Day: March 15, 2020

Mary Roberts Rinehart (1876 – 1958)

800px-Mary_Roberts_RinehartMary Roberts Rinehart, née Mary Roberts, (born Aug. 12, 1876, Allegheny [now in Pittsburgh], Pa., U.S.—died Sept. 22, 1958, New York, N.Y.), American novelist and playwright best known for her mystery stories. Mary Roberts graduated from the Pittsburgh Training School for Nurses in 1896. That same year she married physician Stanley M. Rinehart. She and her husband started a family, and she took up writing in 1903 as a result of difficulties created by financial losses. Her first story appeared in Munsey’s Magazine in 1903. The Circular Staircase (1908), her first book and first mystery, was an immediate success, and the following year The Man in Lower Ten, which had been serialized earlier, reinforced her popular success. Thereafter she wrote steadily, averaging about a book a year. A long series of comic tales about the redoubtable “Tish” (Letitia Carberry) appeared as serials in the Saturday Evening Post over a number of years and as a series of novels beginning with The Amazing Adventures of Letitia Carberry (1911). Rinehart served as a war correspondent during World War I and later described her experiences in several books, notably Kings, Queens and Pawns (1915). She produced as well a number of romances and nine plays. Most of the plays were written in collaboration with Avery Hopwood; her greatest successes were Seven Days, produced in New York in 1909, and The Bat, derived from The Circular Staircase and produced in 1920. She remained best known, however, as a writer of mysteries, and the growing popularity of that genre after World War II led to frequent republication of her works. Her most memorable tales combined murder, love, ingenuity, and humour in a style that was distinctly her own. Her autobiography, My Story, appeared in 1931 and was revised in 1948. At Rinehart’s death her books had sold more than 10 million copies. (Source: Britannica)

Picture: By Theodore C. Marceau – Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division, http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c08086, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=847269.

Many of Rinehart’s works are available through Project Gutenberg.

Recommended Works: The Man in Lower Ten (1906); The Circular Staircase (1907); The Confession (1917); The Wall (1938); Episode of the Wandering Knife (1943); and The Yellow Room (1945).

Recommended Reading: Jan Cohn’s Improbable Fiction: The Life of Mary Roberts Rinehart (1980) is a superb biography and critical study of Rinehart. It is jam packed with information, including a detailed bibliography listing the original magazine publications of all of Rinehart’s fiction. It is also remarkably readable.

Mike Grost on Mary Roberts Rinehart

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(Facsimile Dust Jacke, Grosset & Dunlap (Madison Square Book) (USA), 1908 reprint)

The Circular Staircase is a mystery novel by American writer Mary Roberts Rinehart. The story follows dowager Rachel Innes as she thwarts a series of strange crimes at a summer house she has rented with her niece and nephew. The novel was Rinehart’s first bestseller and established her as one of the era’s most popular writers. The story was serialized in All-Story for five issues starting with the November 1907 issue, then published in book form by Bobbs-Merrill in 1908. Rinehart was inspired to write the novel after a visit to Melrose, a Gothic Revival castle in Northern Virginia. The Circular Staircase pioneered what became known as the “had I but known” school of mystery writing, which often feature female protagonists and narrators who foreshadow impending danger and plot developments by reflecting on what they might have done differently. Rinehart employed this formula in many of her later works, and it inspired dozens of subsequent stories. The novel was adapted for the screen twice: as a silent film in 1915, and for the television series Climax! in 1956. Its best known adaptation was as the play The Bat, which became a major Broadway hit and inspired a number of later works, including several adaptations of its own. (Source: Wikipedia)