Dorothy Gilman’s novels featuring the eccentric and charming Emily Pollifax appeal widely to young and old, having developed a considerable following since their introduction in 1966. The first novel in the series, The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax (1966), became a film starring Rosalind Russell under the title Mrs. Pollifax—Spy in 1971. A second adaptation, the Columbia Broadcasting Service television movie The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax, was released in 1999 with Angela Lansbury cast as the aging sleuth.
Gilman has earned wide acclaim for the quality of her storytelling. Blending humor and intrigue, her works are rooted in the Cold War era and explore topics such as international espionage, life in iron-curtain countries, the emerging nations of the Third World, terrorism, political assassination, aid to endangered dissidents, and the role of double agents.
Despite their subject matter, Gilman’s novels are not violent. Reviewers have commented on their wholesome and upbeat entertainment value. Evil is defeated. Good and Mrs. Pollifax prevail over very real danger. The direct quality of the prose makes the characters and the plots plausible. Mrs. Pollifax knows that dedicated and determined individuals can make a difference and that the discovery of one’s true self produces deep reservoirs of endurance and courage to meet the most unexpected challenges.
A prolific writer of fiction for young and adult readers, Gilman has contributed to numerous publications, including On Creative Writing (1964). Her short fiction has appeared in such magazines as Redbook, Ladies’ Home Journal, Cosmopolitan and Writer. Gilman received the Catholic Book Award for A Nun in the Closet (1975).