Mystery writer P.D. James dead at 94

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According to P.D. James' publisher, Faber & Faber, the acclaimed British mystery writer has died. She passed away in her home in Oxford, England, on Thursday, November 27.

Phyllis Dorothy James White was the author of 20 books, most of which have been turned into film or television productions. She rose to fame for her series of detective novels featuring the investigator/poet Adam Dalgliesh of New Scotland Yard. The first of the Dalgliesh novels, Cover Your Face, was published in 1962.

Her acclaimed 1992 dystopian novel Children of Men was made into a feature film by Alfonso CuarĂ³n, starring Julianne Moore and Clive Owen.

James worked in government service in the U.K., including the National Health Service and the Home Office, from the 1940s until her retirement in 1979.


Eleanor Wachtel's conversation with P.D. James from 2000:

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Shelagh Rogers talks to P.D. James in 1990:

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Mystery author Peter Robinson remembers P.D. James on As It Happens:

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P.D. James on writing:


"Write what you need to write, not what is currently popular or what you think will sell."

"All fiction is largely autobiographical and much autobiography is, of course, fiction."

"Learn to write by doing it. Read widely and wisely. Increase your word power. Find your own individual voice though practicing constantly. Go through the world with your eyes and ears open and learn to express that experience in words."

"Nothing that happens to a writer--however happy, however tragic--is ever wasted."

"I don't see why escapist literature shouldn't also be a work of art."

"Crime fiction confirms our belief, despite some evidence to the contrary, that we live in a rational, comprehensible, and moral universe."

"I think writing was what I wanted to do -- almost as soon as I knew what a book was."

"It is perfectly possible to remain within the constraints and conventions of the genre and be a serious writer, saying something true about men and women and their relationships and the society in which they live."

"I don't make a distinction between the so-called serious or literary novel and the crime novel."

"When I heard, Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, I thought, Did he fall or was he pushed?"

P.D. James facts:

Awards: International Crime Writing Hall of Fame 2008; Grand Master Award from Mystery Writers of America, 1999; Diamond Dagger from British Crime Writers' Association, 1987

Favourite film: The Third Man

Denomination: Anglican

Favourite food: Roast duck, fresh peas and new potatoes, with raspberries and cream for dessert

Age when she started writing her first novel: Late thirties

Mother to: Two daughters, Claire and Jane

Greatest writing inspiration: Sense of place

Favourite weapon: Whatever is appropriate to the murderer.

Position on Scottish independence: Opposed

Greatest writing influences: Jane Austen, Dorothy L. Sayers, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh

CBC Books remembers the great authors who we said good-bye to in 2014.