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PD James

November 27, 2014

I was saddened to hear of the death of PD James. Often described as the grand dame or Queen of Crime, James managed to embrace the conventions of the Golden Age of Detective fiction while simultaneously raising the mystery story to new literary heights. She had one of the most beautiful and poetic writing styles of any crime writer I have come across. I have spent this evening reading the many tributes to her. Jake Kerridge’s piece in the Telegraph is very informative:

James was one of the first writers to combine a pleasingly complicated Christie-esque mystery with the depth of literary fiction, and she was the first of these new-style crime writers to be taken to the reading public’s heart. In her novel Devices and Desires (1989) she has a character reading an old-fashioned crime novel in which there is a “detective who, despite his uncertainties, would get there in the end because this was fiction; problems could be solved, evil overcome, justice vindicated, and death itself only a mystery which would be solved in the final chapter.” The implication is clear: no such comforting falsehoods are to be expected at the end of a James novel. Everything will not be alright again once the murderer is caught. But millions of readers adored her uncompromising view of the evil lurking in ordinary life.

I have not read all of James’ work, but I would include The Private Patient (2008) and Innocent Blood (1980) as two of the best novels of their kind.

Thank you Lady James.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 29, 2014 5:09 am

    How does her book of Children Of Men compare to the film? I get the impression certain liberties were taken with the original plot line….

    • November 29, 2014 11:24 am

      I haven’t read that one. I must admit I was slightly put off as it’s sci-fi. But James was one of the first authors to prove that crime fiction was just as literary as any other form of writing so I’m sure Children of Men reads well.

  2. Cingal Delphine permalink
    December 1, 2014 9:22 am

    The book was certainly much more thought-provoking, but the general result of the film is not bad

  3. December 1, 2014 9:24 am

    I met Baroness James a few years before defending my 800 page Ph.D thesis on her. She was a delightful person, she was shrewd, she had culture. I wrote the entry for her for 100 British Detective Fiction Writers (along with entries about Anne Perry, Patricia Wentworth and John Harvey). Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

    • December 1, 2014 9:44 am

      Delphine,

      Lovely to hear from you again. Baroness James was a tremendous writer. Wonderful that you got to meet her. I’ve been watching a few interview clips with her. Innate intelligence as you say. I’m looking forward to reading more of her work.

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