Ruth Rendell Books In Order
Publication Order of Inspector Wexford Books
Publication Order of Inspector Wexford Collections
Publication Order of Standalone Novels
Born on February 17, 1930 in South Woodford, London, Ruth Barbara Grasemann, is an English author who focuses on the genres of thriller and psychological murder mysteries. At age 83, Ruth has already completed a vast library of books including 24 novels in the Inspector Wexford series, 26 standalone novels, two novellas, 14 novels written under the pen name Barbara Vine, nine short-story collections, one uncollected short story, one children’s fiction, and three nonfiction novels.
Ruth attended high school at Loughton County High School in Essex. After she graduated from Loughton County High, Ruth attempted to be a feature reporter for the local newspaper, The Chigwell Times, but that career was short-lived after a couple of mishaps due to her irresistible urge to make up fictional stories.
During her career as a news writer, Ruth met her husband, Don Rendell. After getting married at the age of twenty, they had a son, named Simon. In 1975, after 25 years of marriage, they divorced only to remarry two years later.
The Beginning of Inspector Wexford
Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford is a fictional character and is claimed to be an intelligent sensitive man. His wife’s name is Dora, and he has two daughters named Sheila and Sylvia with whom he has a difficult time getting along with. The famous Wexford series begins with Ruth’s novel, From Doon with Death which was published in 1964. In this novel, that later became a movie in 1988, Inspector Wexford investigates the death of Margaret Parsons, after discovering a number of letters from the mysterious Doon. Since this publication, Inspector Wexford has gone on to star in more than 20 other novels by Ruth, however; he did not play a role in her second novel, To Fear a Painted Devil, which was published a year after From Doon with Death. In the television series of From Doon with Death, Inspector Wexford is played by George Baker.
During the 1960’s, Along with her first and second novel, Ruth was also able to right five others. These included three more additions to the Wexford series; A New Lease of Death and Wolf to Slaughter in 1967, and The Best Man To Die which was published in 1969. In 1965, Ruth also published Vanity Dies Hard, and The Secret House of Death in 1968.
During the 1970’s Ruth was able to complete six more Wexford novels, five more standalone novels, and two short story collections. In 1975 Ruth received the Mystery Writers of America Best Short Story Edgar for The Fallen Curtain; the first of many awards she would receive in the future. In 1976 she completed A Demon in My View, for which she won the Crime Writers’ Association Macallan Gold Daggar for Fiction. In 1979, Ruth also received a Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for A Sleeping Life. In 1976, the adaptation of Diary of the Dead, from Ruth’s novel, One Across, Two Down was filmed.
The 1980’s seemed to be a peak time in Ruth’s writing career. During this time she was able to complete 19 titles. These included four additions to the Wexford series, seven more standalone novels, her first novella, her first three novels written under the pen name Barbara Vine, two more short story collections, and her first two nonfiction pieces, including, Ruth Rendell’s Suffolk and Undermining the Central Line: giving government back to the people. The 1980’s also began the Ruth Rendell Mysteries on television, and the filming of A Judgment in Stone, La Ceremonie in 1986. Ruth also received several awards throughout the 1980’s. In fact, Ruth received more awards during the 1980’s than any other two decades combined. In 1980, she received both the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award and the Martin Beck Award for Make Death Love Me. In 1981, Ruth received the Arts Council National Book Award for Genre fiction for The Lake of Darkness. In1984, she received the Silver Dagger for Fiction for The Tree of Hands, and the Mystery Writers of America Best Short Story Edgar for The New Girlfriend. Ruth received three awards in 1986 including, the Gold Dagger for Fiction for Live Flesh, the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for The Tree of Hands, and the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for An Unkindness of Ravens. Ruth went on in 1987 to receive another Mystery Writers of America Award for A Dark-Adapted Eye, a Golden Dagger for Fiction for A Fatal Inversion, and an Angel Award for Fiction for The House of Stairs.
The 1990’s came in at a close second for achievements for Ruth. During this time period she was able to complete 17 novels including four more Wexford novels, four standalone novels, six more novels written under the pen name Barbara Vine, two more short story collections, and her third nonfiction novel in 1995, titled The Reason Why: An Anthology of the Murderous Mind. In 1995, A Judgment in Stone, La Ceremonie was re-filmed. In addition, Live Flesh, and The Tree of Hands were also brought to film. In 1990, Ruth received the Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence. In 1991, she received the Golden Dagger for Fiction for King Solomon’s Carpet, and the Cartier Diamond Dagger for a Lifetime’s Achievement in the Field. In 1996, Ruth was awarded the title of Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE), and in 1997, a Life Peerage was conferred on her as Baroness Rendell of Babergh. During this year she would also receive the Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Award.
The New Millennium
Throughout the beginning of this new millennium, Ruth has completed 23 more titles including, six more Wexford novels, seven more standalone novels, her second novella, five novels written under the pen name of Barbara Vine, three more short story collections, and one children’s fiction titled Archie and Archie; published in 2013. La Demoiselle d’honneur, based on Ruth’s novel, The Bridesmaid, was filmed in 2004 and another version of The Tree of Hands was filmed in 2001. In 2004, Ruth received the Mystery Ink Gumshoe Award for Lifetime Achievement. In 2005, she received the CWA Dagger of Daggers for A Fatal Inversion. In 2007 she won both the Gumshoe Award for Best Crime Novel for The Minotaur, and Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year Award for End in Tears. Her most recent award, received in 2010, was the Lost Man Booker Prize for A Guilty Thing Surprised.Book Series In Order » Authors »
Ruth Rendell, Lady Rendell of Babergh, also known as Barbara Vine, who has died aged 85, was a literary phenomenon. From 1964, when her country copper, Reg Wexford, first stepped before the reading public in From Doon With Death, she wrote more than 50 crime novels and seven books of short stories. Many of them were adapted for television or made into feature films; the Wexford books in particular were an enormous success on TV, with the actor George Baker playing Wexford as a big, gruff, rural policeman, solving crime in the fictional Sussex town of Kingsmarkham.
