Loss of a Fine Crime Novelist: age 94

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Famed detective crime novelist, P. D. James passed away peacefully

in Oxford, England on Thursday. This was in America, Thanksgiving

Day- Phyllis Dorothy James White lived from August 3, 1920 until

November 27, 2014. I had always been fascinated by Phyllis’ personal

life details. She had some similar paths which I had taken, eldest of

three children and having been on her own for quite some time. Her

husband, Ernest C.B. White and she had married while she was 22

years’ old, so had I.

From her father’s civil servant position, to my father’s government

job, the differences became much more apparent when she grew up

to age 16. Phyllis left school at the Cambridge High School for Girls,

choosing jobs at hospitals. When her husband went off to join the

war, (WW II) she had children. The obituary says she had two girls

along with several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

I had just mentioned to someone in my comments’ section that P.D.

James had re-imagined a sequel to the wonderful “Pride and Prejudice,”

with Jane Austen’s characters, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, having become

estranged from her sister and husband, they were arriving through the

woods to a Ball planned. Murder in the forest, led her sister’s husband

to be accused while Elizabeth worked on solving the mystery. This

was on PBS “Masterpiece Theater,” in October, I believe.

While Phyllis’ husband was a doctor, Phyllis became a medical

administrator with the National Health Services in England. Phyllis

took three years to write her first book, “Cover Her Face,” which may

make some take comfort in their own writing and publication pursuits.

Her next three crime novels, focused in on medical terminology, hospital

setting and procedures.  In 1963, “A Mind to Murder” had these medical

details, along with 1971, “Shroud for a Nightingale,” which had realistic

plot line, and the last medically based novel, “The Black Tower,” included

the hospital setting. Certainly, Phyllis D. James White utilized her 19

years of being an administrator to her advantage in crime-solving.

 

P.D. James wrote thirteen novels about murder and mystery, seven of

those books became part of “Mystery!” series episodes on PBS. Adam

Dalgliesh, her most familiar character, was a Detective of Scotland Yard.

His introspection and inner poet made this him a complex and intriguing

man.

When her husband, Ernest, died, she was only 44 years old and she spent

the next 50 years beloved by family but never remarrying.

 

We shall all be mourning the loss of P.D. James. We may be happy that

her life was filled with many years of successful parenting, writing along

with contributing to England’s National Health Service with her fine

even-handed administration.

 

A life well led, she included a sense of humor in her personal interviews.

P.D. James’ favorite line was that from childhood on, after hearing the

old Nursery Rhyme of,  “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty

had a great fall. . .” Phyllis said, “When I first heard that Humpty Dumpty

fell off the wall, I immediately wondered, ‘Did he fall or was he pushed?'”

 

How fortuitous, or showing quite some premonition, to the craft of her

morbid story-telling. P.D. James was one of my favorite female authors

who could draw me into her webs of complex characters and dynamic actions.

Her ability to continue pursuing learning, outside of schools, along with her

accomplishing so much after leaving academia at age 16, all make P.D. James

a fascinating woman who should motivate us all.

 

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About reocochran

I am experiencing crazy and hapless adventures in dating that may interest people over fifty. I am now approaching 62 later this year and enjoy taking photographs, incorporating stories or poetry on my blog. I have many old posts which are informative and written like essays. I have several love stories collected from family and friends. Even strangers spill their stories, since I am a grown version of the girl next door. I have been trying to live a healthy lifestyle with better food selections and active hiking and walking. I have written four children's books and illustrated them. They are not published but a battered women's shelter used one about neglect and abuse for their children's program and a 4H group used my "Kissing a Bunny is like saying a Prayer" as a coloring book. Please comment or respond so I may get a chance to know you. Sincerely, Robin

25 responses »

  1. I am not a great one for reading novels (I read a lot of non-fiction) although of course I had heard of P.D James. However, I am guilty. I did not realize until reading your post that P.D. James was a woman. The publicist’s trick worked in making me think the writer was a man. Why a publicist would think that making-out an author was a man would make someone more compelled to read a story is is beyond me. Thanks for this biography. I enjoyed reading it.

    • Elizabeth, so nice of you to add these thoughts and I agree, many authors conceal their identity. I wish this had not been so of so many fine authors. I am glad you liked this short bio and enjoyed reading it. I am up at Mom’s still, getting breakfast in a few moments. Take care and hope your times with your mother are filled with meaning and happy memories.

  2. My dad was really into P.D.James. He liked mystery fiction, I liked science fiction. I picked up a love of mysteries from him, but could never turn him on to SF. Oh, well.

    I never got around to reading many of the P.D.James books somehow (a treat I can always enjoy later). My dad did get me into another English mystery author: Dorothy Sayers (who created the wonderful detective, Lord Peter Wimsey). Delightful novels — highly recommended.

    • You are so great to mention Dorothy Sayers, who I have only read one book of, W.S. I sometimes wander through the books, not always in the same direction. My Dad loved S.F. so he and you would agree there is a lot of science, excitement and imagination in that genre. I will have to remember to read some more of Dorothy Sayers! Thanks, W.S.

