Sue Grafton

Journal Notes

"J" is for Judgment


Checking in. Don't know yet what J is for:


Think I'll set it in Ventura and I may use, as a jumping off place, the brochure Bxxxx gave me about missing heirs.


Just a quick note here from an idea Right Brain gave me in the dead of night. Don't know if this is really "J" but I'm not sure where else to record it. What if the government or the military has gone to great lengths to suggest that a man is dead. Time passes and his daughter (or some relative with a vested interest) spots him or believes she does. She hires Kinsey to track down this look-alike. Kinsey begins to pursue the man and ends up in jeopardy be-cause she's blowing the scheme.

I wonder how searching for an heir could generate a story line. I find myself attracted to action/adventure storylines, but they are a bitch to write. Generating action with variety and credibility...menace, suspense ...


Bouchercon is over...won both the Anthony and a Shamus for "G" IS FOR GUMSHOE. Steve & I went out to dinner tonight...Emilio's...and I want to record some ideas for "J." Suppose I open with the scene I can't seem to fit into any other book. Kinsey's Europe .. . New York...Chicago...Los Angeles...She's broken into some guy's room to toss it. He shows up, drunk, etc...maybe this isn't the guy himself, but some sales-man in the room next door. She poses as a hooker, escapes.

The guy she's after gets away.

Then we swing back. It's her defeat in the moment that motivates her pursuit of the guy.

I'm thinking to go full circle.

New York, Amsterdam, London, Los Angeles, Ventura, which I may well call something else. She's after an elusive con artist she's been hired to track across three continents.

Maybe she swings back around again and picks up Henry as cover.


The guy has been arrested & charged with fraud. He jumps bail and takes off. In essence, she's an international bounty hunter.

Maybe the guy has been out for years. The company after him has tried everything. Now they hire her.

I may save "heirs" for "L" IS FOR LEGACY. Might be a nice use of the title & the subject.

Found some interesting articles. Must make up the "L" file. "K" has to be for killer. Maybe I'll set that one up, too.


Found a quote from Henry Kissinger that I thought deserved entry here in my journal. "Each success only buys an admission ticket to a more difficult problem."

And that quote from the article about the comedian who got hooked on cocaine . . . "Risking public failure on a regular basis is a debilitating business."

God, I'm sleepy. A sure sign I'm getting back down to work again.

I'm currently thinking "J" IS FOR JUDGMENT.

Do I want to do a whodunnit?

Do I want to do action/adventure?

Do I want to do some combination of the two?

I don't want to reproduce the format for "G"IS FOR GUMSHOE, i.e. a road picture with Kinsey being pursued.

Might be nice if she's on the track of someone.

I rather like the idea I detailed a few entries earlier ... she nearly nabs some guy...he gets away and she starts all over again.

Or about, she nearly nabs some guy. He's killed, end of case, and it's not until months later that she realizes he's still alive and well.

Have I done a book in which she pursues a bad guy from beginning to end? Would it feel like some hokey version of a James Bond novel or a Robert Ludlum? Who would hire her? Who would be paying her? Where would the murder come from?

How about she nearly nabs some guy, then loses him. He's killed. Months later, there's a murder in which the MO is his. She gets in touch with the cops or they get in touch with her.
This feels like some old movie plot.


One ruse I don't think I've used yet...

The person hiring her is not on the level. She fulfills her obligation only to realize she's gotten herself or somebody else in real trouble.

Maybe I should peek at my "I" journal. Somewhere along the way I lay out plot lines and types.

What if you began to wonder if your father was really who he said he was ...

Suppose he'd killed someone long ago and then" disappeared"...recreating his own identity quite successfully. He marries, has a career, a family, etc. Then one day you're out in public with him somewhere and someone calls him by a different name. He dead-pans it, but you've seen the startled, uncontrollable, automatic response.

Do I want to lay out the story of Kinsey's past?


I thought at one point about using the framework of the story about the gambling woman. She and Kinsey witness a crime and have to go into hiding.

