P.D. James Profile and Books

PD James is the penname for Phyllis Dorothy James, Baroness James of Holland Park, OBE, FRSA, FRSL. She was born on 3rd August 1920 in Oxford.

Her father Sidney James worked for Inland Revenue. He didn’t believe in Higher Education for women, so James left school at the age of 16. She has worked in the tax office, with a theatre group, in the UK Health System, the police and criminal law department of the Home Office as well as serving as a magistrate and as a governor of the BBC. All of these jobs as well as her close association with the Anglican church have greatly influenced her writing.

She describes her main character – Adam Dalgliesh, as a male version of herself.

Her husband, Ernest White was an army doctor during World War II. On his return from the war he suffered a breakdown and was unable to work. James supported her husband and two children till his death in 1960 as well as studying to be a hospital administrator. It was during this incredibly busy period of her life that she started writing with her first novel – ‘Cover Her Face’ published in 1962. Now in her 90s she still lives life at a hectic pace.

 

Her list of novels is:

Adam Dalgliesh Mysteries:

 

Cordelia Gray Mysteries:

  • The Skull Beneath the Skin (1982)
  • An Unsuitable Job for a Woman (1972)
    1973 Best Novel Award, Mystery Writers of America (runner-up): An Unsuitable Job for a Woman

 

Other novels

 

Omnibus Editions:

  • An Adam Dalgliesh Omnibus (2008), comprising A Taste for Death, Devices and Desires, and Original Sin
  • A Second Dalgliesh Trilogy (1993), comprising A Mind to Murder, A Taste for Death, and Devices and Desires
  • A Dalgliesh Trilogy (1989), comprising Shroud for a Nightingale, The Black Tower, and Death of an Expert Witness
  • Trilogy of Death (1984), comprising Innocent Blood, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, and The Skull Beneath the Skin
  • Murder in Triplicate (1980), comprising Unnatural Causes, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, and The Black Tower
  • Crimes Time Three (1979), comprising Cover Her Face, A Mind to Murder, and Shroud for a Nightingale

 

Non-fiction:

  • Talking About Detective Fiction (2009)
  • Time to Be in Earnest: A Fragment of Autobiography (1999)
  • The Maul and the Pear Tree: The Ratcliffe Highway Murders, 1811 (1971), with Thomas A. Critchley

 

TV and film adaptations:

  • 2006 Children of Men (feature film)
  • 2004 The Murder Room
  • 2003 Death in Holy Orders
  • 1997 An Unsuitable Job for a Woman
  • 1997 Original Sin
  • 1998 A Certain Justice
  • 1995 A Mind to Murder
  • 1993 Unnatural Causes
  • 1991 Devices and Desires
  • 1988 A Taste For Death
  • 1983 Death of an Expert Witness
  • 1985 The Black Tower
  • 1985 Cover Her Face
  • 1984 Shroud for a Nightingale

 

Awards and Honours

  • Honorary Fellowship Kellogg College, Oxford
  • Honorary Fellowship Downing College, Cambridge, 2000
  • Honorary Fellowship Girton College, Cambridge, 2000
  • Honorary Doctorate University of Portsmouth, 1999
  • Honorary Doctorate University of Durham, 1998
  • President of the Society of Authors 1997–
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature
  • Honorary Fellowship St Hilda’s College, Oxford, 1996
  • Honorary Doctorate University of Essex, 1996
  • Honorary Doctorate University of Glasgow, 1995
  • Honorary Doctorate University of Hertfordshire, 1994
  • Honorary Doctorate University of London, 1993
  • Honorary Doctorate University of Buckingham, 1992
  • Life peerage, Baroness James of Holland Park (of Southwold in the County of Suffolk), 1991
  • Associate Fellow of Downing College, Cambridge, 1986
  • Officer of the Order of the British Empire, 1983

 

Awards

  • 1971 Best Novel Award, Mystery Writers of America (runner-up): Shroud for a Nightingale
  • 1971 Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction: Shroud for a Nightingale
  • 1973 Best Novel Award, Mystery Writers of America (runner-up): An Unsuitable Job for a Woman
  • 1975 CWA Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction: The Black Tower
  • 1986 CWA Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction: A Taste for Death
  • 1986 Mystery Writers of America Best Novel Award (runner-up): A Taste for Death
  • 1987 CWA 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
  • 2007 Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award (longlist): The Lighthouse
  • 2010 Nick Clarke Award for interview with Director-General of the BBC Mark Thompson whilst guest editor of the Today programme

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