Friday, November 28, 2014

My hero / PD James by Val McDermid

My hero: PD James 
by Val McDermid

Phyllis had a deft way with the horrific, creating images that seared their way into the reader’s brain. This week, we lost a legend

Val McDermid
Friday 28 November 2014 07.00 GMT

ust before her 90th birthday, PD James invited me to take part in an event she was organising at the Bodleian library in Oxford. At dinner afterwards, she admitted she was writing, but not an Adam Dalgliesh novel. I asked her why not. “Because I don’t want to die in the middle and have one of you lot finish it,” she said, a wicked twinkle in her eye.

The wicked twinkle was something I’d come to know over years of a relationship that had shifted from admiration to acquaintance, from combativeness to friendship.
My first encounter with Phyllis came on the page. I bought her debut novel, Cover Her Face, at Jeremy’s 10p Bookshop on the Cowley Road in Oxford. And it was love at first sight. I admired the way she conjured up a sense of place, I engaged immediately with her characters and I appreciated the clever way she turned a plot. Even then, I understood she had a deft way with the truly horrific, using the principle of “less is more” to create images that sear their way into the reader’s brain.
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.
Four writers of her generation reshaped the way we experience the English crime novel – PD James, Ruth Rendell, Reginald Hill and Colin Dexter. When we awarded her the outstanding contribution award at the Theakstons Harrogate crime-writing festival, I was responsible for escorting her to the signing table afterwards. The room was packed. I shouted, “Make way, legend coming through.” They parted like the Red Sea for Phyllis in a way they would have done for few others.
This week, we lost a legend.

001 My hero / Oscar Wilde by Michael Holroyd
002 My hero / Harley Granville-Barker by Richard Eyre
003 My hero / Edward Goldsmith by Zac Goldsmith
004 My hero / Fridtjof Nansen by Sara Wheeler 
005 My hero / Mother Mercedes Lawler IBVM by Antonia Fraser

007 My hero / Ernest Shepard by Richard Holmes
008 My hero / JG Ballard by Will Self
009 My hero / Alan Ross by William Boyd
010 My hero / Ben the labrador by John Banville

011 My hero / Vicent van Gogh by Margaret Drabble
012 My hero / Franz Marek by Eric Hobsbawm


017 My hero / Jack Yeats by Colm Tóibín
018 My hero / Francisco Goya by Diana Athill
019 My hero / Max Stafford-Clark by Sebastian Barry
020 My hero / Arthur Holmes by Richard Fortey

036 My hero / Robert Lowell by Jonathan Raban
037 My hero / Beryl Bainbridge by Michael Holroyd
038 My hero / Charles Schulz by Jenny Colgan
039 My hero / Oliver Knussen by Adam Foulds
040 My hero / Annie Proulx by Alan Warner

041 My hero / David Lynch by Paul Murray
042 My hero / Edwin Morgan by Robert Crawford
043 My hero / Anne Lister by Emma Donoghue
044 My hero / Jane Helen Harrinson by Mary Beard
045 My hero / Edmund Burke by David Marquand
046 My hero / Shelagh Deleaney by Jeanette Winterson
047 My hero / Christopher Marlowe by Val McDermid
048 My hero / Gwen John by Anne Enright
049 My hero / Michael Mayne by Susan Hill
050 My hero / Stanley Spencer by Howard Jacobson

051 My hero / William Beveridge by Will Hutton
052 My hero / Jean McConville by Amanda Foreman
053 My hero / Alexander Pushkin by Elaine Feinstein
058 My hero / Cy Twombly by Edmund de Waal

079 My hero / Gene Wolfe by Neil Gaiman
087 My hero / Alberto Moravia by John Burnside
096 My hero / Isaac Babel by AD Miller
097 Lucian Freud by Esi Edugyan
100 Thomas Tranströmer by Robin Robertson
102 My hero / David Hockney by Susan Hill


190 My hero / Iris Murdoch by Charlotte Mendelson
194 My hero / René Descartes by James Kelman
199 My hero / Albert Camus by Geoff Dyer


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