' is for Killer] in one sitting." With this great set-up and other interesting subplots, 'K' is for Killer is definitely one of Grafton's best work. The only negative response generated from the reviewers was Grafton's lackadaisical effort to create a dramatic ending. Even though the killer is revealed at the end of the novel, the readers were disappointed that he/she was not brought to justice; they are unhappy with Grafton's, "recent trend of writing ambiguous endings where good and evil are not so clearly delineated and where justice is relative." Despite a surprising and fascinating conclusion, 'K' is for Killer fails to deliver satisfaction to the readers. If Grafton had changed the conclusion and not allow the killer to escape, 'K' is for Killer could have been Grafton's best work.
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
As the eleventh book of the Kinsey Millhone detective series, 'K' is for Killer is clearly one of the best among this popular Sue Grafton series. This book reached number two on the Publishers' Weekly Hardcover Bestseller list the first week it came out; it shows it is a favorite among the readers, and also among the reviewers. The reviewers praise this literary work claiming it offers, "a spicy plot, some very funny lines, and a raft of intriguing characters" and shows, "spunk and appeal." Kinsey Millhone shows humor and a more personable side of her in this book, allowing the readers to relate to this popular character even more. The reviewers also rave about Sue Grafton's vivid writing and her ability to capture the readers' attention from the beginning. The readers are captivated because they want to know whether Kinsey Millhone can reveal the identity of the person who killed Lorna Kepler ten months after her death; the readers have, "a fierce need to finishing it ['K' is for Killer] in one sitting." With this great set-up and other interesting subplots, 'K' is for Killer is definitely one of Grafton's best work. The only negative response generated from the reviewers was Grafton's lackadaisical effort to create a dramatic ending. Even though the killer is revealed at the end of the novel, the readers were disappointed that he/she was not brought to justice; they are unhappy with Grafton's, "recent trend of writing ambiguous endings where good and evil are not so clearly delineated and where justice is relative." Despite a surprising and fascinating conclusion, 'K' is for Killer fails to deliver satisfaction to the readers. If Grafton had changed the conclusion and not allow the killer to escape, 'K' is for Killer could have been Grafton's best work.
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
Not many books made the top-fifteen Publisher's Weekly best-selling list in its first few weeks of publication, but "K" is for Killer by Sue Grafton is one of them. Millions of fans of the popular Kinsey Millho
ne detective series waited eagerly for this eleventh installment of the series, making it a best-seller among the fans even before it was published and released to all the major bookstores. The early success of this book did not continue however; "K" i
s for Killer dropped out of the top-fifteen list a few months after it reached its peak position of number two (4). This ephemeral success can be contributed to the fact that "K" is for Killer is "easy-reading" literature. Like Danielle Steel's novel
Changes, which also made its way to the top-fifteen Publisher's Weekly Best-Seller list but soon dwindled away, "K" is for Killer is a kind of the literary work that readers enjoy reading but has no particular everlasting literary value. It is this kind
of best-selling novels that drops down dramatically on the best-selling list after it reaches its apex and never heard from again. It is necessary to have books like "K" is for Killer and Changes in the literary world because both books provide an aspec
t to the reader that has been often overlooked, the aspect that the readers can enjoy what they are reading.
The plots of both books are very interesting and they captivated the reader's attention from the beginning. "K" is for Killer starts ten months after Lorna Kepler's death, when Kinsey Millhone accepts Lorna'a mother Janice's request to find the true
killer. The readers are curious to find out whether Millhone is able to find the murderer of Lorna Kepler with so little clues and the fact that Santa Teresa police has given on this investigation. As the story progresses, more and more suspects are be
ing introduced and the secret life that Lorna was leading begins to reveal itself. At the end, Millhone was finally able to reveal the identity of this ruthless murderer. Besides this main plot, many subplots like the location of the missing $20,000, th
e relationship between the victim and her sisters, and the dark side of a well-known figure all strengthen the plot of the novel. Danielle Steel was able to achieve the same effect with Changes. Melanie Adams and Peter Hallam are two middle-age single p
arents on top of their respective careers trying to keep their love alive despite living hundreds of miles apart. Steele tries to depict how fate continues to bring the two characters together by creating events like Pattie Lou's heart transplant and th
e shooting of the President. Despite all the sacrifices that Melanie had to make and all the obstacles she and Peter faced along the way, the two finally overcome these difficulties and "lived happily ever after." The readers were enthralled by Changes
from the first chapter; Dr. Peter Hallam is trying to save Sally Block's life and that was his top priority. The readers care about Peter from the start because he is being presented as this handsome and caring guy who is willing to sacrifice himself f
or others. Both authors use the same strategy by creating an interesting first chapter in order to make the readers to want to continue reading. Even though Grafton's choice of words is more diverse and less repetitive than Steele's, both authors have
presented literary works that the readers will enjoy reading because of the entertaining plots in both novels.
