Sue Grafton

Journal Notes

"G" is for Gumshoe


Just checking in to have a little chat. I'm in Chapter 3 and feeling pretty good, but I'm wondering if I don't need some tension or suspense. We know there may be a hit man after her. She's currently on her way to the desert and everything seems really normal..nay, even dull. Do I need to pep it up a bit? She's almost at the Slabs. I've been doing a lot of description but maybe I need to weave it into the narrative better. Flipping back and forth from the external to the internal.

What other possibilities are there? I've noticed that with Dick Francis, sometimes when nothing's happening, you sit there expecting something anyway. I could use the external as a metaphor for the internal. I know I'll be doing that when Dietz enters the scene. What could Kinsey be thinking about while she drives down to the slabs? She's talked briefly...


Can't remember what I meant to say in the paragraph above. I did some work last night that I'm really happy with. I'm using those two boys with the toy car at the rest stop. Added a father asleep on the bench. Later, he turns out to be one of the guys hired to kill her.

Want to remember to use a couple of things.

1. When the mother dies, Kinsey goes back down to the desert with Dietz. They search, finding nothing...maybe a few personal papers. What they come across, in an old cardboard box under the trailer, is some objects...maybe just old cups & saucers (which may trigger memories in Irene Gersh...) But the newspapers in which these objects are packed dated back to l937...Santa Teresa. Obviously, the mother was there at some point.

When Kinsey checks into the mother's background, she realizes Irene's birth certificate is a total fake. The mother has whited out the real information, typed over it, and has done a photocopy. All the information has been falsified. She's not who she says she was during her lifetime...father's name is wrong...I was thinking it might be Santa Teresa, but then Irene would know at the outset she had some connection with the town. Better she should think she was born in Brawley or someplace like that.

Kinsey tries to track down the original in San Diego...or wherever I decide to place the record of such a birth. Once Kinsey finds the old newspapers, she decides to try Santa Teresa records, using the certificate # which is the only thing that hasn't been tampered with. Up comes the true certificate. Twins? Irene has never heard of the woman or her husband. Has no idea there was a brother/sister involved. Is that child alive. Does she find her missing fraternal/identical twin in the course of the book? What's going on? There is a street address listed...or would it be that direct a link. The street address would be the mother's address at the time of the baby's birth. Was she, in fact, married to the guy who killed her? Yes. She'd left him, gone to LA, leaving the babies behind. Meets a cop who urges her to come back & take the kids. When she confronts her ex- he kills her. Has he killed one of the babies or not? Can decide that later. Has he killed the ex-cop...or the suspended cop? Must figure out how that ties in...can't remember now what my original idea was but I'll have it in my notes.

Must remember that a social security card...first three digits indicate where the card was issued. That might be a clue. "Mom" claims she was born in Nevada...lived there all her life until she married & moved to the desert...maybe she claims the guy was in the navy...or assigned to the airbase that is now the Slabs. Kinsey goes to Carson record. Then she figures out that the birth certificate was really issued in Santa Teresa.

Irene Gersh is floored. If mom isn't who she claims she was, then who am I?

Must also remember that mom is frightened to death. That would be a nice murder method.

Haven't thought lately about how Kinsey finds her. I don't think she's in the trailer. I think she's been hospitalized...or in a convalescent home after a massive heart attack. Never wanted Irene notified. Irene would have done exactly what she's doing now, insisted on bringing "Agnes" back to Santa Teresa. The director of the convalescent home has had his hands full with Agnes, who has no funds, is unruly, uncooperative, and has run up a huge bill. Irene wires money. Agnes is actually well enough to be dismissed, but she has nowhere to go. He can't in all conscience release her when he knows she'll go right back out to the Slabs. He's worried about liability...lawsuits. He practically gets down on his hands and knees and begs Kinsey to take the woman off his hands.

Maybe Agnes agrees. Escapes or runs away...turns up missing & Kinsey & Dietz have to comb the streets for her.

