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Lady P. D. James (Lady Phyllis Dorothy James) Biography

(1920– ), (Lady Phyllis Dorothy James), Cover Her Face, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman

British crime writer, born in Oxford, educated at Cambridge High School. Before turning to authorship, James held various appointments in hospital administration and was later a senior civil servant in the police and criminal policy departments of the Home Office, and a Justice of the Peace. She has used her experience to good effect in a series of detective novels beginning with Cover Her Face (1962), which introduced the Scotland Yard policeman and poet Adam Dalgliesh, who appears in most of her books. She has also written of a female private detective, Cordelia Gray (An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, 1972). She has been seen as the successor of Dorothy L. Sayers, but her approach is more harsh and realistic and is perhaps seen at its best in Death of an Expert Witness (1977). In her later novels (The Skull Beneath the Skin, 1982; A Taste for Death, 1986; Devices and Desires, 1989; Original Sin, 1994) she has attempted to write on a much larger scale than that of the conventional detective story, and the detection element has receded into the background in favour of description and delineation of character. Her best-known novel, Innocent Blood (1980), is not a detective story, but the account of an adopted girl's search for her real parents. Amongst other public appointments, she has been Chairman of the Society of Authors, a governor of the BBC, and Chairman of the Arts Council Literature Advisory Panel. She was awarded a life peerage in 1991.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Robin’ [Iris Guiver Wilkinson] ‘Hyde Biography to Percy Janes Biography