There is a shelf in my office dedicated to Dorothy Gilman. I have a copy of every one of her books. This collection began with “The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax” and continues through the entire Mrs. Pollifax series, adding other stand-alone books along the way, such as “A Nun in the Closet,” “The Clairvoyant Countess,” and “Girl in Buckskin.”
The Mrs. Pollifax copies are especially well-used, having endured multiple readings. Each time I begin with anticipation, having forgotten some of the details, and the read is always comforting and satisfying – as if I’m being reacquainted with old friends. Mrs. Pollifax meets the most interesting people, she finds deep courage within herself in every situation, and her friends are long-lasting and true. Her adventures are both entertaining and educational; how is it that a retired woman can go from contemplating the edge of her rooftop while watering her geraniums to running around the Albanian countryside? Or disguising herself as a Chinese grandmother? Or surviving torture in Hong Kong? Mrs. Pollifax can do it all, with love in her heart and steel in her backbone.
Dorothy Gilman has served as an unknowing mentor and friend for me all these years. When I need a break from writing, I read her books. When I need inspiration, or a reminder of what it feels like to get lost in great writing, I read her books. When I want to see again how she creates characters which are both lovable and complex, I delve into her books. It seems whatever trait I need to study, I find them in her writings.
Mystery Writers of America has granted Dorothy Gilman Grandmaster status, which I heartily applaud. Gilman has done so much for our genre, and has shown that a female mystery author can and did achieve success with books that appeal to both genders (my father was also a Mrs. Pollifax fan!). She began her career back in the sixties, long before Sisters in Crime existed -- long before most of our now-lauded female crime writers took the stage. She wrote what she wanted to write, not following a trend of any kind, and was wildly successful. Her books are still in print, after over forty years of being on the shelves. Would that we all could be so fortunate!
Congratulations to Ms. Gilman for writing such wonderful books, for continuing to entertain and challenge us, and for this award. She deserves every accolade heaped upon her.