P.D. James… again

Talking about Detective Fiction by
P.D. James

At the same time that I was reading Death Comes to Pemberley, I was listening to this book on audio.
(Actually, I wasn’t precisely reading them both at the very same time, because there is a limit to my multi-tasking
abilities. But I was reading them during the same timeframe.)
And maybe that was just a bit too much P.D. James all at once, or
maybe… (and I actually think this is the reason)… maybe I just got too darn
good an education during library school.
’Cause here’s what I kept thinking all the way through the section
about the Golden Age mystery writers: Yeah, I learned that in library school.
And that, too! So this (audio)book was kinda boring, a little bit.
So I really only perked up and got interested in the new stuff
somewhere around disc 4 (of 4). That’s where James started talking about her
own writing, and that was darn interesting. For example, she learned from
Agatha Christie’s experience (of getting annoyed with Hercule Poirot’s
oddities) not to make her main character too quirky. And she writes about the
inspiration for the settings of some of her books, and that’s good stuff, too.
some of my Agathas
(just don’t look too close: dust bunnies!
…because reading’s way more fun than dusting)
Though, one saving grace: James isn’t as hard on Agatha Christie as
some people are. Sure, Christie’s characters were cardboard cut-outs, but
guys—that lady could write one heck of a plot! During junior high and high
school, I read every darn Agatha Christie mystery I could get my hands on, and
I’ve still got a boatload of them on my shelves today. I’ve a fondness for
those old things.
And James recognizes Christie for her strengths, while also
acknowledging her weaknesses… and rather forgiving them, it seems. 

If you’re a huge P.D. James fan and just can’t get enough of her viewpoint, or if you’re interested in learning the basics of the 19th- and early 20th-century roots of the mystery novel, this book might hold your attention better than it did mine. I just felt like I was watching a re-run of a documentary I’d already seen.