Both novels are being labeled as "easy reading" because both failed to possess the timeless literary characteristic that classic novels like Catch-22 or The Grapes of Wrath have; this lack of literary quality can be reflected through the time both novels
spent on the top-fifteen Publisher's Weekly hardcover best-seller list. "K" is for Killer made its first appearance on the list on April 18 of 1994 at number two behind The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield. The book remained at number two for the
following week but then drops to the number three spot on May 2 behind The Celestine Prophecy and Remember Me by Mary Higgin Clark. The book continues to stay at number three until May 23 when it drops to four. The book then starts its decline to number
six and then number eight, eventually dropping out of the top fifteen list on June 20 (4). The book spent a total of nine weeks on the list and never appears on the top-fifteen list ever again. Changes by Danielle Steel had more success on the best-sel
ling list than "K" is for Killer did. It first appeared on the list on September 23 of 1983 at the number three spot. The following week it moved up to number two behind James A. Michener's novel Poland. The book continues to stay at the second positi
on until November 18 when it moved down to number four. The decline ended when the book climbed back to the number three spot on December 2. The book starts its descent down to the sixth position and to number eight the following two weeks. It remained
at number eight until April 6, 1984 when it dropped out of the top-fifteen list (3). Similar to "K" is for Killer, Changes never made another appearance on the list again. Both novels made a high debut but fail to maintain that position for a long time
; both books had their descent on the best-seller list soon after they reached their respective peaks. Unlike other novels which had a sudden increase in sales figure years after it was first published, these two novels are the type of literary best-sell
ers that readers would not particularly desire to read many years after they are published. This could be contributed to the fact that both novels lack redeeming literary value and there are so many similar types of "easy-reading" materials published. H
owever, both novels did not fade to oblivion after their absence from the best-seller list. Changes was reprinted in August of 1989 by Dell Publishing company and "K" is for Killer was reprinted by many different companies: Wheeler Publishing company in
June of 1994, Fawcett Publishing company in May of 1995, Henry Holt & Co. in September of 1995, Fawcett Publishing company again in March of 1996 and May of 1997. Despite all these editions from other publishing companies, both novels never made their wa
y back to the hardcover best-selling list or the paperback best-selling list. Because both novels lack the literary value that keeps the reader interested, they fail to sustain their respective popularity; however, both books did achieve a brief period o
f success, as reflected by their appearances on the best-selling list.
In both stories, the authors' popularity contributed to the novels' success. Before "K" is for Killer was published, Sue Grafton had written ten detective novels using the same character Kinsey Millhone. Before writing this novel, Grafton had written
"A" is for Alibi, "B" is for Burgler, "C" is for Corpse, "D" is for Deadbeat, "E" is for Evidence, "F" is for Fugitive, "G" is for Gumshoe, "H" is for Homicide, "I" is for Innocent, and "J" is for Judgement (1). Grafton has already established a large au
dience before the publication of "K" is for Killer. The fans of Kinsey Millhone understand that they are not reading a literary classic but a mystery novel that they can enjoy before they even purchase the book. This explains why "K" is for Killer debut
ed at such a high position. Besides the Kinsey Millhone fans or mystery fans, Grafton's work does not appeal to many other readers, which explains the book's decline on the best-seller list and that it never appears on the list again. Similar to Graft
on, Danielle Steel has established a large number of fans before the release of Changes because of the success of her earlier novels. Steel wrote Going Home, Passion's Promise, The Promise, Now and Forever, Season of Passion, Summer's End, The Ring, Th
e Loving, Remembrance, Palomino, To Love Again, Crossings, Once in a Lifetime, and A Perfect Stranger before writing Changes (8). Because Steel's novels are more popular among the females, Steel's novels generally stay on the best-selling list longer.
