Hello campbellsworld visitors and readers everywhere.
This morning we continue with WordPress Wednesday with a wonderful article from multi-genre author Phyllis Staton Campbell, and if you’re a mystery lover as am I you’re not going to want to miss this. Phyllis’s articles always serve to entertain and educate, and today’s article is no exception. In fact, this time around I’ve learned so many things I ought to have taken notes.
As always we’re grateful that you’ve taken the time to drop by to visit in campbellsworld and we hope you’ll come back very soon. We’ve got more wonderful posts coming up.
Now, for your reading pleasure I give you, Phyllis.
PS. If you enjoy this as much as I did, please feel free to give a like and a share, and be sure to comment to let Phyllis and me know you did.
Today the mystery is one of the most popular genres. This article tells of one of the pioneers both for of a pioneer in the field. Her books are quite tame by today’s standards, yet are still enjoyed by many.
Mary Roberts Rinehart (August 12, 1876 – September 22, 1958) was an American writer, often called the American Agatha Christie, although her first mystery novel was published 14 years before Christie’s first novel in 1920.
Rinehart is considered the source of the phrase “The butler did it” from her novel The Door (1930), although the novel does not use the exact phrase. Rinehart is also considered to have invented the “Had-I-But-Known” school of mystery writing, with the publication of The Circular Staircase (1908).
Mary Roberts Rinehart was born Mary Ella Roberts in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, now a part of Pittsburgh. Her father was a frustrated inventor, and throughout her childhood, the family often had financial problems. Left-handed at a time when that was considered inappropriate, she was trained to use her right hand instead.
She attended public schools and graduated at age 16, then enrolled at the Pittsburgh Training School for Nurses at Pittsburgh Homeopathic Hospital, where she graduated in 1896. She described the experience as “all the tragedy of the world under one roof.” After graduation, she married Stanley Marshall Rinehart (1867–1932), a physician she had met there. They had three sons: Stanley Jr., Alan, and Frederick.
During the stock market crash of 1903, the couple lost their savings, spurring Rinehart’s efforts at writing as a way to earn income. She was 27 that year, and produced 45 short stories. In 1907, she wrote The Circular Staircase, the novel that propelled her to national fame. According to her obituary in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 1958, the book sold 1.25 million copies. Her regular contributions to The Saturday Evening Post were immensely popular and helped the magazine mold American middle-class taste and manners.
In 1911, after the publication of five successful books and two plays, the Rineharts moved to Glen Osborne, Pennsylvania, where they purchased a large home at the corner of Orchard and Linden Streets called “Cassella.” Before they moved into the house, however, Mrs. Rinehart had to have the house completely rebuilt, as it had fallen into disrepair. “The venture was mine, and I had put every dollar I possessed into the purchase. All week long I wrote wildly to meet the payroll and contractor costs.” she wrote in her autobiography. In 1925, the Rineharts sold the house to the Marks family and the house was demolished in 1969. Today, a Mary Roberts Rinehart Nature Park sits in the borough of Glen Osborne at 1414 Beaver Street, Sewickley, Pennsylvania.
Rinehart’s commercial success sometimes conflicted with her domestic roles of wife and mother, yet she often pursued adventure, including a job as a war correspondent for The Saturday Evening Post at the Belgian front during World War I. During her time in Belgium, she interviewed Albert I of Belgium, Winston Churchill and Mary of Teck, writing of the latter, “This afternoon I am to be presented to the queen of England. I am to curtsey and to say ‘Your majesty,’ the first time!” Rinehart was working in Europe in 1918 to report on developments to the War Department and was in Paris when the armistice was signed.
Mary Roberts Rinehart lunching after a morning’s trouting on Flathead River, Glacier National Park (c. 1921)
In 1922, the family moved to Washington, DC, when Dr. Rinehart was appointed to a post in the Veterans Administration. She was a member of the Literary Society of Washington from 1932 to 1936. Her husband died in 1932, but she continued to live in Washington until 1935, when she moved to New York City. There she helped her sons found the publishing house Farrar & Rinehart, serving as its director.
She also maintained a vacation home in Bar Harbor, Maine. In 1947, a Filipino chef who had worked for her for 25 years fired a gun at her and then attempted to slash her with knives, until other servants rescued her. The chef committed suicide in his cell the next day.
Rinehart suffered from breast cancer, which led to a radical mastectomy. She eventually went public with her story, at a time when such matters were not openly discussed. The interview “I Had Cancer” was published in a 1947 issue of the Ladies’ Home Journal; in it, Rinehart encouraged women to have breast examinations.
“The Rinehart career was crowned with a Mystery Writers of America Special Award a year after she published her last novel … and by the award, as early as 1923, of an honorary Doctorate in Literature from George Washington University.”
On November 9, 1956, Rinehart appeared on the CBS Television interview program Person to Person. She died at age 82 at her apartment at 630 Park Avenue in New York City.
