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
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
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.