Wednesday, February 08, 2012

RIP Mrs. Pollifax

One of my favorite authors died last week.
I've written about her before, but sadly she hasn't written anything new in years.
Her name is Dorothy Gilman.
Of course after reading why she died - complications of Alzheimer's disease - I can understand why there was nothing new.
Her obit was published on February 3 in the New York Times, and I have to admit that I didn't realize how sad her passing would make me feel.

Dorothy Edith Gilman was born in New Brunswick, N.J., on June 25, 1923; she decided on a writing career when she was still a child. Planning to write and illustrate books for children, she studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Under her married name, Dorothy Gilman Butters, she began publishing children’s books in the late 1940s. 
I understand that an author is not wholly the main character in their books, but there has to be some part of them that leeches out and into the characters. So don't blame me too much if I visualize Dorothy Gilman as Mrs. Pollifax. Now for those unfamiliar with this character, Mrs. Pollifax was the elderly (if 60ish is elderly - maybe in the '60s it was) widow who decided that she had reached the point where she wasn't needed anymore, so she should either kill herself or fulfill her life's wish of becoming a spy. Fortunately for the world, Mrs. Pollifax made the drastic and dangerous decision of becoming an employee of the CIA, and she enjoyed a 14-book run - now don't you think that's impressive?

Clever, lucky and naïvely intrepid, Mrs. Pollifax employs common sense and a little karate to rescue the kidnapped; aid the resistance (when you are a suburban lady spy, a fashionable hat is ideal for concealing forged passports); and engage in all manner of cheery deception (when doing business with a malefactor who is expecting a can of plutonium, a can of peaches makes an excellent if short-term substitute).
I have to confess - although I might have done this before - but I have read her series, either in whole, or a book at a time, at least 10 times, and I can say this without it being hyperbole. It's also nice to know that I am not alone in my fondness for Dorothy Gilman author, or Mrs. Pollifax, spy. There is a wonderful blog devoted to Mrs. Pollifax, and the blog's author can provide even more comprehensive information on the series, if you're interested. But don't limit your reading to just the Mrs. Pollifax books - Dorothy Gilman was a very prolific author who wrote some wonderful books that were not series, but stand alone as complete works.

One of the things that you may notice, if you decide to pick up a Dorothy Gilman book is that she deals a lot with spirituality, and finding ways to discover oneself, or hidden strengths, either through religion, mysticism, or spirituality. As much as I love Mrs. Pollifax, my two favorite books do not feature her, but are separate books: Incident at Badamya and Caravan. I never tire of reading these books, and I doubt I ever will.

RIP Dorothy Gilman, and know that I am not alone in loving the work you have left behind. Through this you will live forever.

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