But Rendell was never satisfied with producing the annual whodunnit. She demonstrated this when, rather than follow her first Wexford novel with more of the same, she daringly jumped away from the classic English mystery in her second book, To Fear a Painted Devil (1965), and gave readers a taste of the psychological thrillers to come.
The cliched view of Rendell is that she suddenly changed her style when, in the 1980s, she started writing as Barbara Vine, but the truth is that from the beginning, even in the Wexford tales, she concentrated more on character and psychology than old-fashioned police procedure. She wrote 24 Wexford books and produced an equal number of thrillers under the name Rendell. Her first novel as Barbara Vine was A Dark-Adapted Eye (1986), which won the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Allan Poe award. The next year, a second Barbara Vine, A Fatal Inversion, won her the Crime Writers’ Association Golden Dagger.
The big difference with the Barbara Vine stories was that in them she went inside the heads of her psychopathic killers and rapists. It was this that made them so dark and chilling, an uncomfortable read for fans of Wexford who were used to the protection of the country officer standing between them and an unsafe world. Because of this, Rendell’s fans fell into two rather warring camps, those who liked the Wexford stories and those who felt that Barbara Vine was a great “real” novelist breaking new ground. The books were all, however, bestsellers. There might also have been a third camp, those who loved her wonderful short stories. This was a dying, or dead, market in Britain, but Rendell was able to sell short stories in the US to publications such as the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.
Although Rendell did not like the title often bestowed on her – queen of crime – calling it snide and sexist, she did not go along with the many reviewers, among them AN Wilson and PD James, who called her a great novelist. “Nobody in their senses is going to call me a first-class writer,” she said. “I don’t mind because I do the very best that I can and thousands, millions of people enjoy my books.”
A very private person, who could get prickly with interviewers, she nevertheless said that she was going to take an active part in politics when she was made a life peer in 1997. That year she had given £10,000 to the Labour election campaign. In the Lords, Rendellsupported the bill to legalise assisted suicide: “The way I’m going it won’t be long, but all my aunts lived into their 90s.”.
Daughter of Ebba (nee Krause) and Arthur Grasemann, she was born in South Woodford, north-east London. Her mother, who had been born in Sweden and lived in Denmark until she was 12, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and Ruth, an only child, was brought up in part by a housekeeper to whom, she said, she was much closer than she was to her mother. Her father she described as “endlessly patient, endlessly loving, and endlessly kind”. She put a lot of him into Wexford.
She went to Loughton high school, in Essex, and was, she said, very unhappy. But she began to find herself when she left school and became a journalist. She worked on the Chigwell Times and by the age of 22 was a top reporter. Trouble came her way when she wrote a story about an old deserted house and invented a ghost; the owner of the house threatened to sue. Shortly afterwards she skipped the annual meeting of a local tennis club and wrote the story up from the chairman’s pre-prepared speech of which she had a copy. After her piece appeared in print she learned that the chairman had dropped dead of a heart attack in the middle of delivering it. She quit before she was sacked.
Ruth Rendell: five key works
Aged 20 she had married Don Rendell, a reporter whom she met when they were both covering an inquest. He became a financial journalist on the Daily Mail and for 10 years Rendell was a wife and mother. She described these as happy years but during that time she went through a long apprenticeship, writing six novels, all of which were rejected. When her seventh, From Doon With Death, was accepted by the small publishing house of John Long, she received £75 for it. “No interviews then,” she said, “nor for the next two novels.”
Later she was frequently interviewed, though she was never a willing subject. Asked once too often what she would have been if she hadn’t become a novelist, she said a country and western singer. It came as a shock when, during an interview oon Norwegian TV, she was handed a microphone and asked to sing. Asked on BBC Radio 4 about how she wrote her short stories, she said: “Oh they just come to me.” She described what drove her to write by saying: “I like to sit at a desk and type.”
Rendell claimed that, when writing her novels, she never did any research but “simply made things up”. Later on, she hired a researcher, but the great detail she gave her stories was the result, she said, of going on long walks, especially in London. She became an expert on parks in the capital.
Her hobby was changing houses; she moved 18 times. For several years, she lived in a pink 16th-century manor house set in 11 acres in Suffolk, before returning to London. Her only digression from a rather set, humdrum routine came when in 1975 she divorced her husband and then two years later remarried him. Asked why, she said that after they separated, she found she couldn’t live without him, because he was the sort of man with whom you could go on a 200-mile car trip and never have to say a word.
No one can equal Ruth Rendell's range or accomplishment | Val McDermid
The Mystery Writers of America gave her three Edgars and the British Crimewriters’ Association awarded her several Golden and Silver Daggers. In 1991 she received the Cartier Diamond award for outstanding contribution to the crime genre. She showed no sign of slowing up: No Man’s Nightingale, published in 2013, was a classic Wexford; and in 2014 she created a new detective, Colin Quell, for The Girl Next Door.
Rendell was very generous and gave a large amount of money away. She was vice-president of the housing charity Shelter and raised money for Little Hearts Matter, which helps children with heart disease. She said she knew what it was like to have no cash, adding: “I don’t think it’s good for people to be born into money and not know what it is never to have it.”
Her husband died in 1999. She is survived by her son, Simon.
• Ruth Barbara Rendell, Lady Rendell of Babergh, writer, born 17 February 1930; died 2 May 2015