Ruth Rendell

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The Right Honourable
The Baroness Rendell of Babergh
CBE
RuthRendell.png
Rendell in August 2007
Born Ruth Barbara Grasemann
(1930-02-17) 17 February 1930 (age 84)
South Woodford, London, England
Pen name Barbara Vine
Occupation Novelist
Genres Psychological thriller, murder mystery

Ruth Barbara Rendell, Baroness Rendell of Babergh, CBE (née Grasemann; born 17 February 1930), is an English author of thrillers and psychological murder mysteries.[1]

Rendell’s best-known creation, Chief Inspector Wexford, is the hero of many popular police stories, some of them successfully adapted for TV. But Rendell has also generated a separate brand of crime-fiction that explores deeply into the psychological background of criminals and their victims, many of them mentally afflicted or otherwise socially isolated. This theme is developed further in a third series of novels, written under her pseudonym Barbara Vine.

Early life[edit]

Rendell was born Ruth Barbara 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.[2]

Developing the thriller genre[edit]

Rendell wrote two unpublished novels before the 1964 publication of From Doon With Death, which was purchased for £75 by John Long; it was the first mystery to feature her enduring and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.[3] This was incorrect; however it was the final novel featuring Wexford as an employed policeman; in the novel that followed, The Vault, he has retired.[4]

In addition to these police procedurals starring Wexford, Rendell has written 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. The author is noted for her elegant prose and sharp insights into the human mind, as well as her cogent plots and characters. Rendell 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.[citation needed]

Lady Rendell has received many awards, 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. She is also a Patron of the charity Kids for Kids, helping children in rural areas of Darfur.

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.[5] 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.[6]

Bibliography[edit]

Inspector Wexford series[edit]

Standalone Novels[edit]

Novellas[edit]

Written as Barbara Vine[edit]

Short story collections[edit]

Uncollected short stories[edit]

  • In the Time of His Prosperity* (as Barbara Vine)

Children's Fiction[edit]

Non-fiction[edit]

  • 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)

Adaptations of her works[edit]

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 made La Demoiselle d'honneur in 2004, based on The Bridesmaid.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

Awards and honours[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Alison Flood (1 March 2013). "Ruth Rendell: a life in writing". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  2. ^ Brooks, Libby (3 August 2002). "Ruth Rendell Dark Lady of Whodunnits". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 28 October 2011. 
  3. ^ Walker, Tim (4 May 2009). "Ruth Rendell closes the book on Wexford but new drama beckons". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 17 March 2010. 
  4. ^ http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2013/mar/01/ruth-rendell-life-in-writing
  5. ^ The London Gazette: no. 54933. p. 12149. 29 October 1997.
  6. ^ "'Luvvies' for Labour". BBC News. 30 August 1998. 
  7. ^ "Novels up for 'lost' Booker Prize". BBC News. 1 February 2010. 

External links[edit]