Agatha Christie

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Agatha Mary Clarissa, Lady Mallowan, Order of the British Empire DBE (September 15, 1890 – January 12, 1976), also known as Dame Agatha Christie, was an English crime fiction writer. She also wrote romances under the name Mary Westmacott, but is remembered for her 80 mystery novels, particularly those featuring detectives Hercule Poirot or Jane Marple, which have earned her the sobriquet 'Queen of Crime' and made her one of the most important and innovative writers in the development of the mystery novel.

Her appeal is so large that Christie is often cited, by the Guinness Book of World Records and others, as the all-time best-selling writer of fiction, and the best-selling writer of any kind second only to William Shakespeare. An estimated billion copies of her novels have been sold in English, and another billion in 103 other languages.[1] As an example of her broad appeal, she is the all-time best-selling author in France, with over 40 million copies sold in French (as of 2003) versus 22 million for Emile Zola, the nearest contender. She is purportedly outsold only by the Bible.

Agatha Christie’s life was at least as colorful as a character from one of her own novels. Her travels with her second husband to the Middle East provided the backdrop for some of her most memorable novels, (Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile.) The first being one of Christie’s own favorites along with The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, (1935) a breakthrough novel for Christie due largely to its unusual plot twist.

Christie’s books provide the reader with a window into everyday English life and its ordinary people. In the cloak and dagger setting of country lanes, mysterious fog, and drizzling rain, the reader can suspend moral judgment and be simply entertained by her masterful plot intricacies. Her storytelling weaves a yarn filled with suspense in the classic style of a who-done-it and gives new meaning to the cliched phrase, “as the plot thickens.” Her cliffhanger endings leave the reader stunned.

Contents

Her two most beloved characters were reflections on her own wry observations about human nature based on her own personal experiences. Miss Marple, cantankerous but wise, was purportedly based on Christie’s real-life grandmother. She exemplifies the quintessential, acerbic, spinster detective whose clever investigations never fail to outwit the criminal mind. She relied on her feminine sensitivity and empathy while Hercules Poirot, the narcissistic Belgian detective, used logic and and rational methods to solve the crimes. She said in her diary, that she had always found Poirot insufferable' and on another occasion she said, “If I was to be born over again, a woman, always.”

Early Life and Marriage

A plaque from the Agatha Christie Mile at Torre Abbey in Torquay.

Agatha (Miller) Christie was born in the town of Torquay, along the Devon coast, to an American father and a British mother. She never claimed or held U.S. citizenship. Many of her novels (such as And Then There Were None) were set in and around the location of her childhood home.

Her childhood was a happy but sometimes lonely one. Christie's own mother, Clara, (Clara Miller) was fascinated with the occult and often told her daughter bedtime stories of mystery and adventure. She encouraged the young Agatha to write and their travels together to France and Egypt provided her first taste of foreign places. The budding writer was influenced by great literature from Emily Bronte to Lord Byron and loved the poetry of Emily Dickinson. Her older sister Madge encouraged her in the detective writing genre and challenged her to write a story in which the least suspecting character is the murderer. This would become a favorite stratagem of Christie's.

She was schooled at the Miller family home, Ashfield. She loved to read and also enjoyed piano, singing, dancing and tennis. Christie had hopes of becoming an opera singer and had studied music in Paris, but she was never able to establish a professional career in music.

Christie's father, Frederick Miller, died when she was 11, and as a result the family struggled for many years to retain their country estate.

At the age of 24 she married Colonel Archibald Christie, an aviator in the Royal Flying Corps, on Christmas Eve in 1914 just as WWI was beginning. Her first book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, was written in 1920 and introduced Hercule Poirot. She would write at least one book almost every year for the rest of her life.

The marriage to Christie ended disastrously when her husband announced he wanted to marry a much younger woman and a mutual friend of theirs. She granted him a divorce, although reluctantly, in 1928. The couple had one daughter, Rosalind Hicks. Following her divorce, Christie entered a period of great prolificness in her writing. This was the first, but not last, time that Christie would turn to writing as a refuge from difficulty.

During World War I she worked as a Red Cross volunteer nurse at a hospital and then a pharmacy, a job that also influenced her work: many of the murders in her books are carried out with poison. (See also cyanide, thallium.)

