Saturday, August 12, 2006

Happy birthday, Mary Roberts Rinehart.

Mary Roberts Rinehart, whose hugely successful mystery career spanned a half-century, would have been 130 today. She is buried in Arlington Cemetery. Undeservedly disparaged for creating the "Had-I-But-Known" approach to mystery writing, she was a writer of great gifts, and her play The Bat grossed over $9 million in the 1920s. I especially recommend The Man in Lower Ten (1909), with its Hitchcockian plot of a bored, staid lawyer who becomes immeshed in murder on a train and a particularly hilarious take on the amateur sleuth. Also take a look at MRR's nonfiction Kings, Queens, and Pawns (1915), her clear-eyed account of visiting the wounded in Belgian and French hospitals during WWI (MRR trained as a nurse) and interviewing the King and Queen of Belgium.

Photo: MRR out with her French bulldog, taken somewhere between 1920 and 1932.

1 comment:

Xavier said...

Undeservedly disparaged for creating the "Had-I-But-Known" approach to mystery writing

Undeservedly indeed, as very few of her books belong to that otherwise quite respectable (when well-done) genre. "The Man in Lower Ten" or "The Window at the White Cat" are fine proto-thrillers, the latter forecasting hardboiled fiction with its gangsters, corruptions and mazelike plots.
I think MRR's greatest and sadly never fully recognized achievement is to have brought American crime fiction a distinctive voice at a time when most of of her fellow-compatriots parrotted the British school.