Mary Renault, pseudonym of Mary Challans Biography
(1905–83), pseudonym of Mary Challans, The King Must Die, The Bull from the Sea
British novelist, born in London, educated at St Hugh's College, Oxford. She settled in South Africa after the Second World War. Her first five books were romantic novels. Travels in Greece led her to the work for which she is best known: eight carefully researched historical novels set in ancient Greece and Asia Minor. Her usual method—familiar, but in her case vividly effective—was to invent a fictional first-person narrator close to the great men of his age. The King Must Die (1958) and The Bull from the Sea (1962) retell the legend of Theseus. The Last of the Wine (1956), The Mask of Apollo (1966), and The Praise Singer (1979) conjure up the politicians, philosophers, dramatists, and poets of ancient Athens. Fire from Heaven (1970), The Persian Boy (1972), and Funeral Games (1981) together make up her most cohesive work, recreating the life and death of Alexander the Great, who was also the subject of her biography, The Nature of Alexander (1975).