What is the nature of the attempt on Kinsey's life? I'd like some-thing more interesting than someone trying to run her off the road. I'd probably like a chase through a date grove...late day or dawn. Eerie, quiet, full of long shadows. No one for miles.

Maybe she has a flat tire. Takes it off to change it, realizes there's a bullet hole. Car pulls up and stops down the berm. She takes off on foot.

That's a good one. How does she get away? I'll figure that out when I get there.

Other notes:

Must begin to make a list of things I'll need to check when we go back down to the desert.

1. Maybe I could ask to see Vicki's birth certificate. I'd love to have a copy from someone born down there.

2. Must check out this building in Niland and find out what's in it.

3. Must find out the actual road to the Slabs.

4. Maybe take tons more pictures, especially if the Slabs seem more populated.

5. Must talk to slab inhabitants and find out what it's like, where they come from, what it feels like to live out there.

6. Must find out what the nearest medical facility would be to house Agnes Grey.


Thinking about this in the dead of night. Right Brain came up with the following observation: The desert's full of animal life: rattlesnakes, coyotes, jackrabbits, mule deer, scorpions, sun spiders, etc. But here's the rub. Nobody's fed 'em and those suckers are mad! In a cranky fit, they've all turned around and started eating each other and they're willing to eat you too if you dare to step a foot on their turf.

I'm sure Kinsey needs a genuine, hard-core attempt on her life, but the question is: should that be before or after, she looks for Agnes Grey? Maybe after she locates her. She's going to realize she's got her hands full with this old woman. Then when she finds a bullet in her tire and she's out alone in the grove of palm dates, she'll really freak out.

The thing is, the minute she realizes someone's tried to kill her, she's got to call Dietz. He flies down. Which means she probably should track down the old woman first.

I don't want her to have to hire an ambulance to bring the old woman back. Is this gal still in a convalescent home? Why hasn't anyone notified Irene? Because the old lady never told them she had living relatives. She's a crafty old gal. Hates her son-in-law.

I'm picturing her hospitalized so I'll have to figure out where she might be. Steve's going to call Vicki to check out this family reunion in February. Maybe she can tell us what the closest facility would be. Going to try to print now...pages 5-8 to see if the header & the pages numbers are now in. Also to make sure I can print partial documents.

If the old woman refused to accompany Kinsey, there's no way she could force her to get in the car. Maybe the old woman is erratic...reluctant...first she says yes, then no. Kinsey has to use extraordinary patience. Maybe Dietz is the one who talks her into it. It would be nice to watch him operate.


Ginger gave me the name & number of the investigator for the Public Defender's office here...xxxxxxx. Must get in touch with him and pick his brain.

Determined to close out Chapter 3 today and open Chapter 4. I'd feel really good if I could do that.


Just about to have Kinsey go to the hospital in Brawley, asking for Agnes Gray. Would she actually do that first or would she check with the cops? Would the hospital give her any information about Agnes Gray? What ruse could she use? Could she pretend to be investigating insurance fraud?

Who would she approach? Department head, Patient Billing\Accounting. Have I had her do this before in a book? I know she's gone to a medical clinic for information for a claim form. The clerk says its fraudulent...the woman couldn't get maternity benefits because she was in there for a tubal ligation. Kinsey professes herself amazed. What could I use here? Lost records? Incorrect information?


It occurred to me in the dead of night that I have Kinsey headed in the wrong direction. She should go straight to the local sheriff's station and talk in terms of missing persons. The deputy in charge could call the hospital and get the information with no hassle. Must back up and do that. down at the desert, I'm going to need to look at:


the sheriff's department

the hospital

a convalescent home

the slabs again.

date grove

the intersection of Beal Road & Salton Highway


Think I straightened out the narrative. Deleted the hospital ruse and substituted a very chilly sheriff's deputy, female, who solves Kinsey's problem with dispatch. Now she knows where Agnes Grey was sent after she was released from the hospital. She's gone back to the motel to change into the black dress and she's going over to the convalescent home. I need to figure out if she's going to act in her own guise, as a private detective...if she's going to pose as an insurance investigator...or if she's going to pose as Irene Gersh. She's got one shot at this. Don't see any reason why the convalescent home would make trouble for her. From their point of view, they've been compelled to take on a difficult patient whose funds have run out. She's had some medicare benefits, but now those are exhausted. They can't release her and she's not only a pain in the ass, but she's running up a huge bill.

