Ouch, that hurt!
Here’s a fun puzzle for you to enjoy. It’s all about items that can be used for murder by sticking it to the person. Look for the words that are capitalized.
Ouch, that hurt!
Here’s a fun puzzle for you to enjoy. It’s all about items that can be used for murder by sticking it to the person. Look for the words that are capitalized.
Below is a crossword puzzle to test your knowledge about Mary Roberts Rinehart. Don’t forget to read the recent blog on Rinehart to help with the answers. Solution will follow at a later date.
At the end of last year, we gave you the opportunity to do a Mary Roberts Rinehart Word Search. Here is the solution for that puzzle. And be sure to check the just-published blog about this famous author.
Literary critics often call Mary Roberts Rinehart the American Agatha Christie. This is a somewhat interesting comment since Rinehart published her first mystery novel fourteen years before Christie.
Rinehart’s Early Years
Mary Roberts Rinehart was born Mary Ella Roberts in a section of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania formerly known as Alleghany City to Thomas and Cornelia Roberts. She grew up with an extended family including her grandmother, a dressmaker who worked long hours in a shop at the back of the house.
Her father was in the sewing machine business and a frustrated inventor. He designed a rotary shuttle for the sewing machine which received a patent, but many of his other inventions were unsuccessful. Throughout her childhood, the family often suffered financial problems. In 1895 Thomas Rinehart committed suicide.
She attended public high school and then enrolled in nursing school at Pittsburgh’s Homeopathic Hospital where she would meet Dr. Stanley Rinehart. The hospital strictly forbid friendships between doctors and staff members. They kept their engagement secret until after her graduation from nursing school when they married. They had three sons; Stanley Jr., Alan and Frederick.
Rinehart did not follow a nursing career. She filled her days with raising her sons and helping her husband with his practice. Life was simple and enjoyable until the couple lost all their savings in the 1903 stock market crash.
The Start of Rinehart’s Writing Career
Dr. Rinehart continued his practice, while Mary wrote verse, short stories and articles. She wrote 45 stories in 1903 to help pull the family through their financial crisis. Her first novel, The Circular Staircase brought her national attention. It also launched her career as a mystery writer and novelist when the book sold over a million copies.
Around 1909 the Saturday Evening Post published some of her humorous pieces and her Letitia “Tish” Carberry stories. The Saturday Evening Post sent Rinehart to England as a reporter during World War I, and she was in Paris when the war ended.
The Circular Staircase Plot
All Story serialized the novel for five issues starting with the November 1907 issue, and Bobbs-Merrill published the book in 1908. All Story was one of the early Pulp Fiction magazines before Argosy Magazine absorbed them. (Just a side note, be sure to check out a previous blog on Pulp Fiction.)
The Circular Staircase story follows wealthy spinster Rachel Innes who has raised her niece Gertrude, age 24, and her nephew Halsey, age 20, since they were young children. Gertrude and Halsey talk their aunt into renting a country home called “Sunnyside” for the summer. The home belongs to the Armstrongs, a prominent family.
On the second night after arriving, they find Arnold Armstrong, son of the owner dead at the bottom of the circular staircase. Halsey and the friend he brought for a visit both disappear. Halsey returns without his friend and with no explanations of where he was or what happened to his friend.
In the meantime, many other events occur to the worry the residents and the staff. Rachel decides she must solve what is disturbing her household and looks for clues. When she discovers evidence and bits of helpful information, she doesn’t initially share with the policeman in charge of the case, Detective Jameson. Nor does Detective Jameson detect. Instead, he waits for those involved to tell the truth.
While searching Rachel is often in dangerous situations. The plot is complex and there are several subplots, but eventually all is revealed and our amateur sleuth restores order to her household.
Had-I-But-Known School of Mystery
Rinehart receives credit as one of the first creators of the “Had-I-But-Known” (HIBK) school of mystery. The Circular Staircase is the first story to introduce this technique. This style of writing foreshadows events yet to come. The person narrating the story misses the hint of a disaster waiting for one or more of the characters.
Neither the narrator nor the reader knows of the mistake until revealed near the solution of the crime. This revelation eventually occurs through the presentation of clues. Characters in these mysteries are also the ones who hear a sound in an empty room and rush in to see what happened.
There are typical HIBK statements from the narrator within the story. For our spinster aunt in The Circular Staircase a typical statement is, “had I but known what lay in wait for me, I would never have rented the country house for the summer.” Handled properly this mystery device can add a real element of suspense. When not handled with skill, the story could turn into a messy melodrama.
