Mary Roberts Rinehart
In her prime, American novelist and playwright Mary Roberts Rinehart was more famous than Agatha Christie. Originator of the phrase "The butler did it," she is best known for her mystery stories—including The Circular Staircase, The Man in Lower Ten, and Tish—which combine murder, love, ingenuity, and humor in a style that is uniquely her own. Several of her suspense novels were turned into Broadway successes, including The Bat (which was derived from The Circular Staircase).
Mary Roberts was born in Allegheny Pittsburgh in 1876. In 1896 Mary graduated from the Pittsburgh Training School for Nurses, married physician Stanley Rinehart, and started a family. Financial losses drove Mary to take up a writing career in 1903. Childhood memories such as the nearby state penitentiary, the one-armed policeman, and a mute neighbor inspired her novels. Five years later, her first novel, The Circular Staircase, became an instant success.
In addition to her novels, the public grew to know Mary through the magazine serials and essays that she wrote for the Saturday Evening Post. During World War I, Mary served as a war correspondent and was one of the few that were allowed to report directly from the trenches. At the time of her death in 1958, her books had sold more than 10 million copies.