Tuesday, February 7, 2012

In Memoriam - Dorothy Gilman

Dorothy Gilman (M), author of the Mrs Pollifax mystery series has passed away at the age of 88.

Mrs Pollifax was a grandmother who left her comfortable retirement to take up a later life career in espionage. Her first adventure was published in 1966:

The Unexpected Mrs Pollifax (M). "Mrs. Virgil (Emily) Pollifax of New Brunswick, New Jersey, was a widow with grown children. She was tired of attending her Garden Club meetings. She wanted to do something good for her country. So, naturally, she became a CIA agent. This time, the assignment sounds as tasty as a taco. A quick trip to Mexico City is on her agenda. Unfortunately, something goes wrong, and our dear Mrs. Pollifax finds herself embroiled in quite a hot Cold War--and her country's enemies find themselves entangled with one unbelievably feisty lady." Discover

Over the course of the next 30 years Mrs Pollifax uses her unassuming appearance to deliver documents to fellow spies in Turkey and Bulgaria. As her success grows she finds herself dispatched to Africa, China, Thailand and other exotic locales with the mission to rescue kidnapped agents and solve mysteries with her combination of keen observation, common sense and resourcefulness. In her final outing (Mrs Pollifax Unveiled (M)) "After facing down hijackers on a flight to the Middle East and saving the lives of the passengers on board, a young American woman steps off the plane in Damascus in a blaze of celebrity and disappears. The CIA believes Amanda Pym was kidnapped, possibly murdered. Masquerading as Amanda Pym’s worried aunt, Mrs. Pollifax begins her determined search, slipping through Damascus’s crooked streets and crowded souks . . . and trekking deep into the desert. Yet she is shadowed by deadly enemies, whose sinister agenda threatens not only Mrs. P. but the fragile stability of the entire Middle East. Only a miracle–or a brilliant counterplot– can forestall a disaster that will send shock waves around the world." publisher

Dorothy Gilman has a Nova Scotia connection which she describes in A New Kind of Country (M). In the early 1970s, with her children in college, Gilman abandoned her New York life and found peace in a coastal village (which she leaves unnamed) in Nova Scotia. Here she found strength in rural living. "Novelist Dorothy Gilman, author of the bestselling Mrs. Pollifax series, had reached a point of no return in her life. With her sons in college, Ms. Gilman was searching for something unknowable, unnameable . . . until she bought a small house in a little lobstering village in Nova Scotia, Canada. And so she began her life again, discovering talents and interests she never realized were hers, accepting the inner peace she had always fought, and most of all, understanding the untapped part of herself, almost as if it were a new kind of country, to challenge, explore, and love." Discover

In 2010 The Mystery Writers of America bestowed the honour of Grand Master on Dorothy Gilman recognizing her lifetime of achievement. Other illustrious recipients have included Agatha Christie (M), Elmore Leonard (M), and P.D. James (M).


  1. Thanks for this news. I was introduced to the sometimes-before-their-time political views of Mrs. Pollifax by a library patron, herself in her seventies or so at the time, who read Dorothy Gilman herself between bouts of translating Medieval Latin manuscripts. I better get to the library today before there's a run on these books!

  2. She is a very original author, whose works I appreciate. I wish I could've joined her memorial in New York, USA. To her family: your Mom & Grandma is much loved!

    We lost 'grand master' Phyllis A. Whitney in 2008. I'm so glad books are timeless. http://cmriedel.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/dorothy-gilman-immune/

  3. Since i was 16 and found The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax this series has been with me. I have read and reread every book, Mrs. Pollifax lifted me up every time i read them, from the darkest places. I came on here to thank Dorothy Gilman for the pleasure she provided only to find out i'm over a year to late. Well so be it, i am sad but her books will survive in my house.
    Thank you so much.
    To her family, how wonderful she must have been, how much you must miss her. I think of her almost as if she had been Emily Pollifax.

  4. I read her book caravan @ 13-many years later in my 40's- I lived in the desert kingdom and had adventures of my own- I believe she inspired me to be brave and dare to do what I always wanted to do! Many thanks Dorothy!!

  5. I did not know that Ms. Gilman had passed away. I have just introduced her books to a family member who is recuperating from surgery and she can't put the book down. We will go through the entire list of books until we have read them all and we may start over and reread them several times.
    We will always be grateful that she was here for the time that she was and that she has left us a legacy of wonderful books to be enjoyed for years to come.

  6. I just introduced her books to a family member who is recuperating from surgery. She is so into the story she can't put the book down.
    We did not realize Ms.Gilman had passed away over 2 years ago, but her books will be treasured for many years to come by so many people all over the world.