A Mysterious Disappearance

In December 1926 she disappeared for several days, causing quite a storm in the press. Her car was found in a chalk pit. She was eventually found staying at a hotel in Harrogate, under an assumed name, where she claimed to have suffered amnesia due to a nervous breakdown. The death of her mother and her husband's confessed infidelity, all in the same year, precipitated the incident. Christie herself added to the controversy by not being very forthcoming with the press. She always had an almost reclusive relationship towards the public. Her own family, for many years, remained committed to silence about this incident in an effort to preserve her privacy. The disappearance and its aftermath led to endless speculation by the press that Christie either staged a hoax to retaliate against her philandering husband or, as was more likely the case, that she was suicidal and depressed. What is known is that the disappearance of the famous detective writer added to her mystique and increased sales of her novels.

Second Marriage and the Middle East

Seeking solitude and retreat from her recent divorce and the publicity which surrounded her disappearance, Agatha embarked on a solo adventure in 1928. She traveled alone on a deluxe train, the Orient Express. Her destination was Baghdad. She enjoyed her stay in Baghdad so much she returned there the following year.

It was on her second trip that she met Sir Max Mallowan. In 1930, Christie married Mallowan. Her travels with him contributed background detail for several of her novels set in the Middle East. Over the decades, they would travel throughout Syria and Iraq. Mallowan working on archaeological digs and Christie writing many of her most popular mysteries. If archaelogy was Max's profession, it was now Agatha's favorite past time. The couple had many wonderful experiences together on their archaeological digs where fans would often visit to catch sight of the now famous writer.

Later one of their trusted employees and a mutual friend, Barbara Parker, entered into a liaison with Max that would overshadow the rest of their married life together. Christie's marriage to Mallowan did stay intact despite his infidelity. Philosophically, Christie was to reflect on love towards the end of her life by commenting on glamor and desire, saying, "that is but the 'showy flower'. Real love is the root, out of sight and nothing much to look at, but where life really is." Christie, despite her heartaches in love, never lost her faith in God or human goodness. There is no moral confusion in her books: victims are vindicated while villains are expunged. The adulterers in Christie's novels all meet with unpleasant endings.

Agatha Christie's room at the Pera Palas hotel where she wrote Murder on the Orient Express.

Christie's immensely popular novel, later made into a movie, Murder on the Orient Express (1934) was written in the Pera Palas hotel in Istanbul, Turkey, the southern terminus of the railroad. The hotel maintains Christie's room as a memorial to the author. Christie lamented the invention of the airplane gaining preference over what she saw as more romantic forms of travel, such as the train and steam ship. Many of her novels take place on these slower modes of travel and Christie herself enjoyed immensely the Orient Express train where she could "watch life go by."

The Final Chapter

In an unusual effort to leave an inheritance for her husband and daughter, Christie put two of her manuscripts in a bank vault intending for them to be published after her death. They were to be the final cases—the great denouement—of her two stalwart detectives, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple—respectively, in Curtain and Sleeping Murder. When she wrote the novels, intended for posthumous publication, Christie had not anticipated her own longevity. Following the success of the film version of Murder on the Orient Express in 1974, Christie authorized the release of Curtain , in which Poirot is killed off. After Miss Marple solves the mystery in Sleeping Murder, she returns home to her ordinary life in Saint Mary Mead.

In an attempt to avoid further speculation and scrutiny concerning her personal life, always an anathema to Christie, she wrote her own autobiography, Agatha Christie: An Autobiography which was published in 1977.

Agatha Christie died on January 12, 1976, at age 85 from natural causes, at Winterbrook House, Cholsey near Wallingford, Oxfordshire. She is buried at St. Mary's Churchyard in Cholsey, Oxon.

Christie's only child, Rosalind Hicks, died on October 28, 2004, also aged 85, from natural causes. Christie's grandson, Mathew Prichard, now owns the royalties to his grandmother's works.

Awards and Honors

Agatha Christie won the Commander of the Order of the British Empire decoration in 1956 for being the most popular British crime mystery writer. Her husband received the same decoration in 1960, his for archaeology. Max received a knighthood in 1968, giving them the titles of Sir Max and Lady Mallowan. Agatha received an Order of Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1971 from Queen Elizabeth II.

Her play The Mousetrap holds the record for the longest run ever in London, opening at the Ambassadors Theatre on November 25, 1952, and as of 2006 is still running after more than 20,000 performances. This play was originally written as a radio play in honor of Queen Mary's birthday. It was at first titled, Three Blind Mice. Christie, obviously having fun with the nomenclature of her books and plays, often named them after British nursery rhymes.

