Rendell in August 2007
17 February 1930 |
South Woodford, Essex/London
|Genres||Psychological thriller, murder mystery|
Ruth Barbara Rendell, Baroness Rendell of Babergh, CBE (born 17 February 1930), who also writes under the pseudonym Barbara Vine, is an English crime writer, author of psychological thrillers and murder mysteries.
In addition to police procedurals starring her most iconic creation, Chief Inspector Wexford, Rendell writes psychological crime novels exploring such themes as romantic obsession, misperceived communication, the impact of chance and coincidence, and the humanity of the criminals involved. Among such books are A Judgement In Stone, The Face of Trespass, Live Flesh, Talking to Strange Men, The Killing Doll, Going Wrong and Adam and Eve and Pinch Me. Many credit her and close friend P. D. James for upgrading the entire genre of whodunit, shaping it more into a whydunit. Rendell's protagonists are often socially isolated, suffer from mental illness, and/or are otherwise disadvantaged; she explores the adverse impacts of their circumstances on these characters as well as on their victims.
Rendell created a third strand of writing with the publication in 1986 of A Dark-Adapted Eye under her pseudonym Barbara Vine (the name derives from her own middle name and her grandmother's maiden name). King Solomon's Carpet, A Fatal Inversion and Asta's Book (alternative US title, Anna's Book), among others, inhabit the same territory as her psychological crime novels while further developing themes of human misunderstandings and the unintended consequences of family secrets and hidden crimes. Rendell is famous for her elegant prose and sharp insights into the human mind, as well as her ability to create cogent plots and characters. Rendell has also injected the social changes of the last 40 years into her work, bringing awareness to such issues as domestic violence and the change in the status of women.
Rendell has received many awards for her writing, including the Silver, Gold, and Cartier Diamond Daggers from the Crime Writers' Association, three Edgars from the Mystery Writers of America, The Arts Council National Book Awards, and The Sunday Times Literary Award. A number of her works have been adapted for film or television.
Baroness Rendell is a Patron of the charity Kids for Kids, helping children in rural areas of Darfur, Sudan.
She was made a CBE in 1996 and a life peer as Baroness Rendell of Babergh, of Aldeburgh in the County of Suffolk, in 1997. She sits in the House of Lords for Labour. In 1998 Rendell was named in a list of the biggest private financial donors to the Labour Party.
Early life 
Rendell was born Ruth Grasemann in 1930, in South Woodford, London. Her parents were teachers. Her mother, Ebba Kruse, was born in Sweden and brought up in Denmark; her father, Arthur Grasemann, was English. Rendell was educated at the County High School for Girls in Loughton, Essex. After high school she became a feature writer for her local paper, the Chigwell Times. Even at an early age, making up stories was irresistible to Rendell. As a reporter, she visited a house that was rumoured to be haunted and invented the ghost of an old woman. The owners threatened to sue the newspaper for devaluing their home. Later, she reported on the local tennis club's annual dinner without attending, so missing the untimely death of the after-dinner speaker in mid-speech. She resigned before she could be fired.
Rendell met her husband, Don Rendell when she was working as a newswriter. They married when she was 20, and had a son, Simon, now a psychiatric social worker who lives in Colorado. The couple divorced in 1975, but remarried two years later.
Rendell wrote two unpublished novels before the 1964 publication of From Doon With Death, which was purchased for £75 by John Long; it was the first mystery to feature her enduring and popular detective Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford. The Monster in the Box, released in October 2009, was widely rumoured to be Wexford's last case. This turned out to be incorrect. However it was the final novel featuring Wexford as an employed policeman; in the novel that followed, The Vault, he has retired.
