Tributes paid to P D James

Tributes paid to P D James

Fellow authors Ruth Rendell, Val McDermid and A S Byatt have paid tribute to the crime writer P D James, who died yesterday (27th November) at the age of 94

Meanwhile her agent Carol Heaton and publisher Faber, have joined booksellers and the Society of Authors in giving their thoughts on her life and passing to The Bookseller.

Rendell, a friend, and fellow crime writer and life peer, told BBC Radio 4's Front Row: "She knew very well what she thought a perfect universe would be and she wanted her books to come close to that, to show what it should be. She held up people who were bad - who acted wrongly - as examples of the kind of people she didn't like and didn't want others to be affected by."

McDermid wrote in the Guardian: "People who know no better sometimes describe her work as cosy. If a scalpel is cosy, then so was Phyllis. She was proud of her work, and rightly so. She always took it seriously and we are the beneficiaries of that."

Byatt said that James blurred the boundaries between crime and literary fiction, telling BBC News: "The writing was terribly good. When people in her books died, other characters' lives changed too. She was working with real people that she cared about. She said crime fiction should win the Booker and tried to have it taken seriously. Phyllis was on the borderline between crime fiction and literary fiction."

Prime minister David Cameron also marked her passing, saying in a tweet that she was "one of the UK's greatest crime writers, who thrilled and inspired generations of readers."

Carol Heaton, James' agent at Greene & Heaton, spoke of her "great sadness" at the death of the author. She said: "All of us who worked with Phyllis James feel a sense of regret and great sadness at her death. We loved and treasured her for more than 50 years.  She was so warm and loving in all her dealings with us, as well as being admirably wise—not only about the world of books but the world at large.  We were proud to represent her and shall miss her dreadfully."

A spokesperson for Faber, which published her books for more than 50 years, said: "This is a very sad day for us at Faber. It is difficult to express our profound sadness at losing P D James, one of the world's great writers and a Faber author since her first publication in 1962. She was so very remarkable in every aspect of her life, an inspiration and great friend to us all. It is a privilege to publish her extraordinary books. Working with her was always the best of times, full of joy. We will miss her hugely."

James made her reputation with her crime writing, and served as the president of the Society of Authors for 16 years, from 1991, to 2013. Kate Pool, deputy chief executive of the SoA, said: "She was president for 16 years, and only stepped down on her 93rd birthday when she thought she was getting a bit long in the tooth, but no one else agreed with her. She was amazing – very quiet, controlled, genteel, ladylike, polite, old-fashioned – she didn't suffer fools gladly, but was amazingly kind. Her mind was like a gimlet. The word 'forensic' comes to mind. She would be in touch before every AGM with thoughts about every issue that would be coming up. She put in so much time and effort – everyone here is seriously in her debt."

Booksellers also added their responses. Joseph Knobbs, crime fiction buyer at Waterstones, said: "Cover Her Face was one of the first crime novels I ever read, and one of the books that made me fall in love with crime fiction. I was really saddened to hear the news. P D James wrote  crime fiction with a deference, attention and emotional intelligence that elevated the genre. She was a real one-off, a true original and a trail-blazer. I recently saw her at the launch of Lamentation, by C J Sansom, and she hadn’t lost an ounce of her wit, warmth or intelligence. She spoke passionately about the qualities of the book and the genre, thumping the table to punctuate her sentences."

Meanwhile Tanya Stone, owner of Murder One UK, and former deputy manager at Murder One crime bookshop on Charing Cross Road, said: "I'm really sad to hear she is gone. People still wanted to read everything she wrote. Some people lose their readership over time, but even if it was non-fiction or something different, people wanted to read her."