Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: Sue Grafton and Alexander McCall Smith


Three weeks ago my Short Story Wednesday post featured two anthologies and one collection of short stories that I had purchased at the Planned Parenthood Book Sale in September. My SSW post last week was also about a book I had purchased at the sale, Elizabeth McCracken's short story collection, The Souvenir Museum.

So I might as well continue on that theme this week, with two more collections that I found at the sale. I have not started reading either one of these books, but I am sure I will get to them before the end of the year.

Kinsey and Me: Stories by Sue Grafton

Sue Grafton was well known for her Kinsey Millhone series, featuring a private detective based in Santa Teresa, California (a thinly disguised Santa Barbara). Starting shortly after the first book was published (1982), I read the first 5 or 6 books in the series. In 2016, I read the 7th book, G is for Gumshoe. I read that book mainly for the setting, both in place and time. I enjoyed the book but I am not in a rush to read more in the series. 

Description of Kinsey and Me at Goodreads:

A collection of stories that reveal Kinsey's originsand Grafton's past. The nine stories that open the book show how fully formed Kinsey was from the beginning. The thirteen stories in the second part, written in the decade following her mother's death, feature Kit Blue, a younger version of Grafton herself, and reflect her troubled family life and the author's journey from anger to understanding and forgiveness.

Tiny Tales: Stories of Romance, Ambition, Kindness, and Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith is also  a well-known author of mysteries, and he has multiple series. I read the first book in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series but stopped there. I have never tried any of his other writing. I did find another one of his books at the book sale that I want to try: 44 Scotland Street

I was attracted to Tiny Tales because the short stories are accompanied by illustrations by Iain McIntosh. The format of the book is small, and the stories appear to all be very short, each under 10 pages.

Description of Tiny Tales, from the dust jacket flap:

In Tiny Tales, Alexander McCall Smith explores romance, ambition, kindness, and happiness in thirty short stories accompanied by thirty witty cartoons designed by Iain McIntosh, McCall Smith's longtime creative collaborator. Here we meet the first Australian pope, who hopes to finally find some peace and quiet back home in Perth; a psychotherapist turned motorcycle racetrack manager; and an aspiring opera singer who gets her unlikely break onstage. And, of course, we spend time in McCall Smith's beloved Scotland, where we are introduced to progressive Vikings, a group of housemates with complex romantic entanglements, and a couple of globe-trotting dentists. 

These tales and illustrations depict the full scope of human experience and reveal the rich tapestry of lifepainted in miniature.


Cath said...

A friend of mine recently reread Sue Grafton's book for 'X' for an alphabet challenge and said it reminded her that the early books in that series were much the best. She thought the X one too long with too much superfluous detail. Personally, I haven't read any so can't judge.

I have read quite a lot of AMcS's books. Lots of the No. 1 Detective Agency, probably a dozen, but the last one I read convinced me enough was enough. But I liked the early ones. I've also read about half a dozen of his 'Philosophy' series (sorry the proper title eludes me). Again, I liked the first ones but after that I felt like he was just repeating the same storylines. Just my two cents worth... but I would think short stories by both authors would be well worth a look.

Margot Kinberg said...

Oh, Tracy, I really must read that Alexander McCall Smith collection! He is such a talented writer, and I can imagine those stories would be very good. I'll have to look that one up.

George said...

My wife, Diane, has read all the Sue Grafton books. I met Sue Grafton at the BOUCHERCON in Albany a few years ago. Lovely lady! Diane also reads Alexander McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street Series, too. Alexander McCall Smith spoke eloquently at the recent BOUCHERCON in Minneapolis on the Death of the Queen.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I loved the early ones but quite reading them about midway through. Not sure why although I imagine I felt there were other writers I wanted to read more.

TracyK said...

Cath, Based on G is for Gumshoe, I liked these books for a good picture of various parts of California and Santa Barbara especially, and I probably will read more of them over time. I have copies of the books for H, I, J and K, and of course there are many copies of all the books at the book sale every year.

I bought the copy of the first in the 44 Scotland Street series because he wrote that one in serial form in The Scotsman and I thought that would be interesting. In the introduction he talks about the differences in writing a daily piece for serial publication. Also the book has a few illustrations by Iain McIntosh.

TracyK said...

Margot, I am eager to try some of the stories and see what they are like. And the novel, 44 Scotland Street, since it is made up of many short chapters and that often works well for me.

Sam said...

I've read close to 20 of the Sue Grafton books, including the one you feature here. I've loved a few of them, liked most of them a lot, and been bored with one or two, but I suspect that's more a reflection of my mood at the time that I picked them up than anything else because I keep coming back. Haven't tried any of Smith's yet, mainly because they strike me (from the outside looking in) as being a little to Cozy to suit my tastes. Maybe one day...

TracyK said...

George, I hope I don't get too addicted to the 44 Scotland Street series because it has 15 books already, and I can't afford to get into another long series.

I have heard that Sue Grafton was a very nice person.

TracyK said...

Patti, I am sure that I am way behind in many series for the same reason... I cannot read all the books I want to. Even when I was not reading so many newer books, there were always older authors I wanted to read more of.

TracyK said...

Sam, It is good to hear from you. I haven't read enough of the Sue Grafton books lately to have a real feel for them, which I why I hope I can continue reading them now and then. Plus the Santa Barbara setting, at least sometimes.

I have avoided the Alexander McCall Smith books for the same reason, but I figured that with so many series, there might be something I would like, plus the fact that my tastes in fiction are either changing or broadening. So it can't hurt to try a couple of books.

Kathy's Corner said...

Hi Tracy, Sue Grafton and Andrew McCall Smith are two mystery novelists I have been meaning to try out and actually I did read many years ago Grafton's first book A is for Alibi. Not sure why I never continued. I know what you mean about after awhile not following through on a series. I was sure when I found Donna Leon that I would read everything she wrote. Lawrence Block's Scudder series as well. But since I found Louise Penny I have neglected Leon and Block. I think part of the problem is we can get too hung up on reading a mystery series in order and it can become alot of pressure and we end up abandoning the writer.

TracyK said...

Kathy, I definitely have always preferred to read series in order. And in a lot of the series (like those you named here) order is important. Maybe Donna Leon's series could be read out of order? I have only read three in that series. And I think I would not have much problem skipping books in Sue Grafton's series.

The Matt Scudder series is one I regret not continuing, and I still hope to do so.

As I get older I am more inclined to break my rules and read a series out of order, but it is still a problem for me.