In 1955, Christie was the first recipient of the Mystery Writers of America's highest honor, the Grand Master Award, and in the same year, Witness for the Prosecution was given an Edgar Award by the MWA, for Best Play. Most of her books and short stories have been filmed, some many times over (Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, 4.50 From Paddington), and most have also been adapted for television and radio. A 1979 film, Agatha, starring Vanessa Redgrave as Christie, recounted a fictionalized version of the disappearance.

References

  • Cade, Jared. Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days. London: Peter Owen Publishers, 1998. ISBN 0720610559
  • Christie, Agatha. Agatha Christie: An Autobiography. New York: Berkley Books, 1977. ISBN 0425127397
  • Dommermuth-Costa, Carol. Agatha Christie: Writer of Mystery. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications Company, 1997. ISBN 0822549549
  • Gill, Gillian. Agatha Christie: The Woman and Her Mysteries. New York, NY: The Free Press, 1990. ISBN 002911702X
  • Brunson, Matthew. The Complete Christie: An Agatha Christie Encyclopedia, Pocket Books, 2000. ISBN 0671028316
  • Christie, Agatha. Agatha Christie: An Autobiography. Berkeley Publishing Group, Reprint edition, 1996. ISBN 042515260X

Works

Novels

  • 1920 The Mysterious Affair at Styles (introducing Hercule Poirot, Chief Inspector Japp and Captain Hastings)
  • 1922 The Secret Adversary (introducing Tommy and Tuppence)
  • 1923 Murder on the Links
  • 1924 The Man in the Brown Suit
  • 1925 The Secret of Chimneys
  • 1926 The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
  • 1927 The Big Four
  • 1928 The Mystery of the Blue Train
  • 1929 The Seven Dials Mystery
  • 1930 The Murder at the Vicarage (introducing Miss Jane Marple)
  • 1931 The Sittaford Mystery (also known as Murder at Hazelmore)
  • 1932 Peril at End House
  • 1933 Lord Edgware Dies (also known as Thirteen at Dinner)
  • 1934 Murder on the Orient Express
  • 1935 Three Act Tragedy (also known as Murder in Three Acts)
  • 1935 Why Didn't They Ask Evans? (also known as The Boomerang Clue)
  • 1935 Death in the Clouds (also known as Death in the Air)
  • 1936 The A.B.C. Murders (also known as The Alphabet Murders)
  • 1936 Murder in Mesopotamia
  • 1936 Cards on the Table
  • 1937 Death on the Nile
  • 1937 Dumb Witness (also known as Poirot Loses a Client)
  • 1938 Appointment with Death
  • 1939 And Then There Were None (also known as Ten Little Indians)
  • 1939 Murder is Easy (also known as Easy to Kill)
  • 1939 Hercule Poirot's Christmas (also known as Murder for Christmas and A Holiday for Murder)
  • 1940 Sad Cypress
  • 1941 Evil Under the Sun
  • 1941 N or M?
  • 1941 One, Two, Buckle My Shoe (also known as An Overdose of Death and The Patriotic Murders)
  • 1942 The Body in the Library
  • 1942 Five Little Pigs (also known as Murder in Retrospect)
  • 1942 The Moving Finger
  • 1944 Towards Zero
  • 1944 Sparkling Cyanide (also known as Remembered Death)
  • 1945 Death Comes as the End
  • 1946 The Hollow (also known as Murder After Hours)
  • 1948 Taken at the Flood (also known as There is a Tide)
  • 1949 Crooked House
  • 1950 A Murder is Announced
  • 1951 They Came to Baghdad
  • 1952 Mrs McGinty's Dead (also known as Blood Will Tell)
  • 1952 They Do It with Mirrors
  • 1953 A Pocket Full of Rye
  • 1953 After the Funeral (also known as Funerals are Fatal and Murder at the Gallop)
  • 1955 Hickory Dickory Dock (also known as Hickory Dickory Death)
  • 1955 Destination Unknown (also known as So Many Steps to Death)
  • 1956 Dead Man's Folly
  • 1957 4.50 From Paddington (also known as What Mrs. McGillycuddy Saw)
  • 1957 Ordeal by Innocence
  • 1959 Cat Among the Pigeons
  • 1961 The Pale Horse
  • 1962 The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side (also known as The Mirror Crack'd)
  • 1963 The Clocks
  • 1964 A Caribbean Mystery
  • 1965 At Bertram's Hotel
  • 1966 Third Girl
  • 1967 Endless Night
  • 1968 By the Pricking of My Thumbs
  • 1969 Hallowe'en Party
  • 1970 Passenger to Frankfurt
  • 1971 Nemesis
  • 1972 Elephants Can Remember
  • 1973 Akhnaton - A play in three acts
  • 1973 Postern of Fate (final Tommy and Tuppence, last novel Christie wrote)
  • 1975 Curtain (Poirot's last case, written four decades earlier)
  • 1976 Sleeping Murder (Miss Marple's last case, written four decades earlier)

