Death of an Expert Crime Writer
November 27, 2014 11:14 AM   Subscribe

Phyllis Dorothy James, Baroness James of Holland Park, OBE, FRSA, FRSL, best known as crime writer P.D. James, died today at the age of 94.
posted by orange swan (52 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm sad to hear it, though I know she lived a long life. I have always liked PD James' writing and admired her as a person. It seems she was sharp right up until the end.

A lot of people pooh-poohed her last novel, Death at Pemberley, but I thought it was good. She captured not only Austen's prose style but also something of her sensibility, particularly in her observations about human nature.

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posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:24 AM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


"With the death of what Sydney Smith described as rational religon and the proponents of what remains sending out such confusing and uncertain messages, all civilised people have to be ethicists. We must work out our own salvation with diligence based on what we believe."

From- The Private Patient

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posted by clavdivs at 11:38 AM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh yes, I just saw this, so sad. I'll have to re-read all the books now.

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posted by Namlit at 11:41 AM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


Passages like this always made me wonder if P.D. James was a knitter. I've been unable to ascertain whether she was, but one thing is certain: that I'm glad she never turned that brilliant mind of hers to actual crime. She would have been all too successful at it.
posted by orange swan at 11:42 AM on November 27, 2014 [8 favorites]


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posted by Iridic at 11:44 AM on November 27, 2014


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posted by triage_lazarus at 11:46 AM on November 27, 2014


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posted by hydropsyche at 11:50 AM on November 27, 2014


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posted by readery at 11:53 AM on November 27, 2014


I grew up on so many of her books; Devices & Desires (made into a BBC series!) was always my favourite. And I had no idea she was a Baroness!

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posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:55 AM on November 27, 2014


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Adam Dalgliesh needs to write a grey, gloomy poem that wrenches the heart.

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posted by infini at 12:14 PM on November 27, 2014 [9 favorites]


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posted by skycrashesdown at 12:15 PM on November 27, 2014


I'm glad she never turned that brilliant mind of hers to actual crime. She would have been all too successful at it.

Are we sure...?
posted by Segundus at 12:25 PM on November 27, 2014 [7 favorites]


I loved P.D. James and she was my favorite popular writer. Her novels were beautiful and often evocative of the Piscean place. Also, the movie Children of Men contains some of the most beautiful movies scenes I've ever seen.
posted by Blitz at 12:25 PM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by humanfont at 12:30 PM on November 27, 2014


I've been through periods in my life when I couldn't bear to read her work, and periods when nothing else would do. I'm grateful for her legacy.

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posted by rtha at 12:41 PM on November 27, 2014 [5 favorites]


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posted by Kitteh at 12:45 PM on November 27, 2014


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posted by Quiplash at 12:52 PM on November 27, 2014


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posted by MelanieL at 12:58 PM on November 27, 2014


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posted by fremen at 1:01 PM on November 27, 2014


She gave many pleasurable, and also a lot to think about with her sociological inquiries. Her books are also among the few objects of popular culture around which readers across the political spectrum can find commonality as well as constructive disagreement.
posted by tamarack and fireweed at 1:18 PM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by tommasz at 1:18 PM on November 27, 2014


There comes a time when every scientist, even God, has to write off an experiment.

P. D. James was a bit of a cynic.


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posted by BlueHorse at 1:22 PM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


One of my favourite P.D. James quotes was her answer to the time she was asked why she'd never married again after being widowed in 1964. She said, "I like men for sex, and as dinner companions. I don't need to get married to have that."
posted by orange swan at 1:27 PM on November 27, 2014 [21 favorites]


I first read her books in high school, and they were the first books that made me think that liking crime fiction wasn't something I should feel embarrassed about. I am sure I wouldn't agree with her politics, and in her later books she had a hard time writing about a modern, multicultural society that I don't think she totally understood, but she was a great writer.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:27 PM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


There is a great documentary with her concerning writers and place. I have it, watching it now. I believe it was a DVD extra from "Death in the Holy Orders" movie adapation which I think was the best. The stars, scenery, and 'what if Jesus parchment'. I loved her seperation of the poet and policeman.
I do not have the title as I taped it like decade ago. But it is tea-cozy with lots of pan shots of her house library and writing area caulked full of cool books.