“The Butler Did It”
As an avid mystery lover, I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “The Butler Did It.” Mary Roberts Rinehart receives credit for this phrase from her novel, The Door, published in 1930. I should also note this exact phrase never appears in the work.
Sorry there is no way to give Rinehart credit for this mystery first without giving away the ending. The book is still worth reading because of the interesting plot.
Elizabeth Bell’s runs an efficient and quiet household. When the family nurse, Sarah Gittings, is brutally murdered, Elizabeth discovers there are several suspects within her home. Especially when it appears Sarah knew and probably trusted her murderer. The crimes don’t stop with Sarah’s murder. There’s a burglar in the house, along with a shadowy figure who appears and disappears and there is more than one victim before Bell solves the case.
Rinehart quickly wrote The Door in 1930. She was in the hospital recovering from an illness when her sons launched a new publishing house. As a devoted mother she broke her longtime contract with Doubleday and wrote this bestseller to get their new business started.
The Publishing Firm of Farrar & Rinehart
In June 1929 Rinehart’s sons, Stanley M. Rinehart, Jr (president) and Frederick R. Rinehart (partner) joined with John C. Farrar (vice president) and formed Farrar & Rinehart. Rinehart supported her sons by leaving Doubleday. Her best-selling mysteries were the foundation for the new firm.
The firm continued to grow and with the acquisition of Hearst’s Cosmopolitan Book Corporation in 1931; it became one of the most successful publishing houses for this period. Best-selling authors for the firm included Rinehart and Hervey Allen’s Anthony Adverse (1933) which sold over two million hardcover copies. For mystery lovers, they also published Elizabeth Daly (1940-43) and the first ten (1931-1944) Nero Wolfe books.
They renamed the publishing house, Rinehart and Company when John C. Farrar left the firm in 1946. He formed a new company with Roger Straus that became Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Rinehart’s Play “The Bat”
It was a dark and stormy night and Cornelia Van Gorder and her guests are at the summer home she’s rented. They are spending their time looking for stolen money, supposedly hidden in the house. Interrupting their search efforts is the appearance of a masked criminal called the “Bat.” The play also focuses on learning the identity of the masked criminal revealed at the end of the play.
After 867 performances in New York, 327 performances in London and numerous shows by road companies the play was a critical and commercial success. There were several film adaptations, and the play was the basis for the Batman comic book hero. In 1933, RCA’s talking book division released a recording of The Bat.
Rinehart’s Writing Has Benefits
Unlike so many writers, Rinehart’s writing career made her a wealthy woman. She had a 24-room seaside home in Bar Harbor, Maine and an elegant apartment on Park Avenue in New York.
Rinehart once made the comment she wished she had a pen that could keep up with the speed of her thoughts. The Parker Pen company created a special snub-nosed fountain pen for her.
She was also a guest on the popular CBS television show Person to Person with Edward R. Murrow in November 9,1956. The show featured stars from stage, screen, television the world of sports and other famous people who reached a pinnacle of success.
Rinehart’s Real-Life Crime Drama
In 1947, while staying at her Bar-Harbor home Rinehart’s chef attacked her. He worked for her for 25 years, but unexpectedly fired a gun at her and then attempted to slash her with several knives. Other servants rescued her. The police arrested the chef and while being held; he committed suicide in his cell.
Other Rinehart Facts
Dr. Rinehart accepted a post at the Veterans Administration and the family moved to Washington, DC in 1922. Rinehart joined the Literary Society of Washington and remained a member until 1936.
Dr. Rinehart died in 1932, and Mary remained in Washington until 1935 when she moved to New York City.
Rinehart was left handed. During this time and for years to come, we trained left-handers to use their right hand. I can relate to this having been a left-hander trained to use my right.
She smoked a pack of cigarettes a day; she had breakfast in bed and loved to climb mountains, ride horses and fish.
Rinehart had personal health issues. Diagnosed with breast cancer, she had a radical mastectomy. She discussed her surgery and urged women to have breast examinations in an article for the Ladies’ Home Journal in 1947.
In 1954 she received a special award for her work from the Mystery Writers of America but was too ill to attend the dinner in her honor. She died in 1958 at age 82 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Rinehart Versus Agatha Christie
Why do people say Rinehart is the American Agatha Christie? Even though Christie published many years after Rinehart I think her entire body of work offers many comparisons.
Rinehart’s pieces are dated, but they accurately capture a time from the past. And remember a good mystery transcends time.
Do you think Mary Roberts Rinehart is the American Agatha Christie? There’s only one way to decide. Pick up one of her books and give it a read and decide for yourself.
Mary Roberts Rinehart is often called the American Agatha Christie. Below is list of her titles for you to find. Remember to look for the words in capital letters.
