Friday, March 04, 2016

Friday's Forgotten Books: RUTH RENDELL WEEK


 I have probably read more books by Ruth Rendell than any other writer. For many years I read every one of her books as soon as it turned up at my library. In the early days, I could not reserve it and it usually took several trips to the library before it turned up. Along about the time she wrote ROAD RAGE and SIMISOLA, she took a turn into didacticism that didn't appeal to me and I stopped reading every book. But I still read ones that seemed less scolding.  And the movies made from them, mostly French, show just how strong a story-teller she was. She was a perfect writer for me because  her cottages were never sun-dappled, her characters never saccharine.
She had three types of books: the traditional mysteries featuring Inspector Wexford, tight little thrillers she wrote under her own name, and the Barbara Vines which were longer and more leisurely. All of them were mostly good. 
I am sure I have told my one Ruth Rendell story on here, but here it is again. We were living outside Manchester for a year (1994-95). We went into Waterstones to hear any author that appealed to us. We tend to do this a lot when we are away from home just for something to do.
She was a bit off-putting in the same way Pat Barker was. No one can quite beat the Brits at attitude, I think. Anyway a fan in the audience implied something in whatever book it was was off in terms of its location in Kingsmarkam, the fictional town her Wexford books were set it. 
"Sir," Rendell said, "I invented Kingsmarkam so I think I know where that pub is." It may not have been a pub and it was 20 years ago but you get the gist. And if ever a writer invented a place, Rendell did. Perhaps only Faulkner could give her a run for that.

Here are some words from Martin Edwards on Rendell's death last year.





This is the most recently published Ruth Rendell novel I have read and I was very anxious to read it. So although it is not forgotten, it is part of this week's theme

Two clasped hands, severed, are found in a cookie tin. It turns out they date from World War 2 and their story and the police investigation makes up the minor plot of this fine novel. What makes up the major part are the stories of the children who played in the place the tin was buried during the war. How they had fared in the intervening years. Unrequited and untold love compromises a lot of their story. How we often marry at a convenient time to the one around rather than following the heart.And when they all meet up because of the police investigation, their current lives are thrown into chaos, causing death, divorce, romance, reconciliation, etc.

What am amazing feat this was for a woman in her eighties. Keeping all the strands straight and breathing such life into her characters. I have read perhaps 65% of Rendell's enormous output and rarely been disappointed except when she veered into didacticism as she sometimes did. But not here, not at all.

Sergio Angelini, FROM DOON WITH DEATH
Curt Evans, A Look at Rendell
Heslop's Cult Corner, THE BRIDESMAID
Jerry House, MONSTER IN A BOX
In Search of Classic Mysteries: many Ruth Rendell reviews here
I'VE READ THIS, NO MAN'S NIGHTINGALE 
Keishon,  THE VEILED ONE
George Kelley, AN UNKINDNESS OF RAVENS
Sarah Laurence, TIGERLILY'S ORCHIDS 
B.V. Lawson, BLOODLINES
Steve Lewis, A DEMON IN MY VIEW
Matthew Paust, NOT IN THE FLESH 
Richard Robinson, FROM DOON WITH DEATH
Kerrie Smith, MONSTER IN A BOX 
Kevin Tipple, JUDGMENT IN STONE
TracyK, KISSING THE GUNNER'S DAUGHTER 
Yet Another Crime Fiction Blog, THE VEILED ONE

Other reviews
Brian Busby, THE MEASURE OF A MAN, Norman Duncan
Bill Crider, NEEDLE IN A TIMESTACK, Robert Silverburg
Scott Cupp, WEST TEXAS, Al Sarrantanio
Martin Edwards, DEADLINE, Martin Russell
Ed Gorman, THE INNOCENCE OF MRS. DUFF, Elizabeth Sanxay Holding
Rick Horton, THE MAN WHO GOT AWAY, Summer Locke Elliott
Nick Jones, Graham Greene 
Margot Kinberg, THE COLD, COLD GROUND, Adrian McKinty
Rob Kitchin, THE KILL, Jane Casey
Todd Mason,  THE INVESTIGATIONS OF AVRAM DAVIDSON: COLLECTED MYSTERIES edited by Grania Davis and Richard A. Lupoff
J.F. Norris, THE EMPTY HOUSE, Irina Karlova
Reactions to Reading, LAST RAGGED BREATH, Julia Keller
James Reasoner, POWDER SMOKE, William Colt Macdonald
Gerard Saylor, PERFIDIA, James Ellroy
Kerrie Smith, SMALLBONE DECEASED, Michael Gilbert
TomCat, THE HINDENBERG MURDERS, Max Allan Collins
Prashant Trikannad, A GIFT OF LIFE, Henry Denker

12 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Rendell certainly had a lot of talent, and left a legacy of many kinds of novels. Lots to 'mine' there.

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Great idea to celebrate her work Patti - thanks.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Sorry I missed this, but being in Florida and away from my books made it hard. Like you (even more so, I'd say, as you were more of a fan) I got turned off around SIMISOLA. I always preferred the Wexford series to the others. He always seemed such a sensible character (and I think George Baker was good casting). I would probably have picked the Vine book, ANNA'S BOOK, because I like books written in a diary or letters format.

After I'd stopped reading her novels for the most part I do go back and pick up all of her short story collections in British paperbacks and read all of them, one after the other. Yes, they were dark, but I liked the shorter length.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

I don't think I ever heard that Manchester/Waterstones story before.

Todd Mason said...

I'm up and at 'em:
THE INVESTIGATIONS OF AVRAM DAVIDSON: COLLECTED MYSTERIES edited by Grania Davis and Richard A. Lupoff

You know, I've read only a little Rendell (and should've tried another for today), but even at her most lecturing (I've seen a little of that, as well), she doesn't go off P.D. James's deep end, to compare her with an obvious peer. And there are so many who have created their communities, whether based closely on reality (Davidson's ur-Guayana in his Limekiller stories) or less so (Davidson's Mitteleuropean duchy in his Esterhazy stories, Edward Bryant's Cinnabar, David Buch's Moderan, even such obvious examples as Anderson's Winesburg). Thanks, (And I'm glad you highlighted your MYSTERY SCENE writeup on FaceBook, you should do so here, too.)

Todd Mason said...

Hm. How about Eszterhazy stories, and David Bunch.

Johnny Guitar said...

I always thought that Ruth Rendell was a good writer but theres no question that she would`ve been even better had she been born in America rather than Britain.

Mathew Paust said...

Sounds like I'd have been better off reading the one you picked, Patti. Mine was full of didactic (the totally unnecessary Somali subplot). I think she was more interested in that than in the main plot, such as it was. Maybe her editor let that one slip by.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Well, that's what happened to her, Mathew. She knew she had a captive audience.

David Cranmer said...

I have many of her books in my personal library.

pattinase (abbott) said...

She's a good 'un.

Charles Gramlich said...

I haven't read anything under the Rendell name. I believe she may have had some pseudonyms? I know some friends who swear by her work. I'm going to pick up a couple of hers and give them a shot