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R.I.P. Author Dorothy Gilman

[ Edited ]

Well-known author DOROTHY GILMAN died earlier this month, and by popular request we've added her to our American Mystery Classics feature for this last week of February.

 

Here's her New York Times obituary:

 

Dorothy Gilman, ‘Mrs. Pollifax’ Novelist,

Dies at 88

 

 

Dorothy Gilman, an espionage writer whose best-known heroine, Mrs. Pollifax, is very likely the only spy in literature to belong simultaneously to the Central Intelligence Agency and the local garden club, died on Thursday at her home in Rye Brook, N.Y. She was 88.

Corey Lowenstein

 

Dorothy Gilman

 

The cause was complications of Alzheimer’s disease, her family said.

 

In “The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax” (1966), the first novel in what would be a 14-book series, Mrs. Gilman introduces Emily Pollifax, a 60-ish New Jersey widow bored by the compulsory round of tea and good works.

 

In search of adventure, she offers her services to the C.IA. — who, after all, is going to peg a suburban grandmother as a cold war secret agent? — and adventure she finds. In the course of the series, which concluded in 2000 with “Mrs. Pollifax Unveiled,” she fetches up in Mexico, Turkey, Thailand, China, Morocco, Sicily and elsewhere.

 

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).

 

Reviewers sometimes quibbled about the improbability of the novels’ basic premise. But the books proved popular with readers: in a genre in which women had long been young and sultry, Mrs. Pollifax, with her peril and petunias, made an irresistible, early feminist heroine.

 

The series was the basis of two movies, the feature film “Mrs. Pollifax — Spy“ (1971), starring Rosalind Russell, and the telefilm “The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax” (1999), starring Angela Lansbury.

 

The Mystery Writers of America named Mrs. Gilman its 2010 Grand Master.

 

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.

 

Mrs. Gilman’s marriage to Edgar A. Butters Jr. ended in divorce. She is survived by two sons, Christopher Butters and Jonathan Butters; and two grandchildren.

 

She was also the author of several nonseries novels for adults, among them “The Clairvoyant Countess” (1975), “Incident at Badamya“ (1989) and “Kaleidoscope” (2002), and novels for young people including “Enchanted Caravan” (1949) and “The Bells of Freedom” (1963).

 

By the seventh Mrs. Pollifax novel, “Mrs. Pollifax and the Hong Kong Buddha,” published in 1985, Mrs. Gilman’s heroine has remarried. But for the most part, she is quite content to leave her husband at home for the duration of the series as she gads about the world, a paladin packing peaches.

 


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Re: R.I.P. Author Dorothy Gilman

Dorothy Gilman's Fan Site is here: http://mrspollifax.com/

 

Memorial Service for Dorothy Gilman

 

I just received this update from Jonathan Butters:

 

“Dear Jolene,
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. Jonathan Butters”

I

f you reside in the area we hope you can attend. And we hope you will share the experience with the rest of her fans who are not able. I will really miss all the new stories that Dorothy Gilman Butters could have shared with us and I wish I could come up with an appropriate saying that would ease the pain of her children and grandchildren. I, for one, will pause in whatever I am doing at that time and offer a moment of silence in honor of this great writer, mother and artist.

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Re: R.I.P. Author Dorothy Gilman

From her fan site:

 

Personal Information:

Family:
Born June 25, 1923, in New Brunswick, NJ; daughter of James Bruce (a minister) and Essa (Starkweather) Gilman

Married Edgar A. Butters, Jr. (a teacher), September 15, 1945 (divorced, 1965)

Children: Christopher Butters, Jonathan Butters.

Education:

Attended Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, 1940-45, University of Pennsylvania and Art Students’ League, 1963-64.

Memberships:

Authors Guild.

Career:

Samuel Fleischer Art Memorial, Philadelphia, PA, instructor in drawing in adult evening school, two years; switchboard operator, New Jersey Bell Telephone Co., one year; Cherry Lawn School, Darien, CT, instructor in creative writing, 1969-70.

Awards:

Catholic Book Award for A Nun in the Closet. Source: Contemporary Authors Online. The Gale Group, 2001.

Contact Information:

Agent: Howard Morhaim Literary Agency, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010-7703.

Ms. Gilman also has biographical listings in the following databases:

St. James Guide to Crime & Mystery Writers, 4th ed. St. James Press, 1996.

The Complete Marquis Who’s Who TM. Marquis Who’s Who, 2001.

Almanac of Famous People, 6th ed. Gale Research, 1998.

