From New York times: 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.
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.