• Birth—August 3, 1920
• Where—Oxford, England, UK
• Education—left school at 16
• Awards—member, International Crime Writing Hall
of Fame (see below for awards)
• Currently—lives in both Oxford and London, England
Phyllis Dorothy James, Baroness James of Holland Park, commonly known as P. D. James, is an English crime writer and Conservative life peer in the House of Lords, most famous for a series of detective novels starring policeman and poet Adam Dalgliesh.
James was born in Oxford, the daughter of Sidney James, a tax inspector, and educated at the British School in Ludlow and Cambridge High School for Girls.
James had to leave school at age sixteen to work: her family did not have much money and her father did not believe in higher education for girls. She worked in a tax office for three years, and later found a job as an assistant stage manager for a theater group. In 1941, she married Ernest Connor Bantry White, an army doctor, and had two daughters, Claire and Jane.
When White returned from World War II, he suffered from illness and James was forced to provide for the whole family until her husband's death in 1964. She studied hospital administration, and from 1949 to 1968, worked for a hospital board in London, England.
James began writing in the mid-1950s. Her first novel, Cover Her Face, featuring the investigator and poet Adam Dalgliesh of New Scotland Yard, named after a teacher at Cambridge High School, was published in 1962. Many of James's mystery novels take place against the backdrop of the UK's bureaucracies, such as the criminal justice system and the health services, arenas in which James had worked for decades starting in the 1940s.
Two years after the publication of Cover Her Face, James's husband died and she took a position as a civil servant within the criminal section of the Home Office. James worked in government service until her retirement in 1979.
She is an Anglican and a Lay Patron of the Prayer Book Society. Her 2001 work, Death in Holy Orders, displays her familiarity with the inner workings of church hierarchy. Her later novels are often set in a community closed in some way, such as a publishing house or barristers' chambers, a theological college, an island or a private clinic. Over her writing career James has also written many essays and short stories for periodicals and anthologies, which have yet to be collected. She revealed in 2011 that The Private Patient was the final Dalgliesh novel.
James 2011 book, Death Comes to Pemberley, is a "sequel" to Jane Austen's classic, Pride and Prejudice.
Film and television
During the 1980s, many of James's mystery novels were adapted for television in the UK. These productions have been broadcast in other countries, including the USA on its PBS channel. These productions featured Roy Marsden as Adam Dalgliesh. The BBC has since adapted Death in Holy Orders (2003) and The Murder Room (2004) as one-off dramas starring Martin Shaw as Dalgliesh.
Her 1992 novel The Children of Men was the basis for a 2006 feature film of the same name, directed by Alfonso Cuarón and starring Clive Owen, Julianne Moore and Michael Caine. Despite substantial changes from the book, James was reportedly pleased with the adaptation and proud to be associated with the film.
1971 Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction (Crime Writers' Association): Shroud for a Nightingale
1975 Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction: The Black Tower
1986 Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction: A Taste for Death
1987 Cartier Diamond Dagger Lifetime Achievement Award (Crime Writers' Association)
1992 Deo Gloria Award: The Children of Men
1999 Grandmaster Award (Mystery Writers of America)
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