Rinehart wrote hundreds of short stories, poems, travelogues and articles. Many of her books and plays were adapted for movies, such as The Bat (1926), The Bat Whispers (1930), Miss Pinkerton (1932), and The Bat (1959 remake). In 1933 RCA Victor released The Bat as one of the earliest talking book recordings. She co-wrote the 1920 play The Bat which was later adapted into the 1930 film The Bat Whispers. The latter influenced Bob Kane in the creation of Batman’s iconography.
Based on Rinehart’s novel Lost Ecstasy (1927), I Take This Woman (1931), starring Carole Lombard and Gary Cooper, was an early sound film based on Rinehart’s works.
While many of her books were best sellers, critics were most appreciative of her murder mysteries. Rinehart, in The Circular Staircase (1908), is credited with inventing the “Had-I-But-Known” school of mystery writing. In The Circular Staircase “a middle-aged spinster is persuaded by her niece and nephew to rent a country house for the summer. The gentle, peace-loving trio is plunged into a series of crimes solved with the help of the aunt.” The Had-I-But-Known mystery novel is one where the principal character (frequently female) does things in connection with a crime that have the effect of prolonging the action of the novel. Ogden Nash parodied the school in his poem Don’t Guess Let Me Tell You: “Sometimes the Had I But Known then what I know now I could have saved at least three lives by revealing to the Inspector the conversation I heard through that fortuitous hole in the floor.”
The phrase “The butler did it,” which has become a cliché, came from Rinehart’s novel The Door, in which the butler actually did murder someone, although that exact phrase does not appear in the work. Tim Kelly adapted Rinehart’s play into a musical, The Butler Did It, Singing. This play includes five lead female roles and five lead male roles.
Novels and plays
• The Man in Lower Ten (1906)
• The Double Life (play, 1906)
• The Circular Staircase (1908)
• The Mystery of 1122 (1909)
• Seven Days (Broadway comedy, with Avery Hopwood, 1909)
• The Window at the White Cat (1910) revision of The Mystery of 1122
• When A Man Marries, or Seven Days (1910) novel version of play Seven Days
• Where There’s a Will (1912)
• Cheer Up (play, 1912) produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille
• The Cave on Thundercloud (Part of “More Tish”) (1912)
• Mind Over Motor (Part of “Tish”) (1912)
• The Case of Jennie Brice (1913)
• The Street of Seven Stars (1914)
• The After House: A Story of Love, Mystery and a Private Yacht (1914)
• K. (1915)
• Bab, a Sub-Deb (1916)
• Long Live the King! (1917)
• The Amazing Interlude (1918)
• Twenty-Three and a Half Hours’ Leave (1918)
• Dangerous Days (1919)
• Tumble In (play, 1919) musical version of Seven Days
• Salvage (Part of “More Tish”) (1919)
• A Poor Wise Man (1920)
• The Truce of God (1920)
• The Bat (play, with Avery Hopwood, 1920)
• Spanish Love (play, with Avery Hopwood, 1920)
• The Confession (1921)
• The Breaking Point (1922)
• The Breaking Point (play, 1923)
• The Red Lamp (1925)
• The Mystery Lamp (1925)
• The Bat (1926 novelization of 1920 play originally written with Avery Hopwood)
• Lost Ecstasy (1927)
• This Strange Adventure (1928)
• Two Flights Up (1928)
• The Door (1930)
• The Double Alibi (1932)
• The Album (1933)
• The State vs. Elinor Norton (1933)
• The Doctor (1936)
• The Wall (1938)
• The Great Mistake (1940)
• The Haunted Lady (1942)
• The Yellow Room (1945)
• A Light in the Window (1948)
• Episode of the Wandering Knife (1950)
• The Swimming Pool (1952)
• Letitia (Tish) Carberry
• The Amazing Adventures of Letitia Carberry (1911)
• Tish: The Chronicle of Her Escapades and Excursions (1916)
• More Tish (1921)
• The Book of Tish (1926)
• Tish Plays the Game (1926)
• Tish Marches On (1937)
• Hilda Adams
• The Buckled Bag (1914)
• Locked Doors (1914)
• Miss Pinkerton (1932)
• Haunted Lady (1942)
• The Secret (1950)
Short story collections
• Love Stories (1919)
• Affinities: and Other Stories (1920)
• Sight Unseen (1921)
• Temperamental People (1924)
• Nomad’s Land (1926)
• The Romantics (1929)
• Mary Roberts Rinehart’s Crime Book (1933)
• Married People (1937)
• Familiar Faces: Stories of People You Know (1941)
• Alibi for Isabel and Other Stories (1944)
• The Frightened Wife and Other Murder Stories (1953) (Special Edgar Award, 1954)
• Through Glacier Park in 1915 / Seeing America First with Howard Eaton (with Illustrations) (1915)
• Tenting Tonight: A Chronicle of Sport and Adventure in Glacier Park and Cascade Mountains (1918) by Mary Roberts Rinehart, first published in Cosmopolitan (1917)
• The Out Trail (1923)
• Nomad’s Land (1926)
• Kings, Queens, and Pawns: An American Woman at the Front (1915)
• My Story (1931, revised 1948)
• “Isn’t That Just Like a Man!” (1920) published in one volume together with Oh! Well! You Know How Women Are! by Irvin S. Cobb
Film and TV adaptations
• 1914 – Jane (story) – short film
• 1914 – At the Foot of the Hill (story) – short film
• 1915 – The Cave on Thunder Cloud (story) – short film
• 1915 – Mind Over Motor (novel) – short film
• 1915 – Tish’s Spy (story) – short film
• 1915 – The Circular Staircase (novel)
• 1915 – Affinities (story) – short film
• 1915 – The Papered Door (story) – short film
• 1915 – What Happened to Father (story)
• 1916 – Acquitted (story)
• 1917 – Bab’s Diary (story)
• 1917 – Bab’s Burglar (story)
• 1917 – Bab’s Matinee Idol (story)
• 1918 – The Doctor and the Woman (novel K.)
