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Improbable Fiction: The Life of Mary Roberts Rinehart
by Jan Cohn
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006
Cloth: 978-0-8229-3401-1 | eISBN: 978-0-8229-7293-8 | Paper: 978-0-8229-5912-0
Library of Congress Classification PS3535.I73Z6
Dewey Decimal Classification 813.52

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ABOUT THIS BOOK

The mystery stories and other popular fiction of Mary Roberts Rinehart (1876–1958) brought her wealth and fame, but she was much more than a writer.  She was a well-known American, respected and loved during a time when few women achieved national influence.


Her early life was conventional enough.  Trained as a nurse, she met and married a physician, with whom she had three sons. She was living the stereotypical life of a young matron in Allegheny (now part of Pittsburgh), when her husband’s investments evaporated during a stock market crash. She began writing as a means to supplement the family income.


Rinehart became a prolific writer.  In addition to her mysteries, she wrote serious fiction, plays, poems, magazine articles, and editorials. Her regular contributions to the <I>Saturday Evening Post</I> were immensely popular and helped the magazine mold middle-class taste and manners.


In this fascinating account of a woman ahead of her time, Cohn illuminates the tensions that pervaded Rinehart’s life.  Rinehart’s commercial success conflicted with her domestic roles of wife and mother; she often endured periods of illness and depression but also pursued adventure, including a job as the first woman war correspondent at the Belgian front during World War I. Throughout, Cohn presents Rinehart as a woman of many complexities whose zest for life always prevailed.



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