I haven't seen Kinsey with a woman companion. Might be an interesting variation on a theme. What is Kinsey hired to do? Whatever it is, she and this woman would go into the card parlors down in Orange County. Hmm. Is this relationship too reminiscent of Bibianna Diaz?

Might this work better for "K" IS FOR KILLER.

That would give me a plot line for "L" IS FOR LEGACY...Kinsey hunting for an heir. The card parlors would be the setting or the jump-off point for "K" So what's "J" . . .

"J" could be for Juvenile but then I'd have to deal with some pre-cocious adolescent. Puke.

I toyed for a while with the idea of a jury...twelve people who sat on a jury ten years ago on a big splashy case. One of the jurors comes to Kinsey ten years later. She says they promised to have a reunion and she'd like to round them up. She's in touch with a few but seven are missing ... or five or some number.

Kinsey realizes two/three have died under questionable circum-stances and it would appear that the only thing they have in common in the fact of this case. The obvious motive would be revenge on the part of some family member of the culprit. Maybe the guy's finally executed...or the guy kills himself...and it looks like the jurors are being killed one by one. This feels awfully artificial ... one of those doctored up concepts that only appear in mystery novels.

Okay, start again.

I keep thinking about the murder of a court reporter since I have access through C...A...Female bailbondsman. The female bailbondsman would suggest a bounty-hunting situation.

Let's see.

Mustn't forget Kinsey still has offices with Lonnie Kingman.
Mustn't forget she has that twenty-five thousand dollars. Mustn't forget she's probably still looking for office space. What else? What other kind of job could she do? The missing heir is just too good for legacy and I don't want to pop that one prematurely.


I'm in the process of clipping articles of interest from the three bags full of Ventura County newspapers that Jay saved for me. I've now done two of the three bags and I'm thinking to rest.

Let's think again about plot lines.

In "A," a woman convicted of her husband's murder gets out of prison and hires Kinsey to prove her innocence.

In "B," a woman's sister hires Kinsey to locate her in order to sign some inconsequential documents.

In "C," a young man who's been injured in a car accident hires Kinsey to find out why someone's trying to kill him.

In "D," a man hires Kinsey to deliver a check, paying her with a check which turns out to be NG.

In "E," Kinsey's hired to do an arson investigation and finds her-self framed in the process.

In "F," the father of a man who's been recaptured after a seventeen year jail escape hires Kinsey to prove the guy is really innocent.

In "G," Kinsey's hired to find an old woman missing in the Mojave desert and learns simultaneously that she's the target of a hitman.

In "H," Kinsey goes undercover for the cops in an attempt to break up an automobile insurance fraud gang.

In "I," Kinsey's hired by an attorney to complete a pre-trial investigation of a 'civil' murder suit after the prime P.I. drops dead of a heart attack.

In "J,"

I think I'll save the woman gambler for "K" and the search for a missing heir for "L".

If I write a plot line with her on the trail of a guy who's jumped bail, won't that seem too much like "H"...i.e. out of town, under-cover...and where would the murder come from?

Is there any way to convert that story of the "pregnant" woman toting millions of bucks for the mob? Can't think who would hire her to do that and why it would be legal? She wouldn't agree to do anything illegal ... certainly wouldn't be drugs. The cash would be great, but who'd hire her and why? And why would she agree? And why couldn't the money be transported any other way. Somebody might have some leverage on her...Henry kidnapped or something like that, but it seems pretty far-fetched to me. That idea only works as an action/adventure film. One day I'll figure out how to make the rest of the story line work.

I've always liked the idea of her overhearing two guys in an air-port bar. Liked the idea that she spots some con artist she al-ways thought was dead. Maybe that's how she gets caught up in this chase. Maybe she's on her way to Mexico on a vacation. LAX...she's sitting there waiting for a plane. Hears a voice she recognizes...some guy talking to someone else...manages to look around, but doesn't know the face.

Start with a flashback?

What's the back story on this?

Could I sustain a whole book with her after some guy?

