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Dorothy Gilman (1923–2012)

Author of The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax

51+ Works 16,955 Members 412 Reviews 40 Favorited

About the Author

Dorothy Gilman was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey on June 25, 1923. 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 including Enchanted Caravan and The Bells of Freedom. In 1966, she show more published The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax, which became the first novel in the Mrs. Pollifax Mystery series. The series concluded in 2000 with Mrs. Pollifax Unveiled. The series was the basis of two movies: the 1971 feature film Mrs. Pollifax - Spy starring Rosalind Russell and the 1999 television movie The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax starring Angela Lansbury. Her other works include The Clairvoyant Countess, Incident at Badamya and Kaleidoscope. A Nun in the Closet won a Catholic Book Award. She died due to complications of Alzheimer's disease on February 2, 2012 at the age of 88. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Unattributed photo at BasicFamousPeople.com


Works by Dorothy Gilman

The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax (1966) 1,698 copies
The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax (1970) 1,098 copies
The Elusive Mrs. Pollifax (1971) 965 copies
A Palm for Mrs. Pollifax (1973) 893 copies
Mrs. Pollifax on Safari (1977) 887 copies
Mrs. Pollifax, Innocent Tourist (1997) — Author — 808 copies
Mrs. Pollifax Pursued (1994) 797 copies
Mrs. Pollifax and the Second Thief (1993) — Author — 754 copies
Mrs. Pollifax and the Lion Killer (1996) — Author — 735 copies
Mrs. Pollifax Unveiled (2000) — Author — 706 copies
A Nun in the Closet (1975) — Author — 546 copies
The Clairvoyant Countess (1975) — Author — 485 copies
The Tightrope Walker (1979) — Author — 465 copies
Kaleidoscope (2002) 435 copies
Caravan (1992) — Author — 432 copies
Thale's Folly (1999) 383 copies
Incident at Badamya (1988) 380 copies
Uncertain Voyage (1967) 312 copies
Bells of Freedom (1961) 125 copies
A New Kind of Country (1978) 107 copies
Girl in Buckskin (1956) 61 copies
The Calico Year (1953) 25 copies
Witch's Silver (1959) 16 copies
Ten Leagues to Boston Town (1962) 16 copies
Four-Party Line (1954) 16 copies
Heartbreak Street (1958) 12 copies
Heart's Design (1961) 10 copies
Carnival Gypsy (1950) 8 copies
Papa Dolphin's Table (1955) 4 copies
Masquerade 3 copies
Ragamuffin Alley (1951) 2 copies

Associated Works

Reader's Digest Condensed Books 1983 v03 (1983) — Contributor — 32 copies
Reader's Digest Condensed Books 1970 v04 (1970) — Contributor; Contributor — 31 copies
Reader's Digest Condensed Books: The Seventh Secret • Arnie • A House Full of Company (1986) — Contributor; Contributor; Contributor — 25 copies
Reader's Digest Condensed Books 1972 v01 (1972) — Contributor — 24 copies
Reader's Digest Condensed Books 1991 v01 (1991) — Contributor — 22 copies
Reader's Digest Condensed Books 1977 v01 (1977) — Contributor; Contributor — 20 copies
Reader's Digest Condensed Books 1988 v01 (1988) — Contributor; Contributor; Contributor; Contributor — 18 copies
Mrs. Pollifax - Spy [1971 film] (2019) — Original book — 10 copies
Alfred Hitchcock's Fatal Attractions (1983) — Contributor — 7 copies
O Dom da Vida (Livros Condensados) (1991) — Contributor — 7 copies
Bad Trip | The Elusive Mrs. Pollifax | Dead Aim (1971) — Contributor; Contributor — 2 copies
The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax [1999 TV movie] — Original book — 1 copy


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Common Knowledge

Legal name
Gilman Butters, Dorothy
Other names
Butters, Dorothy Gilman
Date of death
New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA
Place of death
Rye Brook, New York, USA
Places of residence
Norwalk, Connecticut, USA
Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
Portland, Maine, USA
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (1940-1945)
University of Pennsylvania (1963-64)
Art Students League of New York
art teacher
creative writing teacher
spy novelist
children's book author
Authors Guild
Awards and honors
MWA Grand Master (2010|Mystery Writers of America)
Short biography
Dorothy Edith Gilman was born in New Brunswick, NJ, the daughter of James Bruce, a minister, and Essa (Starkweather) Gilman, and said she decided on a writing career as a child. She attended university as well as fine art schools and became an art teacher and an instructor in creative writing. In 1945, she married Edgar Butters, Jr., a teacher; the couple had two children before divorcing in 1965. Under her married name, Dorothy Gilman Butters, she began publishing children’s books in the late 1940s.

The New York Times said in her obituary: "[Her] 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."

The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax (1966) was the first novel in what would become a highly popular 14-book series about Mrs. Emily Pollifax, a bored 60-something retired grandmother in search of a bit of adventure in an otherwise mundane life.



I really enjoyed my first visit with Mrs. Pollifax and fully expect to continue on dipping into this adventurous and amusing series. Mrs. Pollifax is a sixtyish widow who decides to follow up on her ambition to become a spy. She presents herself at CIA headquarters and it just so happens that an elderly tourist is required to courier information from Mexico City to Washington and Mrs. Pollifax would be perfect in the role.

Almost before she knows it, she finds herself in Mexico City and this is where things start to go pear-shaped. She and another CIA agent are captured and spirited to a prison cell in Albania. Mrs. Pollifax then shows her true colors, she never gives up, always looks to the positive and actually enjoys meeting new people.

Of course the story is highly unbelievable, but the author has supplied a great setting and some wonderful characters so while you are reading the book, you fully accept what is happening. Mrs. Pollifax is the spy that we all wish we could be and I am already looking forward to her next adventure.
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DeltaQueen50 | 72 other reviews | Nov 21, 2023 |
A very unusual sort of cold war spy thriller from 1969. Emily Pollifax is a widow in her sixties, feeling bored and depressed about not having anything interesting to do with her life now that her children are all grown. Perhaps now is the time to chase the unfulfilled dreams of her youth? She did have fantasies, once upon a time, about being a secret agent. So she presents herself at CIA headquarters and volunteers her services. And, wouldn't you know, thanks to an unusual set of circumstances, they just happen to need someone who fits her exact profile for a very simple, low-risk mission... which, of course, doesn't go quite according to plan.

It's a silly premise, but fun. The plot isn't in itself super compelling (although it does end in a pleasantly satisfying way), but the main character is so appealing that she effortlessly carries the story all by herself. She's just such a great combination of an everywoman whose reactions to her situations are immediately relatable (like just really, really, really wanting a bath after multiple days in captivity) and a surprisingly impressive and admirable person: formidable, practical, adaptable, intelligent, and oh-so-easy to underestimate. Honestly, I was already fond of her five pages in, and I only grew more so the more I saw of her.
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bragan | 72 other reviews | Nov 20, 2023 |
Gilman states some important things very plainly and cleanly - she's a great advocate for simplicity and autonomy. The book could be more tightly focused, and I was repulsed by one chapter of total New Age gibberish, but the book makes a short and sweet antidote to consumerism.
mmparker | 4 other reviews | Oct 24, 2023 |
A young woman seeks justice based on the flimsiest of clues to the people involved in the wrong-doing. I was captivated by this old-fashioned style of telling a story in a way that draws on the characters and their actions. There's a mystery, a mild romance, and lots of suspense and adventure. An excellent tale of the MC becoming a confident adult.
SandyAMcPherson | 8 other reviews | Sep 23, 2023 |



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