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7 August 1986
A Taste for Death 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 454 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 571 13799 7
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A Dark-Adapted Eye 
by Barbara Vine.
Viking, 300 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 670 80976 4
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Dead Men’s Morris 
by Gladys Mitchell.
Joseph, 247 pp., £9.95, April 1986, 0 7181 2553 3
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Laurels are poison 
by Gladys Mitchell.
Hogarth, 237 pp., £2.95, June 1986, 0 7012 1010 9
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Dido and Pa 
by Joan Aiken.
Cape, 251 pp., £7.95, June 1986, 0 224 02364 0
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... The epigraphs of P.D. James (now that she has taken to using them) are important. ‘There’s this to say for blood and breath,’ runs the latest one, from A.E. Housman: ‘They give a man a taste for death.’ Are we being directed to hold in mind those other lines of Housman’s? Oh like enough ’tis blood, my dear, For when the knife has slit The throat across from ear to ear ’Twill bleed because of it ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Fastsellers

22 March 2001
... year to be topping the charts. A week later, as things warmed up for spring, Grisham was trailing P.D. James, whose new Death in Holy Orders was ahead by a nose (5408 units to 5061), and Matthew Kneale slipped to seventh place, behind Anita Shreve, Jack Higgins, Paul Eddy and Catherine Cookson, without sales falling ...

The Cadaver Club

Iain Sinclair

22 December 1994
Original Sin 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 426 pp., £14.99, October 1994, 0 571 17253 9
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Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 282 pp., £14.99, September 1994, 1 85619 507 4
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The Hidden Files: An Autobiography 
by Derek Raymond.
Warner, 342 pp., £5.99, December 1994, 0 7515 1184 6
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Not till the Red Fog Rises 
by Derek Raymond.
Little, Brown, 248 pp., £15.99, December 1994, 0 316 91014 7
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... Baroness James, making a rare visitation to a blighted metropolitan zone, downriver of Tower Bridge, has written a very useful book, a book on which I will be happy to draw for years to come. That was back in 1972. Title? The Maul and the Pear Tree; co-authored by T.A. Critchley of the Police Department at the Home Office, where James then earned her crust as a Principal in the Criminal Policy Department ...

Lizzy with the Candlestick

Joanna Biggs: P.D. James’s Austen

5 January 2012
Death Comes to Pemberley 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 310 pp., £18.99, November 2011, 978 0 571 28357 6
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... was published that it was ‘rather too light & bright & sparkling; – it wants shade.’ P.D. James’s Death Comes to Pemberley follows in this shady tradition. In her preface, James apologises to Austen for ‘involving her beloved Elizabeth in the trauma of a murder investigation’, and imagines Austen ...
15 May 1980
The Echo Chamber 
by Gabriel Josipovici.
Harvester, 154 pp., £6.50, March 1980, 0 85527 807 2
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Birthstone 
by D.M. Thomas.
Gollancz, 160 pp., £6.50, March 1980, 0 575 02762 2
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Kingdom Come 
by Melvyn Bragg.
Secker, 352 pp., £6.50, March 1980, 0 436 06714 5
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A Gentle Occupation 
by Dirk Bogarde.
Chatto, 360 pp., £5.95, March 1980, 0 7011 2505 5
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Innocent Blood 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 276 pp., £5.95, March 1980, 0 571 11566 7
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... clues about relationships. Then it becomes clear that a wider reference is intended: the clues dropped are just like those in an Agatha Christie country house mystery, where both the number of characters under suspicion and their extreme simplicity – in most cases nothing but a name and a label – keep the reader alert to points of reference. This is ...
10 September 1992
The Children of Men 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 239 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 571 16741 1
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A Philosophical Investigation 
by Philip Kerr.
Chatto, 336 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 7011 4553 6
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Spoilt 
by Georgina Hammick.
Chatto, 212 pp., £13.99, August 1992, 0 7011 4133 6
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The Death of the Author 
by Gilbert Adair.
Heinemann, 135 pp., £13.99, August 1992, 0 434 00623 8
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Jerusalem Commands 
by Michael Moorcock.
Cape, 577 pp., £15.99, July 1992, 0 224 03074 4
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... and the Warden, and is told by Xan that he desires the end but closes his eyes to the means. P.D. James has two themes here. One is about the baneful effect of a hedonistic eugenic tyranny where those who don’t go voluntarily to their Quietus are delivered to it by force, and the other, developed in the book’s ...
7 December 1989
Silent Partner 
by Jonathan Kellerman.
Macdonald, 506 pp., £11.95, September 1989, 0 356 17598 7
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‘Murder will out’: The Detective in Fiction 
by T.J. Binyon.
Oxford, 166 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 9780192192233
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Devices and Desires 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 408 pp., £11.99, October 1989, 0 571 14178 1
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Killshot 
by Elmore Leonard.
Viking, 287 pp., £12.95, October 1989, 0 670 82258 2
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Trust 
by George V. Higgins.
Deutsch, 213 pp., £11.95, November 1989, 0 233 98513 1
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Polar Star 
by Martin Cruz Smith.
Collins Harvill, 373 pp., £12.95, October 1989, 0 00 271269 5
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... a ‘romanticised and to a certain extent sentimentalised’ version of Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade; a little impatient with Macdonald, too cerebral and meaningful for his taste (‘Macdonald led the tradition away on an ultimately abortive mission towards social psychology’). Kellerman, it seems, evokes the world of psychology, but Macdonald merely ...

