Sad news, indeed. Author P.D. James died peacefully at her home in Oxford this morning. She was 94. Obituary below. Watch a recent interview with P.D. James (April 2014).
From The Guardian:
Her debut novel, Cover Her Face (1962), was snapped up by the first
publisher to set eyes on the manuscript, launching a career that
advanced in parallel with that of her fictional police officer, Chief
Inspector Dalgliesh. As he found himself promoted to superintendent and
then to commander, so James accumulated a host of awards including the Crime Writers’ Association’s
Diamond Dagger and the Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster award.
Many of the Dalgliesh novels were subsequently filmed for television,
with Roy Marsden taking the role of the investigator. James also won a good number of public honours, eventually finding
herself elevated to the House of Lords in 1991, where she sat with the
Conservatives. Born in 1920, James left school at 16 to follow her father into a
career in the Inland Revenue. She married Ernest White at 21 and moved
to London, giving birth to two daughters as German bombers pounded the
British capital. Her husband returned from the war with mental health
problems, leaving James to provide for her young family by working in
hospital administration. With her daughters at boarding school and her
husband in hospital, evenings become devoted to writing. It had always been her “intention” to become a writer, and she began writing about a detective partly as an apprenticeship for writing “serious” novels, as she explained to the Paris Review in 1994.
James had always loved crime novels, was unwilling to explore the
“traumatic experiences” of her own life in fiction and was well aware it
would be easier to find a publisher for a detective story. But the
genre also appealed to her taste for order.
“I like structured fiction, with a beginning, a middle, and an end,”
she said. “I like a novel to have narrative drive, pace, resolution,
which a detective novel has.” Published in 1962, Cover Her Face opens “exactly three months before
the killing”, with a country-house dinner party which becomes, “in
retrospect, a ritual gathering under one roof of victim and suspects, a
staged preliminary to murder”. The new parlourmaid announces her
engagement to the manor house’s eldest son at the village fete and is
strangled the following night, a mystery resolved by the refined
poet-detective Dalgliesh. “I gave him the qualities I admire,” James explained in 2001, “because I hoped he might be an enduring character and that being so, I must actually like him.”Read more HERE.