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The Baroness Rendell of Babergh
Rendell in August 2007
|Born||Ruth Barbara Grasemann
(1930-02-17)17 February 1930
South Woodford, Essex, England
|Died||2 May 2015(2015-05-02) (aged 85)
|Pen name||Barbara Vine|
Rendell's best-known creation, Chief Inspector Wexford, was the hero of many popular police stories, some of them successfully adapted for TV. But Rendell also wrote a second type of crime novel that deeply explored the psychological background of criminals and their victims, many of them mentally afflicted or otherwise socially isolated. This theme was developed further in a third series of novels, published under the pseudonym Barbara Vine.
Rendell was born Ruth Barbara Grasemann in 1930, in South Woodford, Essex (now Greater London). Her parents were teachers. Her mother, Ebba Kruse, was born in Sweden to Danish parents and brought up in Denmark; her father, Arthur Grasemann, was English. As a result of spending Christmas and other holidays in Scandinavia, Rendell learned Swedish and Danish. Rendell was educated at the County High School for Girls in Loughton, Essex, the town to which the family moved during her childhood.
After high school she became a feature writer for her local Essex paper, the Chigwell Times. However, she was forced to resign after filing a story about a local sports club dinner she hadn't attended and failing to report that the after-dinner speaker had died midway through the speech.
Rendell met her husband Don Rendell when she was working as a newswriter. They married when she was 20, and in 1953 had a son, Simon, now a psychiatric social worker who lives in the U.S. state of Colorado. The couple divorced in 1975 but remarried two years later. Don Rendell died in 1999 from prostate cancer.
She was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1996 Birthday Honours and a life peer as Baroness Rendell of Babergh, of Aldeburgh in the County of Suffolk, on 24 October 1997. She sat in the House of Lords for the Labour Party. In 1998 Rendell was named in a list of the party's biggest private financial donors. She introduced into the Lords the bill that would later become the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003.
In August 2014, Rendell was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian expressing their hope that Scotland would vote to remain part of the United Kingdom in September's referendum on that issue.
Baroness Rendell 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 was also a patron of the charity Kids for Kids which helps children in rural areas of Darfur. There is a blue plaque on one of her homes, 45 Millsmead Way, in Loughton. This was unveiled by her son, Simon on 24 February 2016.
Developing the thriller genre
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. Rendell said that the character of Wexford was based on herself. The Monster in the Box, released in October 2009, was widely suggested to be Wexford's last case. This was incorrect; however, it was the final novel featuring Wexford as an employed policeman: in the novel that followed, The Vault, he had retired.
In addition to these police procedurals starring Wexford, Rendell wrote 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. For the last novel published in her lifetime, The Girl Next Door, she returned to the Loughton of her childhood, with an implied comparison of the moral climate of wartime England and 2014.
Rendell created a third strand of writing with the publication in 1986 of A Dark-Adapted Eye under her pseudonym Barbara Vine (the name was derived from her own middle name and her great grandmother's maiden name). King Solomon's Carpet, A Fatal Inversion and Asta's Book (alternative U.S. title, Anna's Book), among others, inhabited 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 was 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.
Adaptations of her works
The Inspector Wexford series was successfully televised, starring 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. Rendell praised Baker's performance, stating "It was a marvellous achievement as an actor to make him more and better than the author intended." Many of her other works have been adapted for film and television. She said that Chabrol's 1995 version of A Judgement in Stone, La Cérémonie with Sandrine Bonnaire, was one of the few film adaptations of her work that she was happy with. The novel was also filmed in 1986 with Rita Tushingham. Chabrol 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 (U.S. title: "Innocent Victim"); and another version of The Tree of Hands, Betty Fisher et autres histoires (2001, a.k.a. Alias Betty), with screenplay and direction by Claude Miller. Francois Ozon's 2015 film The New Girlfriend was based on Rendell's short story of the same name. Two episodes of Tales of the Unexpected were based on Rendell's short stories.
