Reason Why: An Anthology of the Murderous Mind

Overview

One of the world's most acclaimed mystery writers presents an anthology of literary depictions of murder that delves into the human passions, terrors, and foibles that incite the act and linger in its wake. Includes such writers as Sophocles, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Poe, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Albert Camus, Graham Greene, P.D. James, Truman Capote, and Norman Mailer.

One of the world's most acclaimed mystery writers presents an anthology of literary depictions of...

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Overview

One of the world's most acclaimed mystery writers presents an anthology of literary depictions of murder that delves into the human passions, terrors, and foibles that incite the act and linger in its wake. Includes such writers as Sophocles, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Poe, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Albert Camus, Graham Greene, P.D. James, Truman Capote, and Norman Mailer.

One of the world's most acclaimed mystery writers presents an anthology of literary depictions of murder that delves into the human passions, terrors, and foibles that incite the act and linger in its wake. Includes such writers as Sophocles, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Poe, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Albert Camus, Graham Greene, P.D. James, Truman Capote, and Norman Mailer.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
How effective is a paragraph of Dostoyevski's Crime and Punishment out of context? Not very, and that's the problem with Rendell's anthology of more than 100 snippets from sources as diverse as the Bible, Matthew Arnold's "Sohrab and Rustum," Toni Morrison's Beloved and Melanie Klein's A Contribution to the Psychogenesis of Manic-Depressive States. Rendell (Simisola) begins with the premise that the ``passions and terrors'' that motivate murderers are more interesting than the act of murder itself. No doubt this is true, but although some of the excerpts are good enough to send readers back to the complete sources, the exercise here is too limited. So are Rendell's brief introductory comments to each selection, e.g., ``A Mistreated wife takes revenge for a death.'' Rendell, brilliant at using narrative arc and duration to build suspense in her own writing, knows better. These digests are simply too neat. Like a funky highlight film, they provide neither a serious analytical approach nor a rich imaginative one. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Excerpts from a broad range of writings, including both fiction and nonfiction, attempt to explain what compels one person to take the life of another. Rendell has arranged the selections by motive and situation, and perhaps sheds some light on the human psyche.
From Barnes & Noble
Sampling writers from Shakespeare and Sophocles to Poe, Camus, Freud, and P.D. James, this collection of writings delves into the human passions and terrors that drive people to murder. Renowned mystery writer Rendell divides her gallery of killers by thoughts and motives: killing in the family, killing for revenge or gain, murder driven by guilt, murder as a means of escape, as an altruistic act, or out of sheer evil, and, finally, murder for murder's sake. A fascinating exploration of the murderous mind including poetry, prose, and drama.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780517175699
  • Publisher: Random House Value Publishing, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/5/1996
  • Pages: 244

Meet the Author

Ruth Rendell
Ruth Rendell
From the start of her illustrious career, Ruth Rendell's novels have blurred the distinction between literature and commercial fiction. Although Rendell is classified as a writer of mysteries and crime thrillers, her elegant prose and superb literary skills elevate her far above the conventions of those genres.

Biography

From the start of her illustrious career, Ruth Rendell's novels have blurred the distinction between literature and commercial fiction. Although Rendell is classified as a writer of mysteries and crime thrillers, her elegant prose and superb literary skills elevate her far above the conventions of those genres.

Born Ruth Barbara Grasemann in London in 1930, she attended the Loughton County High School for Girls in Essex, then went to work as a features writer for the Essex newspapers. In 1950, she married her boss at the newspaper, journalist Donald Rendell. (They divorced in 1975, remarried two years later, and remained together until his death in 1999.) For the next decade, she juggled marriage, motherhood, and part-time writing. She produced at least two unpublished novels before hitting pay dirt in 1964 with From Doon with Death, the first mystery to feature Chief Inspector Reginald 'Reg' Wexford of the Kingsmarkham Police Force. An immediate bestseller, the book launched Rendell's career and marked the beginning of one of the most successful and enduring series in detective fiction.

In 1965, Rendell published her second novel, a deft crime thriller (with no police presence) entitled To Fear a Painted Devil. For 20 years, she was content to alternate installments in the Wexford series with a steady stream of bestselling standalones that explored darker themes like envy, sexual obsession, and the tragic repercussions of miscommunication. Then, in 1986, she began a third strand of fiction under the name Barbara Vine. The very first of these books, A Dark-Adapted Eye, earned a prestigious Edgar Award.

From the get-go, the pseudonymous Vine novels had a separate DNA, although Rendell has always had difficulty pinpointing the distinction. In an interview with NPR, she tried to explain: "I don't think the Barbara Vines are mysteries in any sense. I must say that. They are different, and that is partly how I decide. The idea would come to me and I would know at once whether it was to be a Barbara Vine or a Ruth Rendell ... The Barbara Vine is much more slowly paced. It is a much more in-depth, searching sort of book; it doesn't necessarily have a murder in it. It's almost always set partly in the past, sometimes quite a long way in the past. And I think all these things come together and make them very different from the Ruth Rendells."

Under both names, Rendell has garnered numerous awards, including three American Edgars and multiple Gold and Silver Daggers from England's distinguished Crime Writers' Association. In 1996, she was made a Commander of the British Empire; and in 1997, a Life Peerage was conferred on her as Baroness Rendell of Babergh. Although, in her own words, she was "slightly stunned" by the peerage, she takes her responsibilities quite seriously, writing in the mornings and attending the House of Lords several afternoons a week.

Praise for Rendell is lavish and seemingly unqualified. John Mortimer once proclaimed that she would surely have won the Booker if she had not been pigeonholed as a "crime writer." Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison has identified Rendell as one of her favorite authors. And Joyce Carol Oates has called her "one of the finest practitioners of the craft in the English-speaking world."

Good To Know

While working as a journalist, Rendell once reported on a local club's annual dinner without actually attending. Her story omitted the crucial fact that the after-dinner speaker had dropped dead at the podium in the middle of his speech! She resigned before being fired.

The pseudonym Barbara Vine derives from the combination of Rendell's middle name and her great-grandmother's maiden name.

"I wouldn't keep my age a secret even if I had the chance," Rendell has said. "But I don't have the chance. Regularly, on February 17, the newspapers tell their readers my age."

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    1. Also Known As:
      Barbara Vine
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 17, 1930
    2. Place of Birth:
      London, England
    1. Education:
      Loughton County High School for Girls, Essex

Table of Contents

Introduction
1 'O, Hideous Sequel': In the Family 1
2 'The Way of His Wickedness': Murder for Revenge 31
3 'To Bask in the Sun': Killers for Gain 75
4 'Forbidden Actions': Guilt and Remorse 97
5 'To Stop Her Crying': Escaping the Consequences 119
6 'For Love and Not for Hate': Killing from Altruism or Duty 145
7 'A Field of Evil Forces': The Psychopath No One Understands 169
8 'The Ones Who Had to Pay': Murder for Murder's Sake 205
Acknowledgements 233
Index of Titles and Authors 238
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