Agatha Christie

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Review of "Agatha Christie"

published 20/02/2008 | anonymili
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"Christie: The Undisputed Queen of Crime"

Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie

Imagine how pleased I was when I came across this category whereby one can write about authors and to find my favourite detective novel author, Dame Agatha Christie - undisputed "Queen of Crime", in here pleased me even more!


HER LIFE

Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born in Torquary in Devon on 15th September 1890 to Frederick Alvah Millier (an American stockbroker) and Clarissa Margaret Boehmer (the daughter of a British army captain). She had a sister eleven years her senior and a brother ten years her senior. Her father died when she was 11 and she was home-schooled by her mother until the age of 16 when she was sent to Mrs Dryden's finishing school in Paris.

She married her first husband, Colonel Archibald Christie when she was 24 and divorced him 14 years later as the marriage was an unhappy one. The couple had one child, a daughter, Rosalind Hicks. During this marriage Christie published her first novel in 1920, The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Two years before her divorce in 1928 Christie disappeared for 10 days, causing a lot of press attention with speculation rife as to her whereabouts. She was found at a hotel in Harrogate checked in under the name of the woman whom her husband had admitted to having an affair with and it was claimed that she had a breakdown bought on by her husband's cheating and mother's death. To this day it is not known if this was true or if it was a publicity stunt.

In 1930 Christie remarried. Her second husband was an archaeologist called Sir Max Mallowan who was 14 years her junior and although he also had numerous affairs she stay married to him till her death. Christie travelled extensively with her husband and these travels contributed towards backgrounds for her novels, several of which were set in the Middle East. She used real life experiences in her books, e.g. during World War I she worked first in a hospital and then at a pharmacy, learning about poisons to use facts about them in her books.

In 1971 Christie was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.


HER DEATH

Agatha Christie died on 12th January 1976 in Berkshire at the age of 85 of natural causes. Sir Max Mallowan married his mistress, Barbara Parker a year later. Her daughter Rosalind died 28 years later in 2004 leaving a son Mathew Prichard.


HER LEGACY

Christie created two very memorable detectives in her novels, namely the Belgian detective with the "little grey cells" Hercule Poirot and the intuitive and likeable elderly spinster Miss Jane Marple.

Poirot was first introduced in The Mysterious Affair at Styles and appeared in a further 30 or so novels and over 50 short stories and Miss Marple first appeared in The Murder At The Vicarage in 1930 and then in a further 11 novels and 20 short stories.

Interestingly enough Christie was not keen on her Poirot character and by the 1960s she had written in her diary that she felt he was an "ego-centre creep"! Very sensibly she resisted the urge to kill him off whilst he was still so popular with her readers which is why novels and stories featuring Poirot outnumber Miss Marple stories by more than double. Considering Christie was very fond of her Miss Marple character it was financially astute of her to keep Poirot going.

Christie finally killed off Poirot in Curtain in 1975 and he is to date the only fictional character that has had an obituary in the New York Times! Miss Marple was spared death and carried on life in St Mary Mead, the village mentioned in most of the books featuring Marple.

There were another team who featured as the main characters in Christie's books, namely Tommy and Tuppence, who unlike Poirot and Marple, actually aged from the first book they appeared in 1922, The Secret Adversary and the last they appeared in, Postern of Fate which was the last novel Christie wrote (although it wasn't the last one released to the public).

There were other recurring characters in Christie's book who were "supporting" characters such as Captain Arthur Hastings and Chief Inspector Japp in many of the Poirot stories as well as Ariadne Oliver, Superintendent Battle and Colonel Race.

Many of Christie's novels and short stories have been made into TV films and TV series. Poirot has been portrayed by Albert Finney, Peter Ustinov, Alfred Molina and David Suchet amongst other (Suchet being my favourite). Miss Marple has been played by Margaret Rutherfod and Helen Hayes. Joan Hickson played Miss Marple in a series called Miss Marple and to many like Suchet is identified with as Poirot, Hickson IS the perfect Miss Marple!

Christie also wrote six romance novels under the pen name of Mary Westmacott including A Daughter's a Daughter which was originally a play under her Christie name.

There is an official Agatha Christie website at http://uk.agathachristie.com/site/home/ which I understand is managed by her only grandson Mathew Pritchard who is the Chairman of Agatha Christie Limited. I found the site very interesting to browse around as it includes information about the author, her detectives, a shop, information on stories, extras such as games, ecards, screensavers and quotes as well as FAQs. You can join the website and get regular newsletters and other info about the author too.


