BORN: August 3, 1920, Oxford, England IDENTIFICATION: Novelist of detective and crime fiction known worldwide for stories featuring the policeman Adam Dalgliesh and the private eye Cordelia Gray.
Significance: E. D. James dominated British detective fiction in the latter part of the twentieth century by creating celebrated literary works in a genre previously considered subliterary. In taking detective fiction into the realm of art, she transformed the landscape of popular culture and paved the way for other writers of realistic urban fiction. James is known for her moral seriousness and for her focus on the consequences of crime to society, families, and the individual. Her novels are profound criticisms of modern society; they explore the difficulty of maintaining ethical social standards in a secular environment (it is no coincidence that her murders often occur in the workplace) and afso bear witness to the effects of societal change.