***************************************************

The last word.(Dorothy Gilman)(Brief article)

“The last word.(Dorothy Gilman)(Brief article). .” New Moon. 14.4 (March-April 2007): 49(1). General One File. Gale. Jacksonville Public Library (FL). 21 Sept. 2007

Full Text:COPYRIGHT 2007 Copyright 2001 by New Moon Publishing. Subscriptions: New Moon: The Magazine for Girls and Their Dreams. $29/yr. New Moon Publishing, P.O.Box 3587, Duluth, MN 55803. 800-381-4743. www.newmoon.org

“People need dreams, there’s as much nourishment in’em as food.”
–Dorothy Gilman, Caravan, 1992.

Dorothy Gilman started writing when she was 9. At 11, she competed against 10 to 16-year-olds in a story contest and won first place. Dorothy worked as an art teacher and telephone operator before becoming an author. She wrote children stories for more than ten years and then began writing adult novels about Mrs. Pollifax–a retired grandmother who becomes a CIA agent. The Mrs. Pollifax series made Dorothy famous. While her stories nourish people’s thirst for adventure and mystery, Dorothy knows about nourishing the body as well. She used to live on a farm in Nova Scotia, where she grew medicinal herbs. Her knowledge of herbs comes through in many of her stories, including A Nun in the Closet, in which a nun treats a man’s wounds with the herbs growing nearby. Many of Dorothy’s books, including Caravan, feature strong women having adventures around the world. Dorothy lives in Connecticut and Maine.

Gale Document Number:A160541336

A Very Young Dorothy Gilman Butters

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Mrs Pollifax Series

Mrs Pollifax is a series of books created by Dorothy Gilman. Mrs Emily Pollifax is a recent widow whose children are grown and living on their own. One day she decides that she must do something with the remainder of her life so she decides to fulfill her life-long dream of becoming a spy. There are 14 books in the series for you to enjoy. Here is a listing of the books and a link to their pages.

THE UNEXPECTED MRS. POLLIFAX Published in 1966
THE AMAZING MRS. POLLIFAX Published in 1970
THE ELUSIVE MRS. POLLIFAX Published in 1971
A PALM FOR MRS. POLLIFAX Published in 1973
MRS. POLLIFAX ON SAFARI Published in 1977
MRS. POLLIFAX ON CHINA STATION Published in 1983
MRS. POLLIFAX AND THE HONG KONG BUDDHA Published in 1985
MRS. POLLIFAX AND THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE Published in 1988
MRS. POLLIFAX AND THE WHIRLING DERVISH Published in 1990
MRS. POLLIFAX AND THE SECOND THIEF Published in 1993
MRS. POLLIFAX PURSUED Published in 1995
MRS. POLLIFAX AND THE LION KILLER Published in 1996
MRS. POLLIFAX INNOCENT TOURIST Published in 1997
MRS. POLLIFAX UNVEILED Published in 2000

 

Childrens Books

Dorothy Gilman Butters started her writing career as a children story writer. She first book was published in 1949 and then she moved onto mysteries and a series.

ENCHANTED CARAVAN Published in 1949
CARNIVAL GYPSY Published in 1950
RAGAMUFFIN ALLEY Published in 1951
THE CALICO YEAR Published in 1953
FOUR PARTY LINE Published in 1954
PAPA DOLPHIN’S TABLE Published in 1955
GIRL IN BUCKSKIN Published in 1956
HEARTBREAK STREET Published in 1958
WITCH’S SILVER Published in 1959
MASQUERADE (republished under Heart’s design)Published in 1961
HEART’S DESIGN Published in 1963
TEN LEAGUES TO BOSTON TOWN Published in 1963
THE BELLS OF FREEDOM Published in 1963
THE MAZE IN THE HEART OF THE CASTLE Published in 1983

 

NonSeries Books

Dorothy Gilman has written several books not in the Mrs Pollifax series. The books are all great stories and have a few life’s lessons that can be learned.

UNCERTAIN VOYAGE published in 1967
CLAIRVOYANT COUNTESS published in 1975
A NUN IN THE CLOSET published in 1975
A NEW KIND OF COUNTRY Published in 1978
THE TIGHTROPE WALKER published in 1979
INCIDENT AT BADAMYA Published in 1989
CARAVAN published in 1992
THALE’S FOLLY Published in 1999
KALEIDOSCOPE Published in 2002

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Step into our Parlor, in Redbook magazine, August 1961.
(This is a short-story version of Thale’s Folly)

 

Step Into Our Parlor

 

“Step into our Parlor”, in Redbook magazine, August 1961.