CHRISTIE & ME

I've been a fan of Christie's from as far back as I can remember; probably my early teens. My mum used to read her novels and often passed on books to me as she knew we had very similar reading tastes. I can't quite remember the first book of Christie's that I read but I was hooked from the very first one. I do recall the very first one I bought for myself though and that was a hardback edition of A Murder is Announced.

Over the years I've built up my collection of Agatha Christie books and would say that I now own well over 50 of her detective fiction books and intend to keep going till I have collected them all. My collection includes mostly novels but also a handful of short story collections. I'm including here a list of some of the books I own, all of which I've read several times over:

• A Murder is Announced
• The Murder at the Vicarage
• Peril at End House
• Lord Edgware Died
• Death in the Clouds
• Murder on the Orient Express
• Spider's Webb (play)
• The ABC Murders
• Cards on the Table
• Dumb Witness
• Endless Night
• Evil Under the Sun
• Five Little Pigs
• Towards Zero
• Crooked House
• 4.50 from Paddington
• A Caribbean Mystery
• At Bertram's Hotel
• Murder on the Nile (play)
• Third Girl
• Sleepless Murder
• And Then There Were None (play)

The collections of short stories I currently own include:

• The Thirteen Problems
• The Harlequin Tea Set
• Poirot's Early Cases
• Regatta Mystery and Other Stories

Of the above books I would say that Towards Zero is somewhat different from what one would consider a "typical" Christie mystery, I can't tell you why as that would be giving away a major plot.

I can honestly say that I can't choose my favourite Christie novel and I got so much out of all of the ones I've read to date. I have not read Curtain - the novel in which Poirot is killed off as I don't want to read that until I've read every other book featuring this funny little Belgian detective who is rather pompous but someone I've become very attached to!

I do enjoy the way one can read a Christie novel and be kept guessing until the last pages as to who the culprit is. I was interested to read on wikipedia "On an edition of Desert Island Discs in 2007, Brian Aldiss recounted how Agatha Christie told him that she wrote her books up to the last chapter, and then decided who the most unlikely suspect was. She would then go back and make the necessary changes to "frame" that person."

Personally I've only been able to guess the correct culprit in two or three of all of the stories I've read to date.


ADDITIONAL TRIVIA

The Mousetrap play opened in London in November 1952 and holds the record for the longest running play with over 20,000 performances to date.

Only the Bible and Shakespeare have outsold Christie's novels which have sold over one billion copies in English and one billion in 45 other languages.

She is the all time best selling author in France with over 40 million copies sold in the French language.

In 1948 Agatha Christie made publishing history when she became the first crime writer to have 1,000,000 paperbacks published on the same day.

There are 2 London addresses, Sheffield Terrace and Cresswell Mews, with blue plaques to commemorate the fact that she lived there?

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) states that Christie is the most translated author (individual) in the world.

In 2000 at the annual Bouchercon Crime Convention she was named Crime Novelist of the Century.


WHERE CAN YOU BUY HER BOOKS

How long is a piece of string? Just about any bookseller will have Christie books in stock but if you're not prepared to pay the cover price for a book that you're not sure you're going to like, I'd suggest having a dig in your local charity shop when you can pick up books from as little as 20 pence. Of course, there's always eBay too!

If you do want to buy your own clean/new copy once you've sampled her work (which I'm fairly certain you will if you enjoy crime novels) here's a selection of places where you can find her books:

www.amazon.co.uk
www.whsmith.co.uk
www.abebooks.co.uk
www.wate rstones.com
www.samedaybooks.co.uk


END

I can safely say that I rate Agatha Christie as an author as 10 out of 10 with no hesitation. I've read detective fiction by other authors and no one has been able to come close to taking her place for me. I just love the way that there is such detail surrounding characters and events and places in all her books and there is no swearing or bad language in any of the books; nor are there any overly graphic scenes describing dead bodies or gratuitous sex or violence!

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Comments on this review

  • Mitsudan published 16/03/2008
    My favourite Marple actress has to be Margaret Rutherford for her comic touch. Lots of interesting facts there and I enjoyed reading the review. David
  • sk0680 published 05/03/2008
    Wonderful review, I love Miss Marple and Poirot on TV but have never read any Christie, (despite the thousands of books I read) no idea why, must be time to start! x
  • webfoot published 04/03/2008
    I fell in love with AG stories - again - during the TV series with Hercules Poirot when he was on Burgh Island (see my rview - no plug intended) It all seems so very Enid Blyton - a bygone era of super rich chums who just drifted from one place of absolute luxury tpo another - great stuff and very informative - are your collection all first editions?
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Author: Agatha Christie

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