Saturday, February 4, 2012

Dorothy Gilman: R.I.P.

I love the Mrs Pollifax novels, and I'm so sad to learn that Dorothy Gilman has passed away at the age of 88.  There is no frigate like a book, and Dorothy Gilman took that to heart. Her books took the 'unassuming' CIA agent Mrs Pollifax to Turkey and China and Thailand and many other countries. I will reread a few this weekend in her honor.

Obit from the New York Times:

Dorothy Gilman, an espionage writer whose best-known heroine, Mrs. Pollifax, is very likely the only spy in literature to belong simultaneously to the Central Intelligence Agency and the local garden club, died on Thursday at her home in Rye Brook, N.Y.

In “The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax” (1966), the first novel in what would be a 14-book series, Mrs. Gilman introduces Emily Pollifax, a 60-ish New Jersey widow bored by the compulsory round of tea and good works.

In search of adventure, she offers her services to the C.IA. — who, after all, is going to peg a suburban grandmother as a cold war secret agent? — and adventure she finds. In the course of the series, which concluded in 2000 with “Mrs. Pollifax Unveiled,” she fetches up in Mexico, Turkey, Thailand, China, Morocco, Sicily and elsewhere.
Clever, lucky and naïvely intrepid, Mrs. Pollifax employs common sense and a little karate to rescue the kidnapped; aid the resistance (when you are a suburban lady spy, a fashionable hat is ideal for concealing forged passports); and engage in all manner of cheery deception (when doing business with a malefactor who is expecting a can of plutonium, a can of peaches makes an excellent if short-term substitute).

Reviewers sometimes quibbled about the improbability of the novels’ basic premise. But the books proved popular with readers: in a genre in which women had long been young and sultry, Mrs. Pollifax, with her peril and petunias, made an irresistible, early feminist heroine.

The series was the basis of two movies, the feature film “Mrs. Pollifax — Spy“ (1971), starring Rosalind Russell, and the telefilm “The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax” (1999), starring Angela Lansbury.

The Mystery Writers of America named Mrs. Gilman its 2010 Grand Master.

By the seventh Mrs. Pollifax novel, “Mrs. Pollifax and the Hong Kong Buddha,” published in 1985, Mrs. Gilman’s heroine has remarried. But for the most part, she is quite content to leave her husband at home for the duration of the series as she gads about the world, a paladin packing peaches.

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Dorothy Gilman Fan Site

13 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Oh, I am so sad at this news!!!

Kay said...

I'm sad to hear this too. Dorothy Gilman's Emily Pollifax is one of my favorite fictional characters ever. I can't count how many times I've recommended the Mrs. Pollifax books to others.

Janet A said...

I really loved this series. I have reread them several times. Sad to hear of her death.

Joe Barone said...

Eighty-eight. What a nice long life. I very much enjoyed her Mrs. Pollifax books.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear that Mrs Gilman passed away. I'm glad we got so many books from her though! I so enjoyed the Mrs Pollifax books growing up, such an intrepid and compassionate spy!

mysandycat@aol.com

Gram said...

So sad to hear that she had Alzheimers. I re-read all her books on a regular basis. I also love The Clairvoyent Countess series.

Becke Davis said...

So sad!! I think I've read every one of her books, and some are still in my keeper pile.

Nan said...

I am sorry to hear this. The Mrs P books, as well as Nun in the Closet, are among the few books I can (and do) read over and over again. I listened to most of them on Recorded Books, and Barbara Rosenblat made the listener feel she was Mrs Pollifax. Dorothy Gilman gave many women a role model for aging. Emily Pollifax was a woman of wisdom, humor, and adventurous spirit.

Dutcher said...

Sorry to hear of her death. Always enjoyed the Mrs. Pollifax books.

allanbard said...

It's always awful when a gifted person is no more... I eagerly hope she's in a better place now... Let the wonderful noise of the sea always sounds in her ears! (as my water dragons' hunters would say).

Jen Blood said...

So sad to hear of this! I actually found Mrs Pollifax through one of Mrs. Gilman's early YA books, a little-known romp called The Calico Year that I read until it literally fell apart in my hands. I can remember reading Mrs Pollifax while other girls my age were reading Sweet Valley High, encouraged at the notion that my future might hold Pollifaxian misdeeds far more exciting than the angsty woes of the Sweet Valley twins. The mystery world has indeed lost a legend.

Joe Barone said...

I too am very sad to hear she had Alzheimer's. She brought me smiles and pleasure, especially with Mrs. Pollifax.

Anonymous said...

I'm a fan of Dorothy's non-series: "The Maze In The Heart Of The Castle", 1978 autobiography about moving to my country, her fantastic stand-alone titles. May her family be consoled that she is very loved. http://cmriedel.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/dorothy-gilman-immune/