Ruth Rendell is an exceptional crime writer. The author of over 50 novels, she has become a legend in her own lifetime. But what is it about Baroness Rendell that has won the hearts of her legions of fans?
At Dead Good we’re passionate about recommending brilliant books, so you never have to pick up a bad book again. What better way to provide some insight into these authors than to ask those who choose to work with them to make their books the best they can be what it is that makes them so special. Together we can discover new voices.
We asked Paul Sidey, Ruth Rendell’s Editor, to tell us what makes her writing so brilliant.
“Constant fertility of invention characterises the work of Ruth Rendell. Since 1964, when she introduced her detective hero Reg Wexford in From Doon With Death, she has written at least one novel a year. In 1986, she even introduced another voice to extend the range of her fiction with Barbara Vine.
Where the procedural security of a police investigation is not on offer, Ruth Rendell has also produced a number of probing psychological novels, beginning with To Fear A Painted Devil (1965). These investigations into the mysteries of the human heart are never judgemental about even the most psychotic characters. Dark and troubling, Rendell’s books never dwell on the worst visceral excesses that fill the pages of much contemporary crime writing.
And yet her novels remain very much abreast of the times. The Wexford stories, in particular, spotlight social and political issues – from casual racism and paedopholia to the environment, class, illiteracy and female genital mutilation.
Chief Inspector Wexford has had a long and absorbing career in the Kingsmarkham police force. Readers have enjoyed watching him change with the times, never abandoning his rigorous values, but guilty sometimes of prejudice. His relationship with his wife Dora and his two, very different daughters is as much a part of the plots as the specific crime which prompts each new investigation.
Now the Chief Inspector has retired from the force, but, in No Man’s Nightingale, he is asked for assistance on a new case by his old sidekick Mike Burden. The role of Crime Solutions Adviser may be unpaid, but Wexford’s relish for puzzles and curiosity about people proves invaluable.
I have been Ruth Rendell’s editor since The Speaker of Mandarin (1983). She has come a long way since her first novel was acquired for 75 pounds. However, the sophistication of her plotting and the deceptive simplicity of her prose were present from the very beginning. Hutchinson will be reissuing a 50th Anniversary edition of From Doon With Death in February 2014, with an introduction by the author and an appreciation by Ian Rankin.
Quite simply, Ruth Rendell has been the most important writer in my life as a publisher. She has become a great friend, seen my children grow up, and our professional relationship has remained uncompromised by my admiration for her genius as a writer. Each new book has been a most marvellous adventure.”
A big thank you to Paul Sidey for sharing his thoughts and giving us a glimpse into what makes Ruth Rendell so special.