Gangsters in Hats

Richard Mayne

17 May 1984
Essays on Detective Fiction 
edited by Bernard Benstock.
Macmillan, 218 pp., £20, February 1984, 0 333 32195 2
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Dashiell Hammett: A Life at the Edge 
by William Nolan.
Arthur Barker, 276 pp., £9.95, September 1983, 0 213 16886 3
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The Life of Dashiell Hammett 
by Diane Johnson.
Chatto, 344 pp., £12.95, January 1984, 9780701127664
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Hellman in Hollywood 
by Bernard Dick.
Associated University Presses, 183 pp., £14.95, September 1983, 0 8386 3140 1
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... no such misgivings. Does this mean ceasing to discriminate between literature and yarns? Professor James Naremore, in Professor Bernard Benstock’s symposium, seems to imply that it does. Dashiell Hammett, he writes, ‘challenges the easy distinctions between popular and high art, and the critical language that normally sustains those ...

After the Meteor Strike

Amia Srinivasan: Death

24 September 2014
Death and the Afterlife 
by Samuel Scheffler.
Oxford, 210 pp., £19.99, November 2013, 978 0 19 998250 9
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... died of natural causes, all human life would be destroyed in a meteor strike. Or suppose, as in P.D. James’s novel The Children of Men (loosely adapted as a film by Alfonso Cuarón in 2006), you learned that the human species as a whole had become infertile. Scheffler predicts that we would react to either scenario with what he calls (‘with bland ...
20 December 2018
... and your thought’. She is delighted to accept. This is joltingly hard to read today – even P.D. James, no slave to political correctness, calls it ‘blatant misogyny’. It goes a long way to ruining what is otherwise a prime example of golden age detective fiction. Sayers gets into similar difficulties with the character of Harriet Vane, who is ...

Brown Goo like Marmite

Neal Ascherson: Memories of the Fog

8 October 2015
London Fog: The Biography 
by Christine Corton.
Harvard, 408 pp., £22.95, November 2015, 978 0 674 08835 1
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... crossing on the Canonbury Road. I came out of the pub that evening in early December 1962, and stopped as the door closed behind me. There was no crossing, no beacon pole. I could make out the paving slabs gleaming wetly under my feet, but not the kerb. With a painful jolt, I stumbled into the roadway. Shuffling forward into the thick yellow murk, I suddenly ...

Strangers

John Lanchester

11 July 1991
Serial Murder: An Elusive Phenomenon 
edited by Stephen Egger.
Praeger, 250 pp., £33.50, October 1990, 0 275 92986 8
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Serial Killers 
by Joel Norris.
Arrow, 333 pp., £4.99, July 1990, 0 09 971750 6
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Life after Life 
by Tony Parker.
Pan, 256 pp., £4.50, May 1991, 0 330 31528 5
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American Psycho 
by Bret Easton Ellis.
Picador, 399 pp., £6.99, April 1991, 0 330 31992 2
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Dirty Weekend 
by Helen Zahavi.
Macmillan, 185 pp., £13.99, April 1991, 0 333 54723 3
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Silence of the Lambs 
by Thomas Harris.
Mandarin, 366 pp., £4.99, April 1991, 0 7493 0942 3
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... a collective ignorance of themselves and what they are. They have, every one of them, got their deep dark thoughts with many a skeleton rattling in their secret cupboards. Their fascination with ‘types’ (rare types) like myself plagues them with the mystery of why and how a living person can actually do things which may be only those dark images and acts ...

The Browse Function

John Sutherland

27 November 1997
Webonomics: Nine Essential Principles for Growing Your Business on the World Wide Web 
by Evan Schwartz.
Penguin, 244 pp., £11.99, October 1997, 9780140264067
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... problems. Whereas the Internet could conveniently carry only words and text – typically in stripped ‘ASCII’ form – the Web used ‘hypertext’ to incorporate imagery, icons and ‘browsing’, or lateral links. In other words, the Web introduced a new, non-linear architecture: duck did not have to collocate with green peas, it could also go in other ...

A Preference for Torquemada

Michael Wood: G.K. Chesterton

9 April 2009
Chesterton and the Romance of Orthodoxy: The Making of GKC 1874-1908 
by William Oddie.
Oxford, 401 pp., £25, November 2008, 978 0 19 955165 1
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The Man Who Was Thursday 
by G.K. Chesterton.
Atlantic, 187 pp., £7.99, December 2008, 978 1 84354 905 5
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... the Christian apologist, and I was, I confess, the man who had not read The Man Who Was Thursday. P.D. James, in her introduction to a selection of Father Brown stories, says: ‘Chesterton never wrote an inelegant or clumsy sentence.’ Almost everyone reaches for the word ‘genial’ when they talk about him, and we are told that he loved to ...

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