Demons In Her View: The Ruth Rendell Information Site

How many books has Rendell written?

The back cover of Ruth Rendell's most recent novel, 13 Steps Down, proclaims that Hutchinson is planning a major promotional campaign for the title. An key element of the campaign is that this novel will represent Rendell's 79th book.

Quite apart from the fact that reaching 80 books would seem a more obvious milestone, this figure is very confusing. How on earth did Hutchinson come up with it?

Up to and including 13 Steps Down, this is a summary of Rendell's publication activity:

  • 19 Inspector Wexford novels;
  • 22 non-Wexford novels under her own name;
  • 7 original collections of short stories;
  • 11 novels as Barbara Vine;
  • One novella (Heartstones).

    Adding these up, we get a grand total of 60 original fictional works (albeit some published under a different pen name). Where on earth do the other 19 come from?

    Most Hutchinson editions list two non-fiction works by Rendell, Suffolk and Anthology Of The Murderous Mind. If the latter is to be included, then we should also add Rendell's M.R. James anthology, A Warning To The Curious. But that still only takes us to 63.

    Philip Swan (who first raised this issue in the Rendell discussion group) points out that Hutchinson may well be including the omnibus editions of Rendell's work. Hutchinson lists 10 such volumes in its editions, which would take us to 73. This is obviously a dubious tactic, since there are many other omnibus editions of Rendell's work not featured in that list. There are also at least two Vine collections. But even if we accept Hutchinson's numbers, we come up six short.

    To really stretch the point, we could add the following works:

  • Undermining The Central Line, a political pamphlet co-authored by Rendell and Colin Ward;
  • The standalone miniature edition of Ginger And The Kingsmarkham Chalk Circle;
  • The Strawberry Tree, which was published along with Helen Simpson's Flesh And Grass in a separate edition.

    But that still stalls us at 76, and it hardly comprises a list of titles which people can readily purchase. Of course, given that there are books in our original set of 60 which are currently out of print, this comes as no real surprise.

    The only way we could get past 79 is to add the four books for which Rendell has written introductions: Romans, Doctor Thorne, Barchester Towers and The Unspeakable Skipton. If this is acceptable, then I don't see why we can't start adding in book reviews, really.

    The bottom line is: by any sensible calculation, Rendell has published 60 original, non-overlapping works of fiction. Sixty is a nice round number, so you'd think that would be quite enough for promotional purposes. But the abiding mystery is why Hutchinson imagines people aren't going to notice this kind of thing.

    Footnote: Philip Swan emailed Hutchinson to inform them of this error, and received the following reply: "There was indeed an over-calculation of the amount of books Ruth has written. I have just asked her editor, and he says it is more like around 50 but nobody seems entirely sure!"



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