Ruth Rendell Biography


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Ruth Barbara Rendell was born Ruth Barbara Grasemann, the only daughter of two teachers, Arthur Grasemann, and his Swedish wife, Ebba Elise Kruse Grasemann. Although her parents shared an interest in literature and the arts, their relationship was fraught, causing their lonely daughter to escape into an imaginative world. She had been born in an outer suburb of London, then moved farther out to Loughton, Essex, at the age of seven. She attended the local high school and, after graduating, decided to pursue journalism rather than attend a university.

Rendell worked for some years on local newspapers but felt increasingly restricted by the medium. When she had to report on an after-dinner speech at a local tennis club, she wrote up the whole speech without attending, only to find later that the speaker had dropped dead half way through it. Needless to say, she resigned. She met a fellow journalist, Don Rendell, and they married in 1950. She left journalism altogether in 1953 to raise her son, Simon. She then began writing fiction, as much for her own amusement as anything, also extending her own education. She unsuccessfully submitted several short stories for publication. When she submitted a comic novel, an editor responded, asking her to turn it into a detective novel. Thus, in 1964, emerged Inspector Wexford.

Rendell immediately began developing Inspector Wexford as a series, but at the same time began writing suspense novels about...

(The entire section is 576 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Ruth Rendell (REHN-duhl) was born Ruth Barbara Grasemann, the only child of a Swedish mother and an English father, both schoolteachers in London. Her early years appear to have been lonely and reflective. Having discovered a talent for writing in childhood, her first work was as a journalist. Following that trade, she met and married, twice, Donald Rendell, a political reporter. Their son, Simon, eventually became a sociologist and settled in the United States. After working in London, the Rendells in later years made their primary home in a sixteenth century manor house in Suffolk. Ruth Rendell’s love for this region was evident in the picture book she produced with photographer Paul Bowden, which celebrates the beauty, the mystery, and the ghosts of Suffolk.{$S[A]Vine, Barbara;Rendell, Ruth}

Never a reclusive writer, Rendell frequently gave interviews, yet she remained reticent about her personal life. Politically active, she espoused nuclear disarmament and worked to improve public libraries and transportation. In 1997, after the Labor government awarded her a seat in the House of Lords as Baroness Rendell of Babergh, she became a working member of Parliament. Discovering a talent for public speaking, she made frequent trips to the United States, where she had a huge readership.

Rendell never aspired to be the literary heir to Dorothy L. Sayers or Agatha Christie, the first ladies of British detective fiction. Rather, her first novel, From Doon with Death, was conceived as straight fiction, until she discovered that its chances of publication were much improved if reshaped as detective narrative. Thus, Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford was born. In subsequent books Wexford’s personality acquired dimension and complexity. Lacking the eccentric brilliance of Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot and free from the glib snobbishness of Lord Peter Wimsey, famed literary detectives preceding him, Wexford solved his cases through steady police work and keen observation of human behavior. While most earlier investigators had been loners—spinsters and bachelors have seemed especially adept at literary detection—Wexford had a wife and two daughters. He experienced family rivalries, struggled with health problems, and battled personal demons. As Wexford solved crime after crime, Rendell proved she could concoct detective...

(The entire section is 962 words.)