I think she should simply claim to be a friend of the family.

God, here I am having to describe the Rio Vista Convalescent Hospital. I just described the Vagabond Motel, including Kinsey's room, and the sheriff's station, trying to be efficient about it without short-changing the reader. I don't want to get perfunctory about my stage settings.

This convalescent hospital should be in some way different from the buildings we've seen before. It would help if I'd been to Brawley and seen one...or at least seen the kind of neighborhood where these things are located. Again, it's going to be wide streets, grassy lawns, ranch style homes. What could be notable about this place? I know Agnes is still there. My point is not to raise any hue and cry about nursing home care...that's old news. It can be tacky, but it shouldn't be predictably so. What's the story on this place? Really, all I want to do is establish the locale, walk Kinsey through the office politics and introduce her to Agnes.

On one hand, I don't want to belabor the point.

But I don't want to get into too much short-hand and cheat.

It's going to be a tacky how can that translate out? It has to be a large enough place to accomodate paying customers. The owners make a profit.

Must ask Florence about Medicare or Medical.

It's not going to be a large, multi-storied building. It might be Victorian. It might be some other kind of building converted to a convalescent home. And not a charming building either.

Old school? Like an elementary school?

Old armory? Old hospital? Old hotel? That might be interesting.

Let's think about the nature of this hotel. Or is there some other category of building that I'm not thinking of? Not an old animal hospital. Big building...multi-rooms. Insane asylum? How would that be manifest. Agnes could tell her about it for starters.

Would such a building have any peculiarities? An old funeral home? This is not about any jeopardy Agnes is currently in. She probably loves this place. It's Kinsey who reacts.

I only have about thirty minutes before I'm supposed to walk..unless Judianne cancels. We didn't walk over Christmas & New Year's and last Thursday, it rained.

Anyway, maybe in talking to myself, I can solve the image of this convalescent home. Let's see. Other institutions. I like the notion of a grade school. I could use the old I.N.Bloom as a prototype...two story brick...surrounded by concrete yards on which the faint images of 'court' games are still visible. (Must think what kind of games grade school kids play...) Maybe small toilets in the doors...sinks too low. Low water fountains, too. Rooms subdivided with wall board...wainscoting halfway up...high ceilings, wide hallways, office in the middle of the central Maybe this reminds Kinsey of her old grade school. That way I can personalize to some extent instead of making it pure, dry, narrative.

I like this image...feels familiar to me. Were kids still collecting paper for paper drives in l960 & 61? I think Steve talks about that...must pick his brain about other related events.

Wonder when I.N. Bloom was built.

Wonder when most of Brawley came to pass.

Wonder if there are any two story brick buildings in Brawley.

Can't wait to go back down there with my shopping list of questions.

At what point do I want the chase through the grove of palm dates? Probably in Chapter 5. By the end of four, she'll have met Agnes Gray and had her first run-in...

She calls Irene. Here's the situation.

Irene wants her brought home. Kinsey's not sure she can manage it.

Irene calls the convalescent home to see what they suggest.

Kinsey returns after supper.

On the way home, flat tire. Does she change it herself? Then she takes the tire into a service station & the guy finds the slug?

That would chill her out.

Does this happen late in the evening & she has to drive back to the motel in Brawley? She's already in Brawley. I want her out on the road. Maybe flat tire first. Then she makes a trip back to the slabs...but why would she do that? How about she takes a padlock and secures the trailer at Irene's suggestion. What's the point? Maybe the convalescent home is outside of town...Old Something Road.

How's she going to get Agnes to Santa Teresa in her car anyway? Wouldn't Agnes go by air ambulance? Or some sort of medical transport? She's going to be unruly, obstreperous, out of control. There's no way Kinsey can spend five hours with this woman in the confines of her VW. She calls Irene and tells her that. Irene says she'll make arrangements to have Agnes brought up. Would Kinsey report the squatters and then go out there and secure the trailer. What's the point? The place has been trashed.

