British crime writer Ruth Rendell dies aged 85

Author wrote more than 60 best-selling novels including the Inspector Wexford series

File photograph of British crime writer Ruth Rendell who died on Saturday at the age of 85.  Photograph: Fiona Hanson/PA Wire

File photograph of British crime writer Ruth Rendell who died on Saturday at the age of 85. Photograph: Fiona Hanson/PA Wire

 

Best-selling British crime writer Ruth Rendell has died aged 85.

Her publishers Penguin Random House said she passed away in London at 8am on Saturday.

Ruth Rendell, who suffered a stroke in January, wrote more than 60 best-sellers, including the Inspector Wexford novels, which were turned into a TV series starring George Baker in the title role.

In a statement, Penguin Random House said: “We are devastated by the loss of one of our best-loved authors.

“Ruth has been published by Hutchinson since 1964 and under her pen name Barbara Vine, she wrote 14 novels for Penguin.

“Ruth was very much part of our publishing family and a friend to many at Penguin Random House. We will miss her enormously. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family at this time.”

Baroness Gail Rebuck, chair of Penguin Random House UK, said: “Ruth was much admired by the whole publishing industry for her brilliant body of work.

“An insightful and elegant observer of society, many of her award-winning thrillers and psychological murder mysteries highlighted the causes she cared so deeply about.

“Ruth also became one of the first New Labour working peers, continuing to effect change through the House of Lords, most particularly on the issue of FGM (female genital mutilation).

“Ruth was a great writer, a campaigner for social justice, a proud mother and grandmother, a generous and loyal friend and probably the best read person I have ever met.

“Her many close friends in publishing and the House of Lords will greatly miss her wonderful company and her truly unique contribution to our lives.”

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.

PA