 

Sent to value some property of his father, a young Mr. Thale is surprised to find that the house is occupied by 4 squatters. His Great Aunt being the original owner of the property he thought to be emptied for 6 years has been collecting people. They advertised for a young man to marry their youngest member a little lady named Tarragon. But instead they get him. Can he keep quiet about these lost souls? Or, will he have to kick these people? (This is a short-story version of Thale’s Folly)

 

Again the only place I could find this magazine is through a second hand store online called Past Papers. You could try Ebaysometimes you can find older magazines as well.

 

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Sorrow Rides A Fast Horse

Sorrow Rides a Fast Horse is a short-story written by Dorothy Gilman Butters and published in the Ladies Home Journal in the September 1962 issue.

 

This short story centers around a quiet young women with two sons that lived in a small farming community called Green Valley. She loses her husband and receives instead a check from his attorney for money he had saved for a trip around the world. The woman is distraught about the money because it could have made their lives easier while her spouse was still alive. In her sorrow she decides to take a trip around the world with her two children.

 

Traveling for almost a year in an almost zombie-like state, not noticing her sons or caring about much of anything until she decides to travel across the mountains to see the Taj Mahal. There they are captured by local bandits and changes her course forever.

 

The magazine is not available anymore except in second-hand stores or online at Past Paper and on Ebay.

 

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Escape

 

“Escape” in Good Housekeeping, June 1964.

 

A young women drops her college room mate off at the train station and returns for some alone time at her parents cottage only to be followed by a quiet man. The man has targeted our heroine for some serious stalking. What can she do? The house is in a very rural area and with only one old lady as a neighbor who can she turn to for help? She must rely on her own wits and save herself!

 

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A New Way of Living, McCalls, May 1978, pgs 193-199.
(According to the copyright office this is a abridged version of “A New Kind of Country”.)

 

A New Way Of Living

 

A New Way of Living is a short-story written by Dorothy Gilman and published in McCalls, May 1978

 

The story centers around a women who moves to a small New England town after her divorce. She must face and overcome many obstacles living in a rural area after living for years in the big city. Her kids are grown and living lives on their own. The small house she moves into has some challenges as well. There is peace and quiet there as well as her learning new skills in repairing the old house, gardening and riding out the fierce New England winter storms.

 


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The Stalker, Alfred Hitchcock, June 2002
This is the last story published by Mrs. Gilman. 

 

The Stalker

The Stalker was published in the Alfred Hitchcock Magazine June 2002 edition. There are no more copies of the magazine available from the publisher but you might be able to find it through ebay.com

 

Synopsis:

 

This short story is about a young woman who escapes her abusive husband with her two small children to a small town in New Jersey. It isn’t long before she is found and stalked by a hired killer. She is befriended by one neighbor and scares another neighbor into moving out when she asked for help. The friendly neighbor offers her children a safe place to stay when she “sees” violence surrounding the woman after taking a reading with her tarot cards.

 


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More from the fan site:

 

Mrs Pollifax Spy Movie Picture

 

"The first Mrs Pollifax movie was produced in 1971 and starred Rosalind Russell and Darrin McGavin.  The screen play was also written by Rosalind Russell under the name C.A. McKnight.  The movie followed the first book in the Mrs Pollifax very closely and even though it never got the acclaim it deserve it was a cute little film."

 

The Unexpected Mrs Pollifax

 

The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax

 

Based on the first of Dorothy Gilman’s popular novels about a senior citizen who joins the CIA, The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax stars Angela Lansbury as Emily Polifax, an elderly woman who feels out of sorts and unsure of what to do with herself after the death of her husband.

 

Her doctor tries to cheer her up by telling her this is a perfect time to try new things and fulfill ambitions set aside earlier in life. Emily decides this is fine advice and takes a shot at the career of her dreams — she writes a letter to her congressman asking how one goes about becoming a CIA agent. The letter is passed along and the CIA agrees to an interview.

 

However, Emily is mistakenly sent on a mission to Morocco before anyone realizes she isn’t actually an agent, and operative Jack Farrell (Thomas Ian Griffith) is sent out to keep an eye on her. When Emily and Jack are unexpectedly taken hostage, Jack discovers Mrs. Pollifax is far more clever and resourceful than anyone expected.

 

The first in a proposed series of TV movies aimed to appeal to the large and loyal audience Lansbury attracted with the show Murder, She Wrote, The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax was produced for CBS television, who first aired it in May 1999. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide


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Re: R.I.P. Author Dorothy Gilman

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http://mysteryreadersinc.blogspot.com/2012/02/dorothy-gilman-rip.html

 

From Janet Rudolph's Mystery Fanfare blog:

 

Dorothy Gilman: R.I.P.