Irene says she'd feel better. Kinsey shrugs and does as she's told. It's when she's on her way back that she has the trouble. Why would she start back at night? During the day, there'd be all kinds of traffic on the highway. All she'd have to do is run out there and flag someone down. When this business comes to pass though, it's late...road deserted. She sees another car parked be-hind hers and she's afraid someone's waiting. She hoofs it back to civilization....miles & miles & miles. Calls Dietz. I need help. He flies down. The two of them drive back by way of San Diego and the 405.

I like this in essence. Just have to account for the time shifts. Maybe she goes out to the Slabs late in the day. Flat tire. She changes the tire...drops hers off at a service station & says she'll come back. Service station in Calipatria. She drives on out to the Slabs...on the way back, she picks up tire...hears about slug. Chill. Has to get to Brawley anyway. Remembers car on the road...or maybe she doesn't. Maybe she should see that guy & his two kids. Car forces her off the road...she abandons it & runs. Does her car get totalled? That might be interesting. Maybe Dietz drives down...Naw, he flies. She rents a car.

Food for thought...all of this.


Pictured Old Mama in the dead of night. I'm sure she's tall and aureole of wispy white hair through which pink scalp shows...face collapsed because no teeth, jaw and chin pulled up like an emu...big, bright, black eyes. Out of control. Smells like dried urine and old gym socks, sooty and dense. Skin tissue thin and technicolored...pale brown spots, blue veins, red dots, crusty places where healing cuts formed fiery lines. It was as if her body were becoming totally transparent. I expected to see bones, the pale gray shapes of organs like those visible on a newly hatched baby bird. What is it about aging that smacks so of birth? I've noticed that the elderly fall into two camps...those like Henry, who retain vigor and sexuality into their eighties and nine-ties...and those like Old Mama who seem to shrink and bend, growing feeble, giving up. She was certain old cats I've seen whose bones feel hollow and small...who seem capable of levitating so close are they to fairy-like.

Okay. Now I know what the convalescent home looks like. The problem is I picture I.N. Bloom and I'm relatively certain there are no two story grade schools in town...especially brick ones. Maybe I'll make it two stories...only a stucco exterior instead of brick. The interior can look exactly as I remember I.N. Bloom.

I know Kinsey went to grade school in Santa Teresa. Maybe I'll have to tour the grade schools and see what they look like. I wonder what neighborhood she grew up in. Must think on that. And here's a question. When her aunt died, what happened to the house? Did her aunt own that? Does Kinsey own that now? She's never refered to it. Probably she had to sell it to pay off her aunt's last medical bills. Still, you'd think she'd drive by it...pause to look...reflect on her life there. Ruminate if the house has been knocked down and something built over it. I'd like that sort of thing, I think. Maybe she, like me, feels sorrow rising like gorge when she returns to the old neighborhood. I'd like to have the house gone now...archeological dig to uncover her childhood.


Still in Chapter 4, but by god I'll finish it today. I may print out some of the above and add it to my journal so I can have it as a ready reference. One nice thing about this book so far, I don't feel short of material.


Read a mention yesterday in the LA Times about the Palm Desert Museum in Palm Springs. Must see that...probably means I'll go to Palm Springs with Steve. I can take the Toshiba laptop and get some work done en route.

Into Chapter 5 now and just about to describe Old Mama. I'm not sure I really understand yet about the financial end of MediCal.

Talked to a guy named Sam DeMarco at Beverly Manor Convalescent Hospital and he seemed to indicate that Irene Gersh would not be financially responsible for Agnes Gray's medical expenses. I'd been thinking that the convalescent hospital in Brawley would be thrilled to see Kinsey because of the bills Old Mama had run up. Maybe what they're really interested in is getting rid of her.