She was amazing.
posted by clavdivs at 1:34 PM on November 27, 2014


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posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 2:04 PM on November 27, 2014


I admire how she handled Dalgliesh's (lack of )aging. I had wondered what she would do as time passed and his having been a child during WWII became more problematic; somehow she made it work.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:35 PM on November 27, 2014


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posted by marguerite at 2:55 PM on November 27, 2014


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posted by homunculus at 3:00 PM on November 27, 2014


I admire the way she handled her own lack of aging. That's why I'm a little shocked now.
posted by Namlit at 3:16 PM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


I remember coming across a copy of The Lighthouse and doing the math and thinking, holy cow, she is still at it, how much longer? and then there came two more! It was like putting on your coat and finding money in the pocket.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:17 PM on November 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


Here's Adam Dalgliesh's reaction to the news:

"He told himself that she had probably given pleasure to more people with her mysteries than he had with his poetry. And if the pleasure was different in kind, who was to say that one was inferior to the other? She had at least respected the English language and used it as well as lay in her power. In an age rapidly becoming illiterate that was something."

(from Original Sin, 1994)
posted by verstegan at 3:22 PM on November 27, 2014 [7 favorites]


Death of an Expert Crime Writer
favorited 8 times, recently by Friday14, The corpse in the library, pracowity, Blitz, rollick, IdiBot, dmt, Etrigan


Heh.
posted by orange swan at 3:54 PM on November 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


Oh God. This is the problem with beloved authors. I am sad that PD James is dead, but she was 94. I am devastated that Adam Dalgliesh is dead.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:18 PM on November 27, 2014 [10 favorites]


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posted by tuesdayschild at 4:31 PM on November 27, 2014


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posted by virago at 4:32 PM on November 27, 2014


I know we had her for a great span of time as well as any great books but my first thought was, "oh no, not yet."
I do wish there had been more Cordelia Grey books, though.
posted by PussKillian at 5:10 PM on November 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


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posted by dannyboybell at 7:27 PM on November 27, 2014


. for my mother, who loved her books and Ruth Rendell's and those of a good few other female mystery authors.
posted by librarylis at 8:06 PM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by Soulfather at 8:22 PM on November 27, 2014


she was a great favorite of mine.

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posted by Anitanola at 9:36 PM on November 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


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This is so sad, I return to her (and will keep doing so) over and over again.
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:44 AM on November 28, 2014


Yes, its Adam Dalgliesh (and Kate and Piers et al but Dalgliesh, really, I feel like Kate)...
posted by infini at 8:33 AM on November 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


I just counted ten of her books in my library. She will be missed.
posted by conrad53 at 9:12 AM on November 28, 2014


For the uninitiated, where to begin with her works? Any particular book or suggested reading order? And yes, I realize I can google this information but I like to hear it from fellow mefites.
posted by Fizz at 9:24 AM on November 28, 2014


Fizz, I would start with the first Dalgliesh novel, Cover her Face, and work right through the series. It's remarkable; it's even more remarkable to read understanding the first one was written 1962, and is of that period, but she kept pace with the times through the next 50 years.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:43 AM on November 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yes, you could tell when mobile phones and tech paraphernalia started showing up in the stories. In the Lighthouse (2006) Dalgliesh gets SARS (bird flu)
posted by infini at 11:16 AM on November 28, 2014


Oh and don't read the wikipedia entries for any book, they reveal the murderers. Meh.
posted by infini at 11:19 AM on November 28, 2014


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posted by Paris Elk at 1:53 PM on November 28, 2014


I've been wanting more Cordelia Grey books for 25 years now, and I will never get them. :-(

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posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 7:03 PM on November 28, 2014


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posted by shoesietart at 9:06 PM on November 28, 2014


One of the best writers in my favorite genre. RIP
posted by hockeyfan at 9:14 PM on November 28, 2014


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