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Rendell like 'the Good Mother'

Published 02/05/2015

Ruth Rendell wrote more than 60 best-sellers
Ruth Rendell wrote more than 60 best-sellers

Ruth Rendell, who has died aged 85, produced a steady stream of best-sellers for more than a half a century in a career that began on the lowest rung of local journalism and ended on the benches of the House of Lords.

Her work includes more than 60 best-sellers, written under her own name and the pseudonym Barbara Vine, which were translated into more than 20 languages and regularly filmed for television.

She made her name with her Inspector Wexford novels, starting with 1964's From Doon with Death, which found her a whole new audience when they were televised with George Baker in the title role. Reginald Wexford featured in 24 subsequent novels.

She had worldwide sales of around 60 million and won a variety of awards, including the Crime Writers' Association Cartier Diamond Dagger for sustained excellence in crime writing.

Her final novel, Dark Corners, is set to be published in October.

Rendell grew up in east London and Essex and started writing as a journalist on a local paper - she had to resign after reporting on a local sports club's dinner without going along which meant she missed the moment the after-dinner speaker dropped down dead in the middle of his speech.

Her novels saw her marked down as a crime writer but were critically acclaimed for their psychological depth and approach to issues including homosexuality, politics and mental health.

She was made a Labour life peer in 1997 and for many years attended the house with her contemporary - and political opponent - PD James, and was an active supporter of left-wing causes.

Her books brought her huge financial success and she is said to have given away six-figure sums to charity every year, telling one journalist: "I think that people who make a lot of money - and I do - should certainly give a considerable amount of it away."

She was also famous for her generosity to her fellow writers - Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit novelist Jeanette Winterson once described her as being like "the Good Mother to me" after she gave her somewhere to stay while she was struggling in the early days of her career.

Rendell was relatively guarded about the details of her private life but married the same man - a fellow journalist - twice and is survived by their son.

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