“A little work, a little sleep, a little love and it’s all over” — Mary Roberts Rinehart
Mary Roberts Rinehart died on this day in 1958. She was the “American Agatha Christie”.
She was born on August 12, 1876 in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania (near Pittsburgh) to Cornelia and Thomas Roberts.
Her father was an inventor. Although he held a patent for “a rotary shuttle for sewing machines was the first patented, though he created many other enterprising gadgets to no avail. ” [Online -Literature.com] The family was financially insecure through out her childhood, and eventually her father committed suicide.
Mary was a good student and graduated from high school at age 16. went to the Pittsburgh Training School for Nurses. There she met Dr. Stanley Marshall Rinehart. The two married once she graduated from the school. They had four children in quick succession, three boys and a girl.
A hectic life of working in her husband’s practice and raising her children didn’t stop her from putting pen to paper. A number of her short stories were published in magazines and newspapers. The Man in Lower Ten (1906) was followed by The Circular Staircase (1908) and The Window At The White Cat (1908). [Ibid]
She wrote short stories, plays and became a war correspondent for the Saturday Evening Post when World War One broke out.
Works to follow were Where There’s a Will (1912), The Case of Jennie Brice (1914), The Breaking Point (1922), The Red Lamp (1925), The Door (1930), and another Broadway play The Bat (with Avery Hopwood, 1932). [Ibid]
The Bat was made into a movie (in 1926 and again in 1959) as was its sequel The Bat Whispers (1930). RCA Victor turned The Bat into one of the first recorded books. It later became one of the inspirations for Bob Kane’s Batman.
Rinehart wrote in a variety of genres but was best known (and best received by the critics) for her murder mysteries. She invented the “Had-I-But-Known” sub genre. And, although she never actually used the phrase, she is credited for “The Butler Did It!” because in her novel The Door the Butler actually DID do it.
The Rineharts moved to Washington DC where Dr. Rinehart worked for the Veteran’s Administration. He died in 1932, and Mary moved the family to New York in 1935. There she worked with Stanley Jr. and Frederick to start Farrar & Rinehart publishing house. She left her publisher Doubleday and published exclusively through Farrar & Rinehart (giving the new company a much needed boost). She also served as a director of the company.
Rinehart died in her New York City home on September 22, 1958.