Music and book fans value compositions regardless of ‘top 40’ lists or era. A great title has no shelf life whatsoever. Because I have always enjoyed the vibe of older mysteries; I realized dear, favourite authors could be deceased. Not thinking about it before, I reluctantly searched one. Phyllis Ayame Whitney did die, only in 2008 and had reached 104. Not bad, for never before looking heroines up.
I collect everything by Dorothy Gilman. I was checking dates and unexpectedly discovered, this grand master has died! Not another one! I am glad to say this 88 year-old genius was with us until recently, just this February 2, 2012. Her work is highly original and memorable. To honour her life and UNIQUE, enthralling stories she has left us; let me tell you about her!
She is famous for a spy series called “Mrs. Pollifax“. Running impressively from 1966 to 2000, a Grandma has the guts to join the CIA. Here is a feminist who isn’t an 18 year-old heiress. I am a fan of the author’s deviations from that series. Two stories are paired with another book and the rest are standalone.
“The Clairvoyant Countess” (1975) is about a dignified, well-travelled lady who makes a humble living at ‘psychometry’: reading vibrations from objects. She befriends everyone from ethnic shop keepers to a policeman and aids numerous cases in the one book. Readers begged for a ‘Madame Karitska’ sequel and in 2002, Ms. Gilman gave it to us: “Kaleidoscope“.
“The Tightrope Walker” (1979) is the most original plot I’ve ever seen in all my years of reading. It also led me on a long chase for a related novel that is very hard to come by… and worth the hunt! A girl bought an antique store. She found a note inside an instrument: someone was imprisoned, about to be killed, and anticipated a cover up! If the note were real, it bore no date and only a first name. What would you do? Trace the musical instrument!
The protagonist frequently quotes “The Maze In The Heart Of The Castle“, an out-of-print fantasy tale she cherished as a child. I discovered an Amazon review of “The Tightrope Walker“, saying the book-in-a-book exists! What’s neat is it came out in 1983. Dorothy Gilman must have decided to really compose it later, to our great benefit I assure you!
I’m still seeking her autobiography: “A New Kind Of Country” (1978). She talks about falling in love with my country and moving here. I will eat up every word, when I acquire her book at a decent price.
“A Nun In The Closet” (1976) is certainly entitled to make you want to look. It’s hilarious but brilliantly plotted, with a cast and setting that are absolutely unique. A convent inherits land and a mansion out-of-town. They don’t know from whom but survey its potential. They are a ‘cloistered’ order, not in tune with current trends. Two Sisters are chosen to stay at the estate; requiring they borrow a truck and one of them learns how to drive, to get there! The characters and items they uncover, provide suspense.
I haven’t read “Caravan” (1992) but it looks phenomenal. Now elderly, a woman tells why she posed as a man to escape an ordeal. I tend to collect an author’s entire works well before I read them. This leaves me numerous Dorothy Gilman novels to soak in and enjoy, even though she has very recently crossed over. I hope the Gilman-Butters family finds my words.
This article is my tribute to you, Dorothy! The public was welcome to pay respects to my dear author in New York, USA! I kid you not, if I had the money I’d have gone. I leave you with a letter from her son, to a fan site.
February 12, 2012: “My family and I sincerely appreciate all the condolences and kind words expressed by you and her fans. A memorial service will be held for her on Saturday, March 3, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. at the Community Church of New York, 40 East 35th Street in Manhattan. Any readers of the ‘Mrs. Pollifax Fan Blog’ who happen to be in the area are welcome to attend.