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Crime writer PD James dies aged 94

Crime writer P.D. James has died aged 94.

The novelist, who wrote a string of books about detective Adam Dalgliesh, sat in the House of Lords for many years as Baroness James of Holland Park.

She spent 30 years working as a civil servant before becoming a full-time writer.

In a statement, James's publishers Faber & Faber said: "This is a very sad day for us at Faber. It is difficult to express our profound sadness at losing PD 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."

Among her recent work was a new novel 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.

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.

She grilled him as she took the helm as guest editor of the show, telling him it was "really quite extraordinary" that 37 BBC bosses earned more than the Prime Minister.

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. It may be that women find the formal construction of the detective story psychologically supportive, so that we are able to deal within this structure with violent events which we might not so confidently tackle in the so-called straight novel."

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."

US crime writer Patricia Cornwell said: "RIP PD James and thanks for encouraging me when I was getting started."

Val McDermid said: "I salute the great PD James for so many reasons. Today, I've lost a friend as well as a teacher. There was nothing cosy about Phyllis."

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

Baroness Stowell, Leader of the Lords, said: "In addition to being an acclaimed novelist who brought so much pleasure to so many through her writing, PD James also made a great contribution to public life as a civil servant, a BBC Governor and as a peer of the realm.

"She was a loyal member of the Conservative party and was much loved by all sides of the House of Lords. Her contributions in the chamber were characteristically modest and considered, and we shall all miss her greatly. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this sad time."