28 November 2014 - P.D. James dies at age 94
British crime writer P.D. James dies at age 94
Staff (The Chicago Tribune)
British crime writer P.D. James, creator of poetry-writing detective Adam Dalgliesh, has died at the age of 94, her publishers said on Thursday.
"We will all miss her," Charles Elliott, her editor at Knopf, said in a statement. "Her books were in a class of their own, consistently entertaining yet as well-written and serious as any fiction of our time."
Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: "Saddened to hear of the death of P.D. James, one of the UK’s greatest crime writers, who thrilled and inspired generations of readers."
Phyllis Dorothy James, created Baroness James of Holland Park in 1991, was the author of 20 books, most of which have been filmed and broadcast on television in Britain and the United States.
Stanley Reynolds (The Guardian)
PD James, Lady James of Holland Park, who has died aged 94, was the grande dame of mystery. She was a link with the golden age of detective writing that flourished between the wars, the successor to Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers and Margery Allingham. After Christie’s death, James was called the new Queen of Crime. It was a title she did not at all mind.
Yet Phyllis James had not started writing until her 40s, and said she only wrote a whodunnit as practice for a serious novel. Later on, though, she never fretted about being locked into crime writing. She said she could write everything she wanted while remaining in the genre. She wrote one futuristic satire, The Children of Men (1992, made into a film in 2006), set in 2021, about the human race facing extinction as a result of infertility but, unlike her great rival Ruth Rendell, did not attempt to break away from crime.
She was born in Oxford, daughter of Sidney, a tax inspector, and Dorothy (nee Hone). It was, she said, an unhappy home. The family moved to Cambridgeshire and Phyllis attended Cambridge girls’ high school. She did well, but her father did not approve of education for girls and so she did not go to university. When the second world war came she was employed handing out ration cards in Manchester.
Staff (The Guardian)
"With the detective story there is horror – I think one needs to make the murder realistic. But I think the main attraction isn’t the horror, it’s the puzzle, the bringing of order out of disorder."
Speaking to the Guardian in 2001
"A detective story can give a much truer picture of the society in which it’s written than a more prestigious literature. If we want to know what it was like – actually like – to work in an office between the wars, we should go to Murder Must Advertise."
Speaking to the Guardian in 2011
"In 1930s mysteries, all sorts of motives were credible which aren’t credible today, especially motives of preventing guilty sexual secrets from coming out. Nowadays, people sell their guilty sexual secrets.
Speaking to writing students at the University of California Irvine in 1987"
John Walsh (The Independent)
Whether it was she or her friend Ruth Rendell who best deserved the title “Queen of Crime,” there was definitely something regal about PD James. She was a Baroness, she often lunched with the Queen and her books were always among the small pile of reading material sent to beguile the royal family on their holidays. She always carried herself with serene dignity. But it never, thank goodness, went to her head. She was far too down-to-earth to succumb to grandeur. She positively wriggled with embarrassment if you called her by her title. “Don’t bother with that nonsense,” she’d say. “Call me Phyllis.”
I met her a score of times, at launches and literary festivals, and marvelled at her energy, her razor-sharp intellect, her graveyard humour. Even in her late 80s, she’d appear in a stylish, powder-blue coat, keen to take on her latest interviewer and audience.
She took the genre of crime writing very seriously. She saw literary classics through a prism of murder and detection: “What a wonderful detective writer Jane Austen would have made,” she used to say. She believed utterly in the strict protocols of classic crime and liked telling audiences that the rules laid down by Ronnie Knox still applied: “a) no information available to the detective should be kept from the reader, b) there should be no identical twins, and c) definitely no Chinamen.”
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"28 November 2014 - P.D. James dies at age 94", La Clé des Langues [en ligne], Lyon, ENS de LYON/DGESCO (ISSN 2107-7029), novembre 2014. Consulté le 29/02/2024. URL: https://cle.ens-lyon.fr/anglais/key-story/archives-revue-de-presse-2014/28-november-2014-p-d-james-dies-at-age-94