Had a migraine yesterday so I didn't get a smidge of work done. I'm wondering if I've made this nursing home scene too generic. I haven't actually been in a nursing home for years so I don't know what specifics and particulars I might be overlooking. I'd love to have at least a couple of truly authentic touches.

Must think on that. On the other hand, this isn't a critical scene. No reason to be lazy about it though.

Once I sketch in Agnes Grey, I need to concentrate on Kinsey's jeopardy.

Might have those little boys at the rest stop playing with match-box trucks. Kinsey goes back to her motel and spots a matchbox truck on the walkway outside.


I'm now in Chapter 5. Kinsey's reporting in to Irene Gersh and I have to figure out what the time table is. What does Irene want her to do? Secure the trailer. It must be 2:00pm. Kinsey's at the convalescent hospital.

Goes back to the motel & calls. Irene says she's going to talk to Clyde and then call Kinsey back. I want Kinsey going out to the Slabs late afternoon. Flat tire...does this have to be late afternoon? Maybe so. I was thinking if she gets chased through the grove of date palms by day, all she'd have to do is flag down a passing motorist. But who's going to stop? What might be nice about a daytime assault is that Kinsey would have no way to hide.

Ooops. In looking at the map, I realize that there wouldn't be any groves of date palms in the area where Kinsey's driving. The date groves are all further north on 111. How can I get her up there? Or do I need to? She will be driving back down the


Can't figure out why I never finished the above. I've been trying to get this document straightened out. Somehow I ended up with endless repetitions of the same material.

My current question to myself has to do with whether Kinsey would see the hole in the tire & recognize it's source. I talked to Peter at Doug's Bugs & he says a .22 or 32. could penetrate the wall of a tire & remain in the tire, but that a .38 or .44 would probably go right through, causing a blow-out with a bang.

I think Kinsey would look at the hole in the tire. I think with this death threat, she'd consider that it was deliberate. I think she'd be terribly uneasy. She'd go out to the trailer with an eye to being followed...who else was on the road, etc. I must remember to have her throw the kids' personal possessions out before she locks up the trailer. Also, I think I'll have her take some photos to document the damages so that Irene Gersh can see what's going on. Also, I'm going to have her remove the buckets of shit.

Would those kids leave shit buckets inside? Probably not.

What chapter was that? Must go back & check.

Closed out Chapter 5 after correcting for some of the above notes. I think it works much better that she realizes right away her tire has been shot. She'll probably be keeping an eye out now for pick-up trucks. Maybe she'll get back to the motel after visiting with Agnes Grey and see a truck in the lot. She asks the manager, who's truck is that? Guy says he just came on. Can I see the registration card? Fellow won't let her do that. Comes out the next morning and the truck is gone. She finds a little Matchbox toy in the grass.

What do I want to accomplish with this second visit to Agnes Grey? I need to involve the audience in her fate...let them care a little bit. Why would Kinsey go back? Does Irene Gersh ask her to?

It would make Kinsey more sympathetic if she came up with it her-self. What does Agnes reveal? Maybe she complains about her various illnesses in some way that Kinsey can verify later. Some wee piece of information that can't be verified in Brawley, but pays off once she realizes Agnes isn't really the woman's name and in fact, she once lived in Santa Teresa. A doctor wouldn't have medical records going back that far, but maybe Agnes refers to some public event. A tremblor...a fire...something specific enough that Kinsey could pin it down. An earthquake would be nice. Not the Big One in l925, but something after that. Must check. Have my book on SB earthquakes. There was one in 1925, 1926, 1927 & 1941. I could, for my purposes, invent one that occurred in help pinpoint her of the last events. Also, with regard to the address on the birth certificate, maybe the names of mom & pop have been altered, along with the town. Reads El Centro...or San Diego. Kinsey checks it out, but there's no such place. Then when she finds the box under the trailer, it occurs to her that the address might be in Santa Teresa. Has Irene ever applied for a passport? Maybe she's phobic about travel. That would take care of that.

After Agnes dies and it turns out that she was frightened to death, what is it that launches Kinsey on the rest of the investigation?

How does she discover that the information on the birth certificate is false?