Is she hired by a bailbondswoman?

Is the guy coming back for something?

It's way too old a story line if a guy gets out of prison and comes back for the money.

How about the guy is thought to be dead.

Something happens and he has to come back, risking everything.

Is he a good guy or a bad guy?

Does she expose him and then realize she's gotten him in a peck of trouble? Together they stage his "death." Together they hit the road, just one step ahead of the killers or the cops?
She's hired to solve an old murder and it turns out there is no murder. The guy's alive and well and the mob is after him. He's being betrayed and she's being used as the bait. Who would betray him? His ex-wife? A kid who hates his guts? Does the kid act in all innocence?

Kinsey can't find any files. She gets no help from the police. The Feds have set up this guy's disappearance/death...not a witness protection program ... something more discreet.

Why would the guy risk returning?

What's going on?

Is it a coincidence that the kid/ex-wife spots the guy? Does s/he suspect the truth? Does she believe he 'left' her for another woman?

The guy sets up his own disappearance. Is he alive or dead? He's bilked people out of millions. Now he wants the freedom to enjoy his ill-gotten gains. Who gets killed?

It looks like he's alive and well, but is he really?

Has somebody killed him early on and walked off with the money? Who? A cop? A lawyer? A partner in crime? Male or female.

What is the angle of attack here?

What does someone overhear?

What does someone witness?

Is it Kinsey or is she hired by the ex-wife/son ...

Bitter ex-wife...always believed the guy ran off with his secretary. Many years have passed. What jolts the story back to life? Does Kinsey have one of those super-sensitive directional mikes?

Nobody has ever really believed the guy was dead. Everybody believes he's faked his own death so he could take his stolen money and run off with the girlfriend. Is she the one who betrayed him all those years ago? Why would she resurface? Does someone spot her down in Mexico? Does someone recognize her voice? How does Kinsey know him/her? Suppose Kinsey, at the airport on her way to X, spots (or over-hears or recognizes) the guy/gal and impulsively pursues.

Loses the trail.

Goes back to the ex-wife/widow and picks up the trail again.
Son/daughter getting married...or on trial ... or in some kind of trouble. The guy's coming back to help. Is the whole thing a set-up to smoke him out of hiding?

What's the real story?

Is the guy really dead, but innocent?

Does Kinsey catch the real culprit?

The guy is alive and guilty, but dying of cancer and wants to see his kid again.

Ex-wife..."I had him declared dead years ago so I could collect the insurance money, but I never believed it..." She doesn't want Kinsey to turn the guy up. She's remarried, made a new life for herself. "To hell with him."

The guy is taking a monstrous risk...why? He knows he's dying anyway and he wants to save his kid? Break him out of jail? Deliver some money for the kid's defense? What's at stake here? Obviously if the guy is caught he's going to have to go to prison himself.

Let's layer something over this. Is the guy really alive? Has he been betrayed and killed? Is someone leaking his "presence" to convince the authorities he's alive and well and living on his ill-gotten gains?

Suppose the guy's trying to get back and is killed before he can make it. Kinsey misses him the first time, circles back and picks up the trail. Picks up Henry at the same time.

How would the story be structured?

Could I do eight, eight and eight?

Property sold...building being demolished.

Money hidden in the...

Millions bilked or embezzled. Money never recovered.

Ex-wife/widow has to live with the disgrace. Maybe she's the one who kills him when he finally shows his face.

I don't want Kinsey to be duped into exposing him if it ends with his death. She'd have to save him once she realizes she's blown his cover. She goes back to the factory. Sold sign.

How long has the guy been gone? Maybe he's planning to disappear...sets up his new identity.

His partner sees the opportunity to shift the blame for the embezzlement. If he succeeds in getting back, he may tell the truth. If the guy succeeds in disappearing and then hears he's been blamed for some crime he didn't commit, why wouldn't he return at that point to clear himself?

Maybe that's the story. Or maybe his new life is worth it. Then his "wife" dies or runs off...or she threatens to leave him because the money's running out.