However, the only explanation why Changes fails to continue its success is that it does not have the quality that makes the readers want to read it years after its release. There are many other contemporary writers similar to Steel, for example, Anne R
ice has also achieve success writing romantic novels that attractive the female readers. Readers know what to expect from both novels based on the popularity of both authors. Both novels are best-sellers that have attained success because the readers ha
ve grown to love any work written by the respective authors. Both novels are missing the literary quality that many other classic novels possess; this can be reflected through the reviews that both books received. The reviews that "K" is for Killer received from the critics are overall positive. The critics prai
se Grafton's writing style saying her, "lively prose propels the reader through the murky patches in a flawed by mostly engrossing story," and her ability to keep the readers in suspense, "Readers will puzzle and ponder over motive, method, and possible
perps right up until the surprising conclusion" (5). One thing the critics fail to mention is how the novel will effect the society. Joseph Heller used his novel Catch-22 to mock war and how everything in the society at the time was controlled by a cert
ain system; the readers understand what Heller is trying to convey and they relate to Heller's point of view. The readers will look back and think about what Heller was trying to state in his novel many years after they have read the novel. The only as
pect of Grafton's novel that the readers can relate to is the suspense. After they have finish reading the novel and reveal the identity of the killer, the readers really have no reason for reading the book again. This literary quality is missing in "K
" is for Killer. In most of the fan's review of Changes, readers complain about Steel's predictability in plot and characters, "what I found about Danielle Steel books that disturb me is the fact that there is a beautiful man and woman, who meet unexpe
ctedly, and fall in love, blah, blah, blah" (6). This repetitive theme of a perfect life that two lovers try to live despite all the obstacles that they face in Steel's novels are what the readers expect to read. The only aspect that the readers can re
late to is their fantasy of maybe one day they will have the perfect life like the characters in the novel. After realizing that the characters in the novel will live happily ever after, which is the ending of all Danielle Steel books, the readers have n
o particular reason to go back and read the book again. A Detroit Time writer describes Danielle Steel's novels as a "flair for spinning colorful and textured plots out of raw material?.is fun reading" (6). The review of both books help their sales figu
re because it gives the readers a hint what to expect from the novels. But anyone who would buy Sue Grafton detective novel or Danielle Steel romantic novel already knew what they will be reading before they even purchase the books. They continue to enj
oy reading these two novels despite their lack of redeeming literary value. Not all best-selling novels will be remembered forever by the readers, but all best-selling novels must have one distinctive quality that appeals to the general public. This quality in "K" is for Killer is the mood and atmosphere Sue Grafton creates for
the readers when they are reading the novel. The readers will not stop reading until they find out who the real killer is. As for the readers of Changes, they want to read until the last chapter to find out whether the characters will "live happily eve
r after". Even though most of Danielle Steel readers already know the ending, they still want to read her novels in order to "live" or be a part of this fantasy, or dream, that Steel has created. It is these qualities that both novels possess that make
them best-selling novels; at the same time, it's these attributes that separate them from classic great novels. "K" is for Killer and Changes may be "easy-readings" that the readers will forget the books were ever published, but they play an important r
ole in the literary world because the readers enjoy reading them. Most of the books published today are similar to these two novels, "fun-readings" that bring the money to the publishing companies and the authors.
1. First edition of "K" is for Killer by Sue Grafton 2. Changes by Danielle Steele 3. Publisher's Weekly 9/23/1983 - 4/6/1984 4. Publisher's Weekly 4/18/1994 - 6/20/1994 5. Book Review Digest 1994 P. 791-792 6. www.amazon.com 7. www.suegrafton.com 8. www.daniellesteel.com 9. www.galenet.com 10. www.silcom.com/~manatee/grafton_k.html
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