P. D. James brings a lifetime of reading and writing crime fiction to bear on this personal history of the genre, from the birth of the detective story, through Wilkie Collins and Conan Doyle, to the golden age of crime and the rise of Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham. There is a chapter on great American crime writers such as Raymond Chandler and Dashiel Hammett, and P. D. James also discusses many of her favourite detectives, from Sherlock Holmes to Kurt Wallender.
P. D. James was born in Oxford in 1920 and educated at Cambridge High School for Girls. From 1949 to 1968 she worked in the National Health Service and subsequently in the Home Office, first in the Police Department and later in the Criminal Policy Department. All that experience has been used in her novels.
She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the Royal Society of the Arts and has served as a Governor of the BBC, a member of the Arts Council, where she was Chairman of its Literary Advisory Panel, on the Board of the British Council and as a magistrate in Middlesex and London.
She has won awards for crime writing in Britain, America, Italy and Scandinavia, including the Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Award. She has received honorary degrees from seven British universities, was awarded an OBE in 1983 and was created a life peer in 1991. In 1997 she was elected President of the Society of Authors.
She lives in London and Oxford and has two daughters, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.