  3. My youngest has several PD James books and enjoys her characters and mysteries very much – she is a who-dunnit fan. I have a copy [somewhere on my shelves] of PD’s take on the ‘Pride and Prejudice’ characters some years on which I have never got into…….. It is my considered opinion [ 🙂 ] some stories should never have sequels and P&P is one of those.

    Isn’t it fun to find some connections with those you admire.

    • The mystery was on the property of Pemberley, while the person accused of the crime, is already a ‘shady’ character of Wickham….
      So glad your youngest enjoyed her P.D. James books, Pauline! I agree this was more of an extension for “Masterpiece Theater.” I had not known it also was a book, thought it was just a screen script… Thanks for connecting, I shall head off to fetch some breakfast for Mom, who loves to sit in her pajamas as long as possible! Smiles!

  4. As always and interesting read. I didn’t even know P. D. James was, well who she was. My reading is like my music – I read and I listen, but I don’t necessarily know who is who.

    I do enjoy who-done-its. Guess that’s why I enjoy all the NCIS and spin off programs.

    As per those that red-union suit – I wasn’t thinking of St. Nick. But if it fits 😉

    Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family. I am so looking to a belated anniversary trip the last week of December in a warm place. I maybe a tad scarce that week. It will just be nice to get away with my hubby. So early Happy Holidays and have a wonderful New Years celebration too!

    Hugs, Jules

    • I think you and your group of collaborators, tend to create wonderful mysteries on your blogs, Jules! I am so glad you visited and wished my family such lovely wishes, too. I cannot wait to hear about your warm December anniversary trip, whether late or not, you deserve to be loved and pampered, too. Hugs, Robin

  5. I was also surprised to learn P. D. James was a woman. I suppose I will have to check out her works since I am so into mystery and crime novels. I have read all of Robert B. Parker’s Spencer novels, Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch novels, Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole and Joe Pike Novels, and all of John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers novels. I also have gone back and read all of Raymond Chandler’s detective stories (Marlowe), and now I am working on Ross MacDonald’s books.

    It is always a loss when a favorite author dies. I felt the loss when Parker died. Your tribute to P. D. James is touching given the remarkable similarities in your lives. No wonder you had an affinity for her work. My great appreciation of writers is the lasting legacy of their work they leave for generations to come. You honor the life and contributions of P. D. James with your story. – Mike

    • I miss Robert Parker, must admit I have loved Spencer’s character for years! His cooking, his relationship with his friends and his girlfriend, all made him ‘real’ to me!
      I am so glad you wrote such a meaningful comment, Mike. I felt you knew how much I was saddened, although we must admit she led a full and meaningful life. I shall miss her, dear Phyllis!
      I like the Raymond Chandler books, too. I shall have to check back again, since this was a great comment section all around!

    • Mike, this was so nice of your to notice the details like this. I have not read all of Michael Connelly’s novels, but have read a few Harry Bosch ones. I have never read Robert Crais, you make me wish to try his work, Mike. I have not read all of John Sandford’s books but recognize the fact I liked Lucas D.’s character. I have not tried Virgil Flowers, but I will keep a look out now for them.
      Thanks for all the suggestions. The Raymond Chandler detective books were great and my Dad had them on his bookshelf, beside his collection of Edgar Allen Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. smiles!

    • I feel good that I introduced her, but not sure if you are a mystery sort of gal, Colleen! I hope you may find her medical references and stories good, if you wish to check them out. I am grateful for your calling this a lovely tribute, she seemed like such a good ‘hero’ and led a purposeful life. I shall have to postpone reading other blogs for another day. Off to fetch breakfast for my Mom. I just sent my ‘drafts’ section of wordpress, December post into the blogosphere!
      Smiles and have a wonderful beginning of December, Colleen!

      • Thank you Robin. I used to read quite a bit of the mystery genre but not so much any more. Tastes seem to change. And here’s to you have a fantastic December as well. 🙂

    • I am not sure of its title, but I think she definitely wrote a screenplay about Pemberley and there was a murder in the forest, along with implications of Wickham’s guilt on “Masterpiece Theater.” I loved seeing Elizabeth still being a ‘spitfire’ and her having two children, a girl and a boy. Sometimes, for me, it is hard to say goodbye to characters so I did not mind this continuation of Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice.”

  6. A wonderful tribute, Robin. I was a fan of another British murder mystery author: Agatha Christie. Her books were called cozies. They didn’t have the violence that P.D. James’ books apparently did. I’m not the squeamish type so I must check her out. I love what you wrote about her take on the death of Humpty Dumpty. That’s rich. 😉

    • Thanks so much for this comment, Judy! I thought this was funny and glad you did, too.
      I loved Agatha Christie’s mysteries, too. The ones I liked best were more often made into plays or movies like, “Murder on the Orient Express” and the parlor murder one, “And Then There Were None.” (Or was it called, “Ten Little Indians?” I will have to check out this and edit my comments if I am wrong… smiles!

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