A solution will post at a later date
Just checking back to see how you did with the puzzle solution. I’m sure you found all the answers, but just in case you need a little help−here are the answers. Once again, a big thank you to Sue Grafton for her wonderful contribution to the mystery genre.
In our final blog saluting Sue Grafton, we’ve created a crossword puzzle to test your knowledge about the author and Kinsey Millhone. If you haven’t read the Sue Grafton blog, remember all of the answers can be found in this piece.
In December 2017, we lost a fine writer and a giant in the mystery genre with the passing of Sue Grafton.
Grafton was best known as the creator of the Alphabet Mystery series featuring private investigator Kinsey Millhone. She hoped to complete the series from letters A to Z, but her series has ended with Y is for Yesterday.
Sue Grafton—The Beginnings
Sue Grafton was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to C.W. Grafton (1909-1982) and Vivian Harnsberger. (1908-1960) Her father was a municipal bond lawyer and her mother was a former high school chemistry teacher. After her father’s return from World War II when Grafton was five, her home life changed dramatically. Both parents became alcoholics and Grafton said “From the age of five onward, I was left to raise myself.”
Grafton and her older sister Ann grew up in Louisville, Kentucky and attended Atherton High School. She graduated from the University of Louisville in 1961 with a bachelor’s degree in English literature and minors in humanities and fine arts. Although we know Grafton as a writer she had several non-writing jobs, including working as a hospital admissions clerk, a cashier, and a medical secretary.
Grafton’s mother killed herself in 1960 after an operation to remove esophageal cancer brought on by years of drinking and smoking. Her father died in 1982, a few months before A is for Alibi was published.
Grafton was inspired by her father who wrote detective fiction at night. He taught Grafton about writing and the editing process and groomed her to be a writer. Based on his teachings, Grafton began writing when she was 18 and finished her first novel four years later. When she started writing crime novels she said the strongest influence on her writing was author Ross Macdonald.
Grafton spent 15 years in Hollywood writing screen plays for television movies, including Sex and the Single Parent, Mark, I Love You, and Nurse. Her screenplay for Walking Through the Fire earned a Christopher Award in 1979. She also adapted the Agatha Christie novels A Caribbean Mystery and Sparkling Cyanide for television and co-wrote A Killer in the Family and Love on the Run.
She became disillusioned with the movie business when her words were changed, as she said, “by twenty-five-year-old executives.” However, her Hollywood years taught her basic story structure, creating dialogue, writing action sequences and getting in and out of scenes. Judy Kaye, who is the voice of Kinsey on the audio versions, states that Grafton’s books were written like a screenplay. This made them a joy for the actor to record.
Grafton had true perseverance as a writer. Her first, second and third novels were never published. Her fourth novel was published and her fifth novel The Lolly Madonna War was made into a movie. Her sixth and seventh novels were never published and her eighth novel was A is for Alibi.
Grafton’s Writing Method
When Grafton wrote her mystery series, she had to learn about California law and both police and private investigator procedures.
She then created Kinsey who she always treated like a real person. She once commented that when the work was going well, it was like taking dictation from Kinsey. When it wasn’t going well she struggled like every other writer.
She kept elaborate charts of her characters and plots, because she didn’t want to repeat herself and bore her readers. She kept a journal for each book. These were more like a long letter to herself about what she had written.
Grafton used color index cards−one for dialogue, one for action, one for characters, etc. Kinsey also used index cards to keep track of her cases until she had time to type her notes for her final case report.
Grafton believed when writing a book, the reader and the writer are pitted against each other. If the reader figures out on page five who did it−the reader isn’t happy with the author. If the reader gets to the end and they “don’t get it” −meaning the ending doesn’t make sense, the reader is angry. The author has only one in three chances to get it right.
She also believed a mystery concerns three parts−what really happens, what appears to have happened and how the detective figures it out. This is the journey that the reader shares with the detective.
Grafton’s Shadow Voice and Ego Voice
According to Grafton, ‘Shadow’ is the little voice that pops up in your head and tells you the truth. ‘Ego’ is the voice that urges you on even when you know it’s not right. Ego is the voice that tries to please others. Shadow is the voice you must follow as a writer
The writer needs to craft the story in a way that allows the reader to experience emotions−laughter, fear, crying, anger, etc. It’s these experiences that engage the reader in the story.
The Beginnings of the Alphabet Series
In an interview, Grafton said that when she decided to write her crime novels she wanted the books linked. She was familiar with the book The Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey. In this book of drawings, Gorey has little rhymes that accompany each of the pictures: A is for Amy who fell down the stairs, B is for Basil who was eaten by a bear, etc. This gave Grafton the idea for linking her books to the alphabet.