The guy sets up a disappearing act. His partner takes the money and puts the blame on him. The guy hears his partner is gravely ill. He decides to come back and collect because he's been blamed for it anyway.

What makes him think the partner still has the bucks?

Maybe the partner has never spent the money. He wants to leave it to his kids. A huge estate.


How would word get out? Maybe he's a well-known attorney and his cancer is newsworthy. Maybe this is the only dishonest thing he's ever done. He's never been good with money. At a certain point, he realized he'd have nothing to leave his kids. His partner disappears and he sees the opportunity. Maybe the guy has socked away some dough. He isn't willing to risk his freedom just to clear his name.

Then he hears his partner is ill.

By then, his new life has palled...maybe the woman's run off (I can use her as a suspect because she'd know he wasn't guilty.)

So I've got the partner.

The ex-wife/widow.

The girlfriend.

His brother.

Is there a murder?

End of Chapter 8...somebody gets killed.

Doesn't it start with a murder? Or does it?

"H" and "I" both start with a murder. Maybe this one I can delay slightly.

Kid wants to believe his dad is dead...otherwise, why wouldn't he have come back?

Wife wants to believe the guy is dead because she's made a new life for herself on the insurance money.

Maybe the brother wants to believe he's dead so he won't have to share all the money from the parents estate.

Has to be ten years.

Does somebody hire Kinsey?


Does somebody else spot him or overhear his voice in an airport?

Where, Mexico? LAX?
Is this too much like "F"?

Bailey Fowler disappears. Sets up a whole new life. Turns up again by a fluke. He's blamed for a crime and the real killer doesn't want him to be proved innocent. Hmmm. In "F" it was a it's embezzlement. Does that make enough of a difference?

Does the guy himself get killed?

Even the partner's cancer seems suspiciously like old man Fowler's cancer.

What would bring the guy back?

His kid's in trouble.

If the guy had disappeared all those years ago, the embezzlement would have come to light the minute there was an audit, which the partner would have ordered at once.
Okay. The partner isn't ill. He's laying low, hanging onto the money which he's invested little by little over the last ten years.

He can afford to take his time because the guy is taking the rap for the crime. He dreads the possibility of the guy showing up.

So when he hears (from Kinsey in her attempt to pick up the trail) that the guy may be on his way back, he panics.
Does Kinsey blow this thing or does someone else?

I hate to have her inadvertently betray a good guy. Or is this guy good?

How would she have known about him in the first place?

Ten years ago, she was twenty-three or twenty-four. What was going on in her life then? Was she still a cop? Is this Mickey? They divorce and he marries someone else?


This couldn't be her first ex, could it? It would certainly explain how she could recognize his voice. Was he a cop at the time? How would he come up with big bucks? Was he a business man?

Nah. This guy would have had to be married to the ex/widow for many years. She'd hose him in a divorce so he just walks away.

How does Kinsey know him though? Did she arrest him once?


How does she know him? Who would hire her, the kid? He's twenty-one or twenty-two years old ... or twenty-four. His mother has remarried ... her new husband has beaucoup bucks.

Wistful. He wants his real dad. Maybe he's married young. Has a kid now of his own. How could he do that? Man, I look at this little guy and I know I'd never leave him. Wants to belong. Wants a real family. He's married some woman you know is going to do him in. Maybe once the father is killed, the kid hires her to find out what was really going on. How is the father killed? Is it like a replay of the first "death?" Does he fake his death?

A boat explodes.


Nice ones in there. Journey is nice.

Kinsey has to know the guy somehow. I think she's on her way to Mexico and hears his voice. Or she's in Mexico in some big hotel, or some town square. Maybe she's staying at the same hotel. Which is how she ends up breaking into the guy's room.
What's he doing there? Has he been there all along? Does she confront him and he escapes? Is she on the verge of confronting him and finds him gone?

Goes back to the States. Checks with cops, ex/widow, partner, kid, brother, etc.

Did she work on the case?

Must find her bio.