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P.D. James

Literary Birthday – 3 August – P.D. James


  1. I think that when one writes detective stories one is imposing order, and a form of imperfect but human justice, on chaos.
  2. I don’t think that we necessarily choose our genre; the genre chooses us.
  3. Oh, I know all the swear words, my dear, and use them myself sometimes, in private. But I see no need for them in my books.
  4. A detective story can give a much truer picture of the society in which it’s written than a more prestigious literature. …And if I’m lucky enough to be read in 50 years’ time, I hope people will be able to point to them and say: that’s what it was like.
  5. I love the idea of bringing order out of disorder which is what the mystery is about. I like the way in which it affirms the sanity of human life and exorcises irrational guilts.
  6. Nothing that happens to a writer – however happy, however tragic – is ever wasted.
  7. From an early age I used to tell imaginative stories to my younger brother and sister. I lived in the world of the imagination and I did something that other writers have told me they did as children—I described myself inwardly in the third person: She brushed her hair and washed her face, then she put on her nightdress … as if I were standing outside myself and observing myself. I don’t know whether this is significant, but I think writing was what I wanted to do—almost as soon as I knew what a book was.
  8. It takes me as long to develop the plot and work out the characters as to write the book. Sometimes longer. So once I’ve got the setting, I begin to get in touch with the people, as it were, and last of all the clues.
  9. When I first started writing I got up early and wrote from six to eight, as I had to go to work. The habit has stuck and I still get up early and write in the morning. When I’m writing a book, I get up before seven, go down to the kitchen and make tea, listen to the news on the radio, and have a bath, then I settle down to work. I find that after a few hours I can’t go on and I stop around twelve.
  10. I don’t write in a particular place, and I can, in fact, write anywhere provided I have absolute peace and privacy.

P. D. James was an English crime writer and a life peer in the House of Lords. She was most famous for a series of detective novels starring policeman and poet, Adam Dalgliesh. Other works include Death Comes to Pemberley and The Children of Men.

Source for Image

by Amanda Patterson

Please click here for our Literary Birthday Calendar