• 1918 – The Street of Seven Stars (novel)
• 1918 – Her Country First (story “The G.A.C.”)
• 1919 – 23½ Hours’ Leave (story)
• 1920 – Dangerous Days (novel) / (titles)
• 1920 – It’s a Great Life (story “Empire Builders”)
• 1922 – Affinities (story)
• 1922 – The Glorious Fool (stories “In the Pavillion” and “Twenty-Two”)
• 1923 – Long Live the King (book)
• 1924 – The Silent Watcher (story “The Altar on the Hill”)
• 1924 – Her Love Story (story “Her Majesty, the Queen”)
• 1924 – K — The Unknown (novel K.)
• 1925 – Seven Days (play co-written with Avery Hopwood)
• 1926 – The Bat (play The Bat)
• 1927 – City of Shadows (story)
• 1927 – The Unknown (novel “K” – uncredited)
• 1927 – What Happened to Father? (story)
• 1927 – Aflame in the Sky (story)
• 1928 – Finders Keepers (story “Make Them Happy”)
• 1930 – The Bat Whispers (based upon play The Bat)
• 1931 – I Take This Woman (novel Lost Ecstacy)
• 1932 – Miss Pinkerton (novel)
• 1934 – Elinor Norton (novel The State vs. Elinor Norton)
• 1935 – Mr. Cohen Takes a Walk (novel)
• 1937 – 23½ Hours Leave (story)
• 1941 – The Dog in the Orchard (story) – short film
• 1941 – The Nurse’s Secret (novel Miss Pinkerton)
• 1942 – Tish (stories)
• 1952 – Robert Montgomery Presents (TV series) (novel The Wall)
• 1953 – Your Favorite Story (TV series) (story “Strange Journey”)
• 1953 – Broadway Television Theatre (TV series) – The Bat
• 1956 – Star Stage (TV series) (story “I Am Her Nurse”)
• 1954–56 – Ford Television Theatre (TV series) – The Unlocked Door (1954) original story/Autumn Fever (1956)
• 1954–56 – Climax! (TV series) – The After House (1954)/The Circular Staircase (1956)
• 1957 – Telephone Time (TV series) – Novel Appeal. Claudette Colbert portrayed Rinehart in the story of the genesis of the novel The After House.
• 1959 – The Bat (play) with Agnes Moorehead and Vincent Price
• 1960 – Dow Hour of Great Mysteries (TV series) – The Bat
• 1978 – Der Spinnenmörder (TV movie) based on The Bat
• Crime fiction
• Detective fiction
• List of female detective characters
***Patty claps hands cheering!
Great article Miss Phyllis.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Phyllis Staton Campbell, who was born blind, writes about the world she knows best. She calls on her experience as teacher of the blind, peer counselor and youth transition coordinator. She says that she lives the lives of her characters: lives of sorrow and joy; triumph and failure; hope and despair. That she and her characters sometimes see the world in a different way, adds depth to the story. She sees color in the warmth of the sun on her face, the smell of rain, the call of a cardinal, and God, in a rainbow of love and grace.
Although she was born in Amherst County, Virginia, she has lived most of her life in Staunton, Virginia, where she serves as organist at historic Faith Lutheran church, not far from the home she shared with her husband, Chuck, who waits beyond that door called death.
She is a graduate of the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind (DPT for the Blind). Further education, Lynchburg College, Lynchburg, Virginia; Creative Writing, The Hadley Institute for the Blind; Creative Writing Creative Writing Institute; Novel Writing University of Wisconsin-Madison
Books by Phyllis Campbell.
New Release 2017
Where Sheep May Safely Graze
Other books by Phyllis Campbell…
COME HOME MY HEART, 1985.
REPRINTED IN 2001
FRIENDSHIPS IN THE DARK, 1996 Reprint 1997
The Evil Men Do 2006, true crime, written under contract for the family of the victim.
Who Will hear Them Cry, April, 2012
A Place To Belong August, 2012
Out of the Night February, 2014
If you would like to contact Phyllis email her at: Pcampbell16@verizon.net
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