 
I love the Mrs Pollifax novels, and I'm so sad to learn that Dorothy Gilman has passed away at the age of 88.  There is no frigate like a book, and Dorothy Gilman took that to heart. Her books took the 'unassuming' CIA agent Mrs Pollifax to Turkey and China and Thailand and many other countries. I will reread a few this weekend in her honor. 

Obit from the New York Times:

Dorothy Gilman, an espionage writer whose best-known heroine, Mrs. Pollifax, is very likely the only spy in literature to belong simultaneously to the Central Intelligence Agency and the local garden club, died on Thursday at her home in Rye Brook, N.Y.

In “The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax” (1966), the first novel in what would be a 14-book series, Mrs. Gilman introduces Emily Pollifax, a 60-ish New Jersey widow bored by the compulsory round of tea and good works.

In search of adventure, she offers her services to the C.IA. — who, after all, is going to peg a suburban grandmother as a cold war secret agent? — and adventure she finds. In the course of the series, which concluded in 2000 with “Mrs. Pollifax Unveiled,” she fetches up in Mexico, Turkey, Thailand, China, Morocco, Sicily and elsewhere.
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).

Reviewers sometimes quibbled about the improbability of the novels’ basic premise. But the books proved popular with readers: in a genre in which women had long been young and sultry, Mrs. Pollifax, with her peril and petunias, made an irresistible, early feminist heroine.

The series was the basis of two movies, the feature film “Mrs. Pollifax — Spy“ (1971), starring Rosalind Russell, and the telefilm “The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax” (1999), starring Angela Lansbury.

The Mystery Writers of America named Mrs. Gilman its 2010 Grand Master.

By the seventh Mrs. Pollifax novel, “Mrs. Pollifax and the Hong Kong Buddha,” published in 1985, Mrs. Gilman’s heroine has remarried. But for the most part, she is quite content to leave her husband at home for the duration of the series as she gads about the world, a paladin packing peaches.
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The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax (Mrs. Pollifax Series #1) 

Mrs. Pollifax Pursued (Mrs. Pollifax Series #11) 

Mrs. Pollifax on Safari (Mrs. Pollifax Series #5) 

Mrs. Pollifax and the Hong Kong Buddha (Mrs. Pollifax Series #7) 

The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax (Mrs. Pollifax Series #2) 

Mrs. Pollifax and the Lion Killer (Mrs. Pollifax Series #12) 

A Palm for Mrs. Pollifax (Mrs. Pollifax Series #4) 

Mrs. Pollifax and the Second Thief (Mrs. Pollifax Series #10) 

The Elusive Mrs. Pollifax (Mrs. Pollifax Series #3) 

Mrs. Pollifax, Innocent Tourist (Mrs. Pollifax Series #13) 

Mrs. Pollifax Unveiled (Mrs. Pollifax Series #14) 

Mrs. Pollifax on the China Station (Mrs. Pollifax Series #6) 

A Nun in the Closet 

The Clairvoyant Countess (Madame Karitska Series #1) 

The Tightrope Walker 

Uncertain Voyage 

Incident at Badamya 

Caravan 

Mrs. Pollifax and the Lion Killer (Mrs. Pollifax Series #12) 

Mrs. Pollifax and the Second Thief (Mrs. Pollifax Series #10) 

Mrs. Pollifax Unveiled (Mrs. Pollifax Series #14) 

The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax 

Kaleidoscope (Madame Karitska Series #2) 

Thale's Folly 

Mrs. Pollifax and the Golden Triangle (Mrs. Pollifax Series #8) 

Caravan 

The Maze in the Heart of the Castle 

Mrs. Pollifax, Innocent Tourist (Mrs. Pollifax Series #13) 

The Bells of Freedom 

Mrs. Pollifax and the Whirling Dervish (Mrs. Pollifax Series #9) 

Girl in Buckskin 

A New Kind of Country 

Mrs. Pollifax Pursued (Mrs. Pollifax Series #11) 

Mrs. Pollifax and the Second Thief (Mrs. Pollifax Series #10)                                   

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Vintage Covers

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Re: R.I.P. Author Dorothy Gilman

Add your own reviews of her books or any other trivia about Dorothy Gilman, her books or the movies made from her books. Thanks!

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Re: R.I.P. Author Dorothy Gilman

I loved the Mrs. Pollifax adventures. I haven't read them all but they were good.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep - Robert Frost
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Re: R.I.P. Author Dorothy Gilman

After I finished reading all the Mrs. Pollifax books, I was eager for more. That's when I started reading Dorothy Gilman's single title books. I've read most - not all - of them, and I liked them as well, maybe even better, than the Pollifax books. I've had THE TIGHTROPE WALKER and THE CLAIRVOYANT COUNTESS on my keeper shelf for probably 30 years or more.