Grafton also created some unique murders and interesting traps where Kinsey must use all of her detecting skills. Grafton dealt with a divorce and a custody battle that lasted six years. She imagined ways to kill or maim her ex-husband and these fantasies were often incorporated into her stories.
Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone−The Beginnings
Kinsey Millhone was born May 5, 1950, in Santa Teresa, California. The fictional town of Santa Teresa was based on Grafton’s hometown of Santa Barbara. The first book takes place in 1982 making Kinsey thirty-two when we first meet her.
Her mother, Rita was part of a wealthy family from Lompoc. When she married postal worker, Randall Millhone, her family disowned her.
Kinsey was five when her parents were killed in a car accident. She was raised by her mother’s sister, Aunt Gin. While Aunt Gin wasn’t overtly loving she did teach Kinsey to be independent and self-sufficient. These are major characteristics that govern her adult life.
Kinsey wasn’t an outstanding student, but after graduation, she becomes a police officer. Her independent streak made it difficult for her to fit in with all the rules and policies. She also felt women were treated as underdogs within the Santa Teresa Police Department.
Kinsey leaves the police department and earns her private investigator license. She starts her new career with office space in the California Fidelity Insurance building. In addition to her clients, she handles insurance investigations for them.
Kinsey’s Private Life
When not on a case, Kinsey lives in a studio apartment over the garage of her loveable landlord, Henry Pitts. Henry creates crossword puzzles and in his previous life was a baker. Kinsey finds comfort in the smells that greet her from Henry’s home.
Kinsey does not cook. Top of her favorite food list is a Quarter-Pounder with cheese and peanut butter and pickle sandwiches. When she ventures out for a meal she usually stops by Rosie’s Tavern. Rosie is Henry’s sister-in-law having married his brother William. Kinsey indulges Rosie’s cheap white wine that accompanies her rather unique Hungarian dishes. While Kinsey’s eating habits are not the best, she is physically fit due to her habit of jogging three-miles.
Kinsey was married and divorced twice. Her first husband, Mickey, an ex-cop appears in O is for Outlaw. Her second husband, Daniel, is a struggling musician. He left Kinsey unexpectedly, but reappears in E is for Evidence. He asks Kinsey to keep his guitar safe and this innocent request opens a host of problems for Kinsey.
Kinsey may not be currently married but she’s had several relationships throughout the series. Her main relationships included Jonah Robb, a police officer, Robert Dietz, another private eye and longtime friend Cheney Phillips, a police detective. Kinsey is a loner. Her love interests are not long-term although they sometimes reappear. Kinsey remains friends with Cheney even after their split and Jonah drops in and out of her life based on his on again-off -again marriage.
After her Aunt Gin dies, Kinsey assumed all family relationships died with her. Kinsey is shocked when she finds she has family in J is for Judgment. When she meets cousins Tasha and Lisa, she realizes the three look alike. Kinsey and Tasha form a business relationship in M Is for Malice. However, she remains reluctant to become fully involved with her new-found family. She felt they abandoned her when she was orphaned. In U is for Undertow Kinsey discovered her grandmother made efforts to raise her, but Aunt Gin concealed this fact. Kinsey finally agrees to meet Gran at a family event where her grandmother, now very frail, mistakes Kinsey for her mother.
Kinsey as Private Eye
Kinsey is as tough as any of her male counterparts in the field of private eyes. She has a soft spot for Henry, but she has vulnerabilities including her relationships with men. Kinsey accepts all types of jobs from missing persons, murder, robbery, arson and cold cases. Her routine insurance assignments often turn out to be more complicated. In H is for Homicide she even goes undercover and puts her life in danger to reveal an insurance fraud gang. She has escaped her own murder on more than one occasion.
She is a survivor. At the end of the day she is a good investigator who solves her cases. She has become one of the best-known female private eyes in the entire mystery genre.
While the books focus on Kinsey’s main case, Grafton often has a subplot running simultaneously. And she has a wonderful way of weaving in other elements that are part of Kinsey’s life—her current love interest, her personal tastes, family matters and memorable characters like Henry.
The End of Grafton’s Series
Perhaps this is the best way to end the popular series with Y is for Yesterday. We are left with all the wonderful yesterdays and twenty-five Kinsey Millhone adventures that have kept us entertained for so many years. And finally, a huge thank you to Sue Grafton for creating a detective named Kinsey Millhone.
Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone books are so popular books I know you found all the answers. But just in case you need a little help, here’s the solution.