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 – Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE)
- 1997 – Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award
- 1997 - Life Peer as Baroness Rendell of Babergh
- 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
Inspector Wexford series
- From Doon with Death (1964)
- A New Lease of Death (1967) (American title: The Sins of the Fathers)
- Wolf to the Slaughter (1967)
- The Best Man to Die (1969)
- A Guilty Thing Surprised (1970)
- No More Dying Then (1971)
- Murder Being Once Done (1972)
- Some Lie and Some Die (1973)
- Shake Hands Forever (1975)
- A Sleeping Life (1979)
- Put on by Cunning (1981) (American title: Death Notes)
- The Speaker of Mandarin (1983)
- An Unkindness of Ravens (1985)
- The Veiled One (1988)
- Kissing the Gunner's Daughter (1991)
- Simisola (1994)
- Road Rage (1997)
- Harm Done (1999)
- The Babes in the Wood (2002)
- End in Tears (2005)
- Not in the Flesh (2007)
- The Monster in the Box (2009)
- The Vault (2011)
- No Man's Nightingale (2013)
- To Fear a Painted Devil (1965)
- Vanity Dies Hard (1965)
- The Secret House of Death (1968)
- One Across, Two Down (1971)
- The Face of Trespass (1974)
- A Demon in My View (1976)
- A Judgement in Stone (1977)
- Make Death Love Me (1979)
- The Lake of Darkness (1980)
- Master of the Moor (1982)
- The Killing Doll (1984)
- The Tree of Hands (1984)
- Live Flesh (1986)
- Talking to Strange Men (1987)
- The Bridesmaid (1989)
- Going Wrong (1990)
- The Crocodile Bird (1993)
- The Keys to the Street (1996)
- A Sight for Sore Eyes (1998)
- Adam and Eve and Pinch Me (2001)
- The Rottweiler (2003)
- Thirteen Steps Down (2004)
- The Water's Lovely (2006)
- Portobello (2008)
- Tigerlily's Orchids (2010)
- The Saint Zita Society (2012)
- The Girl Next Door (2014)
- Dark Corners (2015)
- Thornapple (1982). Collected in The Fever Tree
- Heartstones (1987). Uncollected
- The Thief (2006). Collected in A Spot of Folly
Written as Barbara Vine
- A Dark-Adapted Eye (1986)
- A Fatal Inversion (1987)
- The House of Stairs (1988)
- Gallowglass (1990)
- King Solomon's Carpet (1991)
- Asta's Book (1993) (American title: Anna's Book)
- No Night Is Too Long (1994)
- The Brimstone Wedding (1995)
- The Chimney-sweeper's Boy (1998)
- Grasshopper (2000)
- The Blood Doctor (2002)
- The Minotaur (2005)
- The Birthday Present (2008)
- The Child's Child (2012)
Short story collections
- The Fallen Curtain (1976)
- Means of Evil and Other Stories (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)
- A Spot of Folly (2017)
Uncollected short stories
- "The Martyr", included in Midsummer Nights (Ed Jeanette Winterson), Quercus, 2009
- "Paradise", in The Strand Magazine #11, 2003
- 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 & Archie (2013)
- Alison Flood (1 March 2013). "Ruth Rendell: a life in writing". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
- "Ruth Rendell, crime writer - obituary". 2 May 2015. Retrieved 23 March 2018 – via www.telegraph.co.uk.
- LibBrooks. "The Profile: Ruth Rendell". the Guardian.
- "Author Ruth Rendell dies aged 85". BBC.
- "Open and shut case: Is Ruth Rendell finally ready to open up about her puzzling personal life?". The Independent.
- Brooks, Libby (3 August 2002). "Ruth Rendell Dark Lady of Whodunnits". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 28 October 2011.
- "No. 54427". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 June 1996. p. 9.
- "No. 54933". The London Gazette. 29 October 1997. p. 12149.
- "'Luvvies' for Labour". BBC News. 30 August 1998.
- "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories". The Guardian. London. 7 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
- "How We Are Run". kidsforkids.org.uk. 6 May 2015. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
- "Blue plaque unveiled for renowned and much-loved author Ruth Rendell". East London and West Essex Guardian Series. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
- "Ruth Rendell in critical condition after stroke". BBC News. 7 January 2015.
- "Author Ruth Rendell dies aged 85". BBC News. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
- "Wexford is me, Ruth Rendell confesses". BBC News.
- Walker, Tim (4 May 2009). "Ruth Rendell closes the book on Wexford but new drama beckons". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 17 March 2010.
- Alison Flood. "Ruth Rendell: a life in writing | Books". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
- Vanessa Thorpe. "Ruth Rendell: 'Withholding information from the reader should be part of any story'". the Guardian.
- anxietyresister (24 April 1987). "A Judgment in Stone (1986)". IMDb.
- "Ruth Rendell returns to ITV after 12 years with a dark thriller". Telegraph.co.uk. 6 August 2012.
- "Novels up for 'lost' Booker Prize". BBC News. 1 February 2010.
- Debrett's Peerage. 2000.
- Published in Academy Mystery Novellas, Volume 5: Women Write Murder, Martin H. Greenberg and Edward D. Hoch, editors. 1987
- Baroness Ruth Rendell at British Council: Literature
- 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 on IMDb
- Baroness Rendell of Babergh at TheyWorkForYou.com
- Ruth Rendell in a video interview on The Interview Online talking about Sherlock Holmes
- Works by Ruth Rendell at Open Library
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