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P. D. James Biography


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Phyllis Dorothy James, Baroness James of Holland Park OBE (born 3 August 1920) is an English writer of crime fiction and member of the House of Lords, who writes as P. D. James.

It has been noted by many critics that James has upgraded and expanded the entire genre of mystery writing; and that many of her books, especially the police procedurals starring Dalgliesh, the poetry writing detective, fit the mainstream novel criteria as much as they do the detective genre. James' strengths are characterization and her ability to construct atmosphere and stories rich in detail.


P.D. James is the daughter of Sydney and Dorothy James. She married Connor Bantry White in 1941 with whom she had two daughters. She was widowed in 1964. She has been active in many fields and served as Governor of the BBC (1988–93), Member of the Arts Council (1988–92) and Board Member of the British Council (1988–93). She received the Order of the British Empire in 1983 and in 1991 became a life peer. She sits in the House of Lords as a Conservative, Baroness James of Holland Park.


James did not begin writing until she reached her thirties. Her first novel, Cover Her Face, featuring the investigator/poet Adam Dalgliesh of New Scotland Yard, was published in 1962. James retired in 1979 to devote herself to her writing. She has said that her influences include Jane Austen, Dorothy L. Sayers, herself a well-known British author of mysteries, Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh.

Many of James' mystery novels take place against the backdrop of Britain's vast bureaucracies such as the criminal justice system and the health services, arenas in which James honed her skills for decades starting in the 1940s when she went to work in hospital administration to help support her ailing husband and two children. Two years after the publication of Cover Her Face, James' husband died and she took a position as a civil servant within the criminal section of the Department of Home Affairs. James worked in government service until her retirement in 1979, and her many years of experience within these bureaucracies add a complex stratum of insider's knowledge to her writing. Her 2001 work, Death in Holy Orders, displays an insightful grasp of the inner workings of church hierarchy.

List of books

Her detective novels include:

* Cover Her Face (1962) (introducing her Scotland Yard detective, Adam Dalgliesh)
* A Mind to Murder (1963)
* Unnatural Causes (1967)
* Shroud for a Nightingale (1971)
* The Maul and the Pear Tree: The Ratcliffe Highway Murders, 1811 (with Thomas A. Critchley), 1971
* An Unsuitable Job for a Woman (1972) (introducing her female sleuth, Cordelia Gray)
* The Black Tower (1975)
* Death of an Expert Witness (1977)
* The Skull Beneath the Skin (1982)
* A Taste for Death (1985)
* Devices and Desires (1990)
* Original Sin (1994)
* A Certain Justice (1997)
* Death in Holy Orders (2001)
* The Murder Room (2003)
* The Lighthouse (2005)

P.D. James has also written a successful mainstream novel entitled Innocent Blood (1980) and the dystopian novel The Children of Men (1992). Her autobiography Time To Be In Earnest was published in 2000.

Prizes and awards

* 1971 Best Novel Award, Mystery Writers of America Shroud for a Nightingale
* 1971 Crime Writers' Association (CRA) Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction Shroud for a Nightingale
* 1973 Best Novel Award, Mystery Writers of America An Unsuitable Job for a Woman
* 1975 CRA Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction The Black Tower
* 1986 CRA Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction A Taste for Death
* 1986 Mystery Writers of America Best Novel Award A Taste for Death
* 1987 CRA Cartier Diamond Dagger (lifetime achievement award)
* 1992 Deo Gloria Award The Children of Men
* 1999 Grandmaster Award, Mystery Writers of America
* 2002 WH Smith Literary Award (shortlist) Death in Holy Orders
* 2005 British Book Awards Crime Thriller of the Year (shortlist) The Murder Room

Courtesy of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PD_James

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