Saturday, June 25, 2016

Three of A Kind - Dorothy Gilman (Part 1/3): The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax

Here's another favorite author of mine - Dorothy Gilman. I will feature three of her books and my all-time favorite heroine - Mrs. Emily Pollifax.

Three of A Kind - Dorothy Gilman (Part 1/3): The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax

Let's get to know Dorothy Gilman first and then I will all introduce you to Mrs. Pollifax.

Dorothy Gilman

She is an American author and is widely known because of her Mrs. Pollifax series which I love so much.  I first met Gilman via an edition of Reader's Digest Condensed Books. It was Mrs. Pollifax on the China Station. I was so caught up with the story that I wanted more of Mrs. Pollifax and her adventures. And this is how my hunt for condensed books and paperbacks of the works of Gilman, especially those that have Mrs. Pollifax on them, started. 

If there is an author that I would want to meet, it would be Dorothy Gilman. She animated my fascination with mystery novels. She initiated me into the world of espionage, detection, intelligence gathering, suspence, adventure, danger and intrigue. Unfortunately, Gilman died in 2012 at the age of 88 due to complications of Alzheimer's disease. She may have gone but she has left an everlasting legacy through the person of Mrs. Pollifax. Gilman will remain forever in the hearts of all her fans, just like me, because of her amazing and entertaining Mrs. Pollifax stories. I am glad I have come to know her. It has been a pleasure and a lifetime's worth of very memorable late nights.

Dorothy Gilman was awarded the annual Grand master of Mystery Writers in America in 2010. Gilman was an art teacher and telephone operator before she began writing. She first started writing children's stories for more than ten years and then began writing adult novels on Mrs. Pollifax which made her famous.

Who is Mrs. Pollifax?

Mrs. Pollifax is a grandmother and widow in her sixties. She was hired by the CIA to become a spy. It was probably the most hilarious thing to do, hire an old woman as a spy. But don't belittle Mrs. Pollifax, she was specifically selected by the Agency because no one will ever think that she works for them. At first, her assignments were just as simple as acting as courier but then her encounters often lead her to more serious espionage activities. Aside from that, she has a black belt in Karate and is very resourceful which has been proven in all of her adventures. She is also very intuitive and can often tell a friend from foe. Her vulnerability as an old woman is often taken as a weakness which proved to be her advantage in most situations. No one expects anything sinister from her. She's like everyone's gentle and warm grandmother.

Mrs. Pollifax has taken me to all of her adventures across the globe, from China to Africa. I have enjoyed all her exploits. When she does not have an assignment from the Agency, she is often tending to her garden in her New Jersey home. She is a member of a garden club and do volunteer work at the hospital.

The first Mrs. Pollifax book came out in 1966 and the 14th and last book was in 2000.

The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax

This is the first book of the Mrs. Pollifax series. It's just fitting that this will be the first of the three books that I will put a spotlight on.

Three of A Kind - Dorothy Gilman (Part 1/3): The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax 2

The career of Mrs. Emily Pollifax as a CIA spy started when she felt that old age is dull and even contemplated of ending all her misery and boredom. She was inspired by a newspaper article about an actress who pursued her career later in life. With this in mind, she set out to fulfill one of her childhood dreams - to become a spy. Fortunately, CIA was also looking for an old woman who will pose as a harmless tourist and pick up a package in Mexico. Mrs. Pollifax got the job. What she did not know was that her first assignment would not be as easy as getting the package and flying back. Everything did not go as planned and Mrs. Pollifax will have to tap into her long experience of reading people and use her exceptional talent and resourcefulness to get out from prison in Albania.

This book is really unexpected as its title suggest. A lot of unexpected things happened to Mrs. Pollifax. She did not expect to actually get hired on the spot as a spy for the CIA when she bravely applied and volunteered her services. She did not expect that the assignment could go wrong and she'll end up in prison and probably not see her family again. She unexpectedly met two other important people while in prison and even saved their lives because of her resourcefulness and ability to appeal to the good side of the prison guards. Her bosses at CIA has written her off as dead but much to their surprise Mrs. Pollifax  just did not survive but also fulfilled the assignment. One of the many admirable qualities of Mrs. Pollifax is her ability to assess the situation and use it to her advantage. To jump at an opportunity for it may never present itself again.

Reading a Mrs. Pollifax book has always been a delightful memory to me. Even when I read the books again, they still give me the same excitement. It has been one of my best discoveries in life. My sister introduced me to Reader's Digest Condensed books and in turn paved the way for me to know Mrs. Pollifax and a host of other great authors and characters. A lot of Mrs. Pollifax stories have been featured in its editions. I could still remember going into the second hand bookstore and rummaging through the spines of those dusty and yellowed hard bounds. It was always a triumph for me when I spot Mrs. Pollifax on the titles. It was like I have unearthed the long-lost Yamashita treasure. Much to my delight, I have also unexpectedly stumbled on the other Mrs. Pollifax titles in one of the oldest chain of department stores here in Cebu. Not a lot of people know that they have condensed and second hand books in their stationery section. Finding Mrs. Pollifax, unknown and ignored in those dusty shelves was both a relief and a feeling that the universe loves me, because again, I have found the rest of the loot.

Three of A Kind - Dorothy Gilman (Part 1/3): The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax 3

Mrs. Pollifax to me always saved the day, not just in the stories but also in my real life. With her adventures, I feel like I have been right there with her experiencing the thrill and the danger, the awe and amazement. There were a lot of things and worlds I was not aware of. Mrs. Pollifax took me along on her assignments abroad and I realized that apart from the simple and hard life that I have, there is a dreamland out there just waiting for me. Before I started traveling using my own money, it was Mrs. Pollifax who took me under her wing and we visited other countries without a need for a passport. From then, mystery novels have been my saving grace and it kept my creativity and imagination alive. I owe it all to Mrs. Pollifax and Dorothy Gilman. The two people who kept reminding me that travel is the greatest adventure.

If you have not met Mrs. Pollifax, it's not yet too late to get to know her. You will find that her adventures are really irresistible and exhilarating. You will also meet weird and hilarious characters along the way. Mrs. Pollifax is my female version of James Bond sans the high-tech and sophisticated gadgets. She has survived captivity and escaped danger with her wits and charms alone. She is the epitome of ageless grace under pressure. The saying old dogs can't learn new tricks does not apply to her. Take it from her, age should not stop us from pursuing our ambitions. Mrs. Pollifax is like wine, just gets better with age.

Cheers to you Mrs. Pollifax and thank you Dorothy Gilman.

Mrs. Pollifax on Safari (2/3)
Mrs. Pollifax on the China Station (3/3)

Information on Dorothy Gilman and Mrs. Pollifax were taken from Wikipedia.