Ruth Rendell in conversation with Peter Kemp talking about her life as a writer in the year that sees the 50th anniversary of From Doom to Death and the creation of Wexford.
Ruth Rendell’s first novel, From Doon with Death (1964), introduced Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford:
Fifty-two years old, the very prototype of an actor playing a top brass policeman…
I don’t have the joyous relationship with the Chief Inspector that people assume. I am often asked if I am in love with him, as lady writers of detective fiction are supposed to love their heroes. I always say that he should be in love with me — look what I’ve done for him!
Women love him. He seems to exude a particular sexual attraction which has something to do with an air of security and reliability and absolute safety. I know because women are always writing to me about it. They want me to kill off Dora so that they can marry Reg. They think that with such a man they would be safe for ever. They probably wouldn’t, of course. But that’s how they feel about him.
Wexford was always going to be a very big man… but I described him as an ugly man with irregular features and George is certainly not that. George is very handsome. But then, after a time, I began to see him as Reg. And now I could not imagine Reg Wexford any other way.
Of all the TV adaptations, the Wexfords are my favourites. And I’d say that owes even more to those two wonderful actors than to the adaptors…