P. D. James (1920-2014) was born in Oxford and educated at Cambridge High School for Girls. From 1949 to 1968 she worked in the National Health Service and subsequently in the Home Office, first in the Police Department and later in the Criminal Policy Department. All that experience was used in her novels. She was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the Royal Society of Arts and served as a Governor of the BBC, a member of the Arts Council, where she was Chairman of the Literary Advisory Panel, on the Board of the British Council and as a magistrate in Middlesex and London. She was an Honorary Bencher of the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple. She won awards for crime writing in Britain, America, Italy and Scandinavia, including the Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Award and The National Arts Club Medal of Honor for Literature (US). She received honorary degrees from seven British universities, was awarded an OBE in 1983 and was created a life peer in 1991. In 1997 she was elected President of the Society of Authors, stepping down from the post in August 2013.
‘That is the thing I always will most remember about her: what a kind woman she was, how she did her very best to make you feel good.’
‘During more than fifty years as an author, her books showed an elegance of characterisation and an aptitude for capturing atmosphere that blurred distinctions between classic detective stories and the conventional novel.’
‘Four writers of her generation reshaped the way we experience the English crime novel – P. D. James, Ruth Rendell, Reginald Hill and Colin Dexter. When we awarded Phyllis the outstanding contribution award at the Theakstons Harrogate crime-writing festival, I was responsible for escorting her to the signing table afterwards. The room was packed. I shouted, "Make way, legend coming through." They parted like the Red Sea for Phyllis in a way they would have done for few others.’
‘Feel, he told himself, feel, feel, feel. Even if what you feel is pain, only let yourself feel.’
‘Not so much two ships passing in the night as two ships sailing together for a time but always bound for different ports.’
‘It was one of those perfect English autumnal days which occur more frequently in memory than in life.’