Mystery Thursday: Behind the Scenes with Ruth Rendell

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Dark-Adapted Eye, the Edgar Award-winning classic from Ruth Rendell—writing as Barbara Vine—was first published in the United States in 1987. Set in post-World War II Britain, this mind-bending suspense novel traces the steps of one woman's investigation into the shocking secrets that, ultimately, destroyed her family.

Calling it "a rich, complex and beautifully crafted novel" at the time of its publication, P.D. James also noted that "In A Dark-Adapted Eye, we have Rendell at the height of her powers." And Time magazine concluded, "When the best mystery writer in the English-speaking world launched a second byline, she actually stepped up her writing a level."

And so, we were absolutely delighted when given the opportunity to ask Lady Rendell to share, with us, a bit of the "back-story" on A Dark-Adapted Eye and writing as Barbara Vine.  

On writing A Dark-Adapted Eye

"When I research a new novel I usually begin with an idea. In the case of A DARK-ADPATED EYE it was to turn 'round the adage, "It's a wise child that knows its own father" and substitute "mother."  Then I went on to the time, i.e. the period to set it in. It had to be wartime and the First World War was even then too far off—so World War Two and from that the rest followed....The idea for A DARK-ADAPTED EYE was with me for years. I kept turning it over in my mind. There were things I couldn't work out and kept experimenting with in different ways. When I finally got there I realised the novel that came out of it would be different from anything I had ever written before." 

On her decision to write as Barbara Vine: 

"I wanted readers to know it was me yet expect something different from my usual books. I never tried to change my style. I took a pseudonym, using my second Christian name and the maiden name of one of my great-grandmothers. No secret was ever made of who this was that was writing. Readers and reviewers always knew but this didn't stop reviewers from asking why I did it. After 25 years, they still ask." 

An earlier piece from Marilyn Stasio on Barbara Vine aka Ruth Rendell in the The New York Times

Read an excerpt below or click to download it.

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