Closing in on the letter Z

In 1982, reviewing Sue Grafton's first private detective novel, "A Is for Alibi," the pseudonymous New York Times crime fiction critic Newgate Callendar wondered, "Will the series take hold? This first book is competent enough, but not particularly original." Twenty-seven years on, Callendar's dismissive attitude toward the book -- and its tough-minded thirtysomething heroine Kinsey Millhone -- demonstrates the dangers of prognostication and how instantaneous judgments don't age well. Grafton's alphabet-titled series not only took hold, but the books are also available in 28 countries (and 26 languages) in abundant quantities, well into the millions...