P.D. James biography

Author Biography  | Books by this Author  | Readalikes

P.D. James
Photo © Ulla Montan

P.D. James

P.D. James Biography

Phyllis Dorothy James, Baroness James of Holland Park OBE, better known as P. D. James, was born on August 3 1920 in Oxford, the eldest daughter of an Inland Revenue Official. The family moved first to Wales and then, when she was 11, to Cambridge where she attended the Cambridge High School for Girls. Due to financial pressures at home she left school when she was 16, first following her father into the tax office, then working in a theatre where she met her husband, Ernest Connor Bantry White, who was training to be a doctor.

They married in 1941 and had two daughters during the war years - she named her second daughter after her favorite author, Jane Austen. Connor was sent to India during World War II with the Royal Army Medical Corps and returned mentally disabled. He was repeatedly hospitalized and finally institutionalized, before he passed away in 1964.

Taking on the financial responsibility for the family, James (who had been a nurse during the war) found work as a hospital clerk and through sheer persistence and intelligence worked her way up to principal hospital administrator at the North West Regional Hospital Board, London, in charge of five psychiatric hospitals. She wrote her first novel, Cover Her Face (the first in the Adam Dalgliesh series) on the train to and from work; it was published in 1962. In 1968, she became a principal in the criminal policy department of the British Home Office, where she worked until she was able to retire in 1979 to write full-time.

She was a Governor for the BBC (1988-93), and Chairman of the Literature Advisory Panel at both the Arts Council of England (1988-92) and the British Council (1988-93). She was awarded the OBE in 1983 and created a Life Peer (Baroness James of Holland Park) in 1991.

She sits in the House of Lords (the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, comparable to the US Senate) as a Conservative. She is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. She chaired the Booker Prize Panel of Judges in 1987 and was President of the Society of Authors from 1997 to August 2013. The President of the Society, a position first held by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, is considered the "ultimate honour" awarded by the British writers body. Baroness James has also received honorary degrees from many universities including Downing College, Cambridge; St Hilda's College, Oxford and Girton College, Cambridge.

She has been awarded major prizes for her crime writing in Great Britain, America, Italy and Scandinavia. In 1999 she received the Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Award for long term achievement. She is published widely overseas including the USA, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, Holland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Portugal, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Argentina.

She says that her influences include Dorothy L. Sayers, Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh, but that her favorite novelist is Jane Austen ("an absolute mistress of construction").

She is the author of more than 20 books, most of which have been adapted for TV. Her autobiography, Time To Be In Earnest: A Fragment of utobiography, was published in 2000. In 2011 she commented that The Private Patient (2008) would be the final Dalgliesh novel.

P.D. James died in Oxford on November 27, 2014 at the age of 94.



This bio was last updated on 07/22/2013. In a perfect world, we would like to keep all of BookBrowse's biographies up to date, but with many thousands of lives to keep track of it's simply impossible to do. So, if the date of this bio is not recent, you may wish to do an internet search for a more current source, such as the author's website or social media presence. If you are the author or publisher and would like us to update this biography, send the complete text and we will replace the old with the new.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Books by this Author

Books by P.D. James at BookBrowse
The Mistletoe Murder jacket The Private Patient jacket The Lighthouse jacket The Murder Room jacket
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

All the books below are recommended as readalikes for P.D. James but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
How we choose readalikes

  • Barbara D'Amato

    Barbara D'Amato

    Barbara D'Amato is a playwright, novelist, and crime researcher. She began writing full-time in 1973, first co-writing plays with her husband, Anthony D'Amato.

    After trying different genres, her first published novel in 1980 ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    The Murder Room

    Try:
    Death of a Thousand Cuts
    by Barbara D'Amato

  • Karin Fossum

    Karin Fossum

    Karin Fossum is the author of many novels and two collections of short stories. Her crime novels featuring Inspector Sejer have been translated into sixteen languages.

    Don't Look Back is the first of Fossum's ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    The Murder Room

    Try:
    He Who Fears The Wolf
    by Karin Fossum

We recommend 23 similar authors

View all 23 Readalikes

Non-members can see 2 results. Become a member
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

and discover exceptional books
for just $3.75 per month.

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Bitch
    Bitch
    by Lucy Cooke
    In middle school biology class, many of us were told that men hunt and women nest, that testosterone...
  • Book Jacket: Jackie & Me
    Jackie & Me
    by Louis Bayard
    Louis Bayard's Jackie & Me offers a fictionalized version of the early relationship between John F. ...
  • Book Jacket: The Facemaker
    The Facemaker
    by Lindsey Fitzharris
    The summer of 1914 saw the beginning of World War I, the bloody conflict known as the 'war to end ...
  • Book Jacket: How to Read Now
    How to Read Now
    by Elaine Castillo
    Toni Morrison once wrote, 'My project rises from delight, not disappointment.' This remark appeared ...

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Some of It Was Real
    by Nan Fischer

    A psychic on the verge of stardom and a cynical journalist are brought together by secrets that threaten to tear them apart.

  • Book Jacket

    Dirt Creek
    by Hayley Scrivenor

    "A heart-wrenching mystery, Scrivenor's remarkable sense of place brings Dirt Creek to life. A stellar debut."
    —Jane Harper,

Who Said...

Books are the carriers of civilization

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

I Wishes W H B W R

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.