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Ruth Barbara Rendell, Baroness Rendell of Babergh, CBE, who also writes under the pseudonym Barbara Vine, (born February 17, 1930), is an English best-selling mystery and psychological crime writer, often called the Queen of Crime.
Born in London, the daughter of teachers, Ruth (Barbara), née Grasemann, grew up and was educated at the County High School for Girls in Loughton Essex. She then worked as a journalist for Essex newspapers. She was fired after writing an article on the local Tennis Club's annual dinner, which she had actually not attended, thereby missing the untimely death of the after-dinner speaker mid-speech! She wrote two unpublished novels before From Doon With Death, the first mystery to feature her enduring and popular detective Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford, which was bought by publisher John Long for £75 and published in 1964. Wexford's latest case is End in Tears (2005).
Parallel to her Wexford procedurals are Rendell's psychological crime novels wherein she explores themes such as sexual obsession, the effects of misperceived communication, chance and the humanness of criminals, in books such as Judgment in Stone, The Face of Trespass,Live Flesh, Talking to Strange Men, The Killing Doll, Going Wrong, and Adam and Eve and Pinch Me.
Rendell created a third strand of writing with the publication of A Dark Adapted Eye under her pseudonym Barbara Vine in 1986 (the name derives from her own middle name and her grandmother's maiden name). Books such as King Solomon's Carpet, A Fatal Inversion and Asta's Book (alternative US title, Anna's Book) inhabit the same territory as her psychological crime novels while they further develop themes of family misunderstandings and the side effects of secrets kept and crimes done. Rendell is famous for her elegant prose and sharp insights into the human mind, as well as her ability to create cogent plots and characters. Rendell has also injected the social changes of the last 40 years into her work, bringing awareness to such issues as domestic violence and the change in the status of women.
Many credit her and her good friend P.D. James for upgrading the entire genre of 'whodunnit', shaping it more into a whydunnit. Several of her works have been adapted for film and television, including The Tree of Hands and the Pedro Almodovar film Live Flesh. The Inspector Wexford series has been successfully televised, starring acclaimed British actor George Baker as Inspector Wexford and Christopher Ravenscroft as Detective Mike Burden.
She has received many awards for her writing, 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. She was made CBE in 1996 and a life peer as Baroness Rendell of Babergh, of Aldeburgh in the County of Suffolk in 1997. She sits in the House of Lords for Labour.