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Mystery writer still raved about at 79

ENGLISH mystery writer Ruth Rendell has written more than 70 books but at the age of 79 has no plans to retire.

Her first novel was published in 1964 and her latest, "The Birthday Present," was released in the United States last week to rave reviews.

"I still, after all these years, love writing and I don't say I write well, but I write as well as I can," Rendell said yesterday.

If she ever began to write "on autopilot," she said she would "hate it so much I would just stop.

"I have to do my best and I would not see any point in it otherwise."

Best known as the creator of English sleuth Chief Inspector Wexford, Rendell wrote her latest novel under her pen name Barbara Vine, indicating a work featuring more psychological suspense than the detective fiction of the Wexford series.

Her award-winning books, which include "A Demon in My View" in 1976 and "Live Flesh" 10 years later, have been published in some 30 countries and adapted for television and film.

The Washington Post said in her latest novel the veteran writer displayed her trademark "matronly, almost magisterial tone that lends unexpected dignity to the goriest, creepiest material."

The novel tells a tale of sexual scandal and the price it extracts from those around it and explores some of her favorite themes of obsession and the impact of chance.

Rendell refused to classify the Vine novels into a genre, but said she based one of the main characters - a young, rich and handsome Conservative member of parliament - on her own experiences as a baroness and Labour member of the House of Lords.

"I knew exactly where to do my research and I knew a lot of people who would help me," she said.


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