Inspector Wexford series 
Standalone Novels 
Written as Barbara Vine 
Short story collections 
- The Fallen Curtain (1976)
- Means of Evil (1979) (five Inspector Wexford stories)
- The Fever Tree (1982)
- The New Girlfriend (1985)
- The Copper Peacock (1991)
- Blood Lines (1995)
- Piranha to Scurfy (2000)
- Collected Short Stories, Volume 1 (2006)
- Collected Short Stories, Volume 2 (2008)
Uncollected short stories 
- In the Time of His Prosperity* (as Barbara Vine)
- Ruth Rendell's Suffolk (1989)
- Undermining the Central Line: giving government back to the people (with Colin Ward, 1989) a political tract
- The Reason Why: An Anthology of the Murderous Mind (1995)
- Archie and Archie (2013) <a href/http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/9434691/Ruth-Rendell-the-peer-who-never-stops-plotting.html>
Awards and honours 
- 1975 - Mystery Writers of America Best Short Story Edgar: The Fallen Curtain
- 1976 - Gold Dagger for Fiction: A Demon in My View
- 1979 - Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award (shortlist): A Sleeping Life
- 1980 - Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award (shortlist): Make Death Love Me
- 1980 - Martin Beck Award: Make Death Love Me
- 1981 - Arts Council National Book Award for Genre Fiction: The Lake of Darkness
- 1984 - Silver Dagger for Fiction: The Tree of Hands
- 1984 - Mystery Writers of America Best Short Story Edgar: The New Girlfriend
- 1986 - Gold Dagger for Fiction: Live Flesh
- 1986 - Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award (shortlist): The Tree of Hands
- 1986 - Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award (shortlist): An Unkindness of Ravens
- 1987 - Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award: A Dark-Adapted Eye
- 1987 - Gold Dagger for Fiction: A Fatal Inversion
- 1988 - Angel Award for Fiction: The House of Stairs
- 1990 - Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence
- 1991 - Gold Dagger for Fiction: King Solomon's Carpet
- 1991 - Cartier Diamond Dagger for a Lifetime's Achievement in the Field
- 1996 - CBE
- 1997 - Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award
- 2004 - Mystery Ink Gumshoe Award for Lifetime Achievement
- 2005 - CWA Dagger of Daggers (best crime novel to have won the Gold Dagger award (shortlist)): A Fatal Inversion
- 2007 - Gumshoe Award for Best European Crime Novel (shortlist): The Minotaur
- 2007 - Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award (longlist): End in Tears
- 2010 - Lost Man Booker Prize (longlist): A Guilty Thing Surprised
Adaptations of her works 
The Inspector Wexford series was successfully televised, starring acclaimed British actor George Baker as Inspector Wexford and Christopher Ravenscroft as Detective Mike Burden, under the title The Ruth Rendell Mysteries, with 48 episodes from 1987 to 2000.
Many of her other works have been adapted for film and television. She has said that Chabrol's 1995 version of A Judgement in Stone, La Cérémonie with Sandrine Bonnaire, is one of the few film adaptations of her work that she is happy with. The novel was also filmed in 1986 with Rita Tushingham. Chabrol also made La Demoiselle d'honneur in 2004, based on The Bridesmaid.
Other adaptations are Diary of the Dead (1976), from the book One Across, Two Down; the 1997 Pedro Almodóvar film Live Flesh; The Tree of Hands, directed by Giles Foster for Granada with Lauren Bacall; and another version of The Tree of Hands, Betty Fisher et autres histoires (2001, aka Alias Betty), with screenplay and direction by Claude Miller.
- Alison Flood (1 March 2013). "Ruth Rendell: a life in writing". The Guardian. Retrieved March 1, 2013.
- The London Gazette: . 29 October 1997.
- "'Luvvies' for Labour". BBC News. 30 August 1998.
- Brooks, Libby (3 August 2002). "Ruth Rendell Dark Lady of Whodunnits". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 28 October 2011.
- Walker, Tim (4 May 2009). "Ruth Rendell closes the book on Wexford but new drama beckons". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 17 March 2010.
- "Novels up for 'lost' Booker Prize". BBC News. 1 February 2010.
- Ruth Rendell at Contemporary Writers
- Gusworld Ruth Rendell information site with detailed bibliography
- Ruth Rendell at Random House Australia
- Fatal Inversions detailed Barbara Vine information site with bibliography
- Ruth Rendell at the Internet Movie Database
- Baroness Rendell of Babergh at TheyWorkForYou.com
- Ruth Rendell in a video interview on The Interview Online talking about Sherlock Holmes
- Baroness Rendell as Patron of Kids for Kids helping children in Darfur
- Works by Ruth Rendell on Open Library at the Internet Archive
- Works by or about Ruth Rendell in libraries (WorldCat catalog)