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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 ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Fastsellers

22 March 2001
... week ending 24 February 2001, the end of February would be one of the less impressive times of 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 ...

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 ...

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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... brains.’ Austen might have understood: she wrote to her sister Cassandra after Pride and Prejudice 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 ...
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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... Simenon has written both good detective stories and good crime novels, and the difference isn’t that the latter are more ‘literary’. This is all the difference between Innocent Blood and P.D.James’s detective stories. It is frightfully ‘literary’ – wordy and uneconomical, over-determining the characters with fussy attentions, careless about hard facts and loaded with literary ...
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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... There was wide support for setting up the Man Penal Settlement.’ But still he talks to the Council 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 ...
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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... Blues too, but television is not part of Binyon’s patrol. He is rather unquestioningly keen on plausibility – since when did that really matter in crime fiction? – and sternly says that P.D.James’s Adam Dalgliesh, for example, ‘lacks verisimilitude as a policeman, if not as a person’. He also says rather oddly that ‘stories about a criminal, no matter how excellent they are in their ...

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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... E.M. Forster was wrong to deprecate the ‘story’. Shakespeare, Dickens and Dostoevsky had 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 ...

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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... that we, like him, are good atheists.) Suppose you knew, ahead of time, that thirty days after you 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 ...
20 December 2018
... but he demands in return ‘your independence, the enthusiasm which you give your career, your time 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 ...

In the Company of Confreres

Terry Eagleton: ‘Modern British Fiction’

12 December 2002
On Modern British Fiction 
edited by Zachary Leader.
Oxford, 328 pp., £14.99, October 2002, 0 19 924932 6
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... paradoxical comparisons for dustjackets: ‘Brighton Rock written by Charlotte Brontë’; ‘the Camus of the backpacking generation’. Not all ladies have become women. In a chapter here on P.D.James, Martin Priestman records her distrust of ambitious professional women, approval of loyal housekeepers and disdain for people who say ‘toilet’ when they mean ‘lavatory’. At one point she ...

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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... books under review, and the film which has had the top box-office receipts on both sides of the Atlantic, have recently provided the material for works by artists as different from each other as P.D.James, DV8 Physical Dance Theatre and David Lynch. Stephen Egger, an American academic and former policeman who wrote the first doctoral dissertation on the phenomenon, gives a definition/description of ...

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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... are gimmicky interactive features such as ‘mood-matcher’ and ‘book-matcher’. You feed in love-it/hate-it responses to 50 titles, and it tells you which are the books for you (for me, P.D.James and Goethe). If you have an American bank account, or internationally recognised plastic, Amazon.com will supply British customers in much the same way that (in defiance of rights’ conventions, as ...

Brown Goo like Marmite

Neal Ascherson: Memories of the Fog

7 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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... on by bad health, which in turn was partly caused by foul air. Writers grew interested in the sensations of young, vulnerable women wandering alone in the gloom. In The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James sends Isabel Archer boldly marching by herself through the ‘thick brown air’ from Euston to Piccadilly. Corton, however, suggests that the fog is ‘a metaphorical representation of this lack of ...

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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... Revolution on the lines of the French Revolution.’ But I had not encountered Chesterton 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 ...

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