Special Guest Event Ruth Rendell at Harrogate

Ruth Rendell at Harrogate

When the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate announced their 2013 programme one special guest event immediately grabbed our attention – Jeanette Winterson OBE interviewing close friend and crime-writing royalty Ruth Rendell.

This event is a complete one off and not to be missed. Crime Squad’s Chris Simmons is an aficionado on all things Rendell and we asked him to give us the heads up on why this event will be so unmissable.

What the brochure says:

When it comes to persuading us to reveal our innermost secrets, nobody does it better than our friends. That’s why we persuaded Jeanette Winterson OBE to open the festival in conversation with Baroness Rendell of Babergh CBE. What do two of our leading writers talk about when they’re together? As The Guardian recently observed, ‘Winterson is a mesmerising presence who seems to speak in perfect sentences and construct perfect images as constantly and naturally as the rest of us breathe’. Who better, then, to explore the rich writings of Rendell, creator of Chief Inspector Wexford and, as Barbara Vine, sending more shivers up our spines than seems fair? Rendell is credited for transforming the whodunit into the whydunit, changing the form of the classic police procedural with astute psychological insights and concerns with the nuances of society, re-shaping the genre with her humanity. Don’t miss the chance to see two fierce talents who have blazed their own paths on one electrifying stage.

Over to Chris:

Harrogate is always a big event in my yearly calendar and I am particularly excited by the prospect of the appearance of Ruth Rendell. Baroness Rendell was last at Harrogate in 2006 which was the first time I went to Harrogate. The Festival was still in its infancy and the room where panels and discussions were held was a lot smaller than the huge ballroom at The Old Swan Hotel. I have been to Rendell events several times and travelled from Windsor to Cambridge coupled with a few events with her friend, P.D. James. However, in recent years Ruth Rendell has not been making quite so many public appearances and so it is extra special to me (and many others) that she is now appearing in Harrogate.

I have never kept it secret that I am a huge fan of Rendell’s. Whilst many teenagers write to their heart throb and write about their undying love (until the next heart throb comes along), I wrote my one and only ‘fan letter’ to the great lady herself – and I still have her reply kept safe in my bureau.

Why am I, as well as millions of readers, such a staunch fan of this lady? Well, to be honest it is because her writing crackles with tension and suspense. She is deft at creating mesmeric characters and building atmosphere in every day scenarios. Rendell takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary. You have only to read her work and see that she is excellent at chronicling the psychological warfare that can be fought behind any suburban door. None better show her talents for this than her first Vine novel, A Dark-Adapted Eye, which masterfully shows what lengths ‘normal’ people will go to when trapped in a corner. Along with her sizzling writing, that pushes emotional buttons for her characters as well as her readers. That is why Ruth Rendell is so enduring. She has pushed the envelope, pushed boundaries and pushed anything else just to see how far it can be pushed! Rendell has never rested on her laurels and has constantly invented and then re-invented the crime genre and taken it to such dark, dark places within the mind as well as geographically.

Her novels have dealt with taboo subjects such as incest, racism, domestic violence. To some these may not appear to be ‘big issues’ but you have to take into context when Rendell’s books were written. This author has always been about twenty years ahead of everyone else. What you are reading these days I can guarantee you was started about two decades before by Rendell herself.

Rendell is being interviewed by her good friend, Jeanette Winterson and I am hoping that with Rendell’s faith in her interviewer Winterson will be able to weed out a few new secrets from the great lady herself. I have compiled my own Rendell Top Ten. For someone so prolific it was very difficult to whittle it down to ten! But no festival could have a bigger kick start to those three days than hearing Ruth Rendell talking in the Old Swan Hotel ballroom at 9am Friday morning. I know that I, like the many hundreds crowded in to that room, will be hanging on to her every word.

A big thank you to Chris from Crime Squad for sharing his thoughts on Ruth Rendell’s Special Guest Event.

Crime Squad is full of fascinating insight into crime authors including interviews, events and classic crime. Find them here.

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