July 22, 2010

HE IS SHE:

PD James interview: 'I have lived a very happy and fulfilled life': She’s a life peer, a best-selling crime novelist, and last year, the BBC’s scariest interrogator. As she approaches 90, PD James reflects on death, family − and the husband she couldn’t save. (Nigel Farndale, 21 Jul 2010, Daily Telegraph)

Combined with her masculine sounding surname these have led some readers over the years to assume that PD James is a man. Her genre, crime fiction, might be considered more manly than womanly, too, were it not for the fact that so many of the most successful crime writers have been women: from Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers to Ruth Rendell and Patricia Cornwell.

Added to all this, her best known hero, the detective Adam Dalgliesh, is a man. When I ask her what it has been like being, as it were, inside his head for the past 47 years she chuckles and says: ‘Well, he is a male version of me. Brainier than me but his emotions are mine. The empathy is mental rather than physical. I never describe Dalgliesh getting up and getting dressed.’ So is she, like her hero, unsentimental? ‘Yes, I’m very unsentimental. Very.’

Her most recent Dalgliesh novel was published in 2008, might there be another one? ‘I’m not sure yet. Life has been so busy I have only done 10,000 words in six months. I don’t want the standard to drop and I don’t want a reviewer to be saying: “It’s a remarkable book, for a 91 year-old.” And I don’t want them to say: “It’s not vintage PD James.” If I’m not doing it as well as I have done it in the past, then there is no point in my doing it at all.’

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 22, 2010 6:26 AM
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