Sunday, August 12, 2007

Happy birthday, Mary Roberts Rinehart.

Born today in 1876 was author Mary Roberts Rinehart, whose highly lucrative writing career spanned nearly 50 years, from her first novel, The Circular Staircase, in 1908 and the creation of nurse-detective Hilda Adams, aka Miss Pinkerton, in 1914, to the collection of Letitia Carbury stories, The Best of Tish, in 1955. One of the earliest American women war correspondents and a trained nurse, she went to France to cover WWI for the Saturday Evening Post.

She died in 1958 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery (her husband, Stanley, served in the US Army Medical Corps).

For a look at MRR's impact on the bestseller list, see Michael Korda, Making the List: A Cultural History of the American Bestseller, 1900–1999 (Barnes & Noble, 2001). Korda notes that the first time an American detective story appeared on the bestseller list was in 1909 (4). It was Mary Roberts Rinehart's The Man in Lower Ten, one of my favorite MRR works for its hilarious send-up of the amateur detective.

For a look at some vintage dustjackets of MRR's work, go here (note that the bookmark for The Man in Lower Ten is taken from artwork by Howard Chandler Christy; he illustrated the original edition).

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