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Tributes as doyenne of detective fiction PD James dies

By Robert Dex

The queen of crime writers PD James has died aged 94 after a career that took her from the civil service to the House of Lords via the bestseller lists.

Her family said the writer, who became Baroness James of Holland Park in 1991, died at home in Oxford. The novelist, who wrote a string of books about detective Adam Dalgliesh, spent 30 years working as a civil servant before becoming a full-time writer.

Her publishers Faber & Faber said: "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."

The Dalgliesh books found a wider audience through a series of ITV adaptations with Roy Marsden in the lead role and James branched out into non-fiction and stand-alone novels including one updating Jane Austen's Pride And Prejudice.

Death Comes To Pemberley pitched Austen's characters, Mr Darcy and his wife Elizabeth, into the middle of a murder mystery and was later filmed by the BBC.

She listed Austen among the four authors she regarded as having the greatest influence on her work, alongside Dorothy L Sayers, Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh.

Asked why so many successful crime writers were women, she said: "This may be because women have an eye for detail and clue-making demands attention to the minutiae of everyday living.

"Women, too, are interested in emotions and motives rather than in fast action and weaponry."

A former governor of the BBC, James famously confronted its then director-general Mark Thompson during an edition of the Radio 4 Today programme about the excessive pay packets given to some of its top executives.

Paying tribute, crime writer Ian Rankin said: "So sad about PD James. Every event I did with her was a joy. Sharp intellect, ready wit. She will be missed."

Prime Minister David Cameron said: "Saddened to hear of the death of PD James, one of the UK's greatest crime writers, who thrilled generations of readers."

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