Longevity & Legacy Portraits 2014: The Criminal Pen.

P.D. James, 94


“I don’t think writers choose the genre, the genre chooses us. I wrote out of the wish to create order out of disorder, the liking of a pattern.”

Phyllis Dorothy died peacefully 27th November in Oxford, England at age 94. Tough as old boots one might glean from reading her biography; leaving her legacy in many ways, most notably through the character of Adam Dalgliesh. More provocative for me is her dystopian novel, The Children of Men, set in 2021 and what happens in an age of infertility and depopulation. So much for the promise of longevity.

While her criminal pen made her most famous, her ninety four years was a story more varied in experience, from working in hospital administration and civil service to becoming a member of the House of Lords at the age of 71 – Baroness of Holland Park. Likely she must have been content enough to see her legacy reflected in the lives of her two children, five grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.

By all accounts, it would appear P.D. James was as sharp as a tack all her life, self-determined and highly observant of the ways of human beings. A life fulfilled in multiple roles all woven into her character, but a murderer not.

When you think of the many versions of what the concept of career might be, the P.D. James version strikes closer to what it authentically ought to be – career was her life’s journey. In her words “the liking of a pattern”.

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