Collections of Short Stories

  • 1924 Poirot Investigates (eleven short stories)
  • 1929 Partners in Crime (fifteen short stories)
  • 1930 The Mysterious Mr. Quin (twelve short stories; introducing Mr. Harley Quin)
  • 1933 The Hound of Death (twelve short mysteries)
  • 1933 The Thirteen Problems (thirteen short mysteries; featuring Miss Marple, also known as The Tuesday Club Murders)
  • 1934 Parker Pyne Investigates (twelve short mysteries; introducing Parker Pyne and Ariadne Oliver, also known as Mr. Parker Pyne, Detective)
  • 1934 The Listerdale mystery (twelve short mysteries)
  • 1937 Murder in the Mews (four short stories; featuring Hercule Poirot)
  • 1939 The Regatta Mystery and Other Stories (nine short stories)
  • 1947 The Labors of Hercules (twelve short mysteries; featuring Hercule Poirot)
  • 1948 The Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories (eleven short stories)
  • 1950 Three Blind Mice and Other Stories (nine short stories)
  • 1951 The Under Dog and Other Stories (nine short stories)
  • 1960 The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding (six short stories)
  • 1961 Double Sin and Other Stories (eight short stories)
  • 1971 The Golden Ball and Other Stories (fifteen short stories)
  • 1974 Poirot's Early Cases (eighteen short mysteries)
  • 1979 Miss Marple's Final Cases and Two Other Stories (eight short stories)
  • 1992 Problem at Pollensa Bay (eight short stories)
  • 1997 The Harlequin Tea Set (nine short stories)

Co-authored Works

  • 1930 Behind The Screen written together with Hugh Walpole, Dorothy L. Sayers, Anthony Berkeley, E. C. Bentley and Ronald Knox of the Detection Club. Published in 1983 in The Scoop and Behind The Screen.
  • 1931 The Scoop written together with Dorothy L. Sayers, E. C. Bentley, Anthony Berkeley, Freeman Wills Crofts and Clemence Dane of the Detection Club. Published in 1983 in The Scoop and Behind The Screen.
  • 1931 The Floating Admiral written together with G. K. Chesterton, Dorothy L. Sayers and certain other members of the Detection Club.

Plays adapted into novels by Charles Osborne

  • 1998 Black Coffee
  • 2001 The Unexpected Guest
  • 2003 The Spider's Web

Works written as Mary Westmacott

  • 1930 Giant's Bread
  • 1934 Unfinished Portrait
  • 1944 Absent in the Spring
  • 1948 The Rose and the Yew Tree
  • 1952 A Daughter's a Daughter
  • 1956 The Burden

Plays

  • 1928 Alibi
  • 1930 Black Coffee
  • 1936 Love from a Stranger
  • 1937 or 1939 A Daughter's a Daughter (Never Performed)
  • 1940 Peril at End House
  • 1943 And Then There Were None (aka Ten Little Indians)
  • 1945 Appointment with Death
  • 1946 Murder on the Nile/Hiddon Horizon
  • 1949 Murder at the Vicarage(dramatized from her novel by Moie Charles and Barbara Toy)
  • 1951 The Hollow
  • 1952 The Mousetrap
  • 1953 Witness for the Prosecution
  • 1954 The Spider's Web
  • 1956 Towards Zero
  • 1958 Verdict
  • 1958 The Unexpected Guest
  • 1960 Go Back for Murder
  • 1962 Rule of Three
  • 1972 Fiddler's Three (Originally written as Fiddler's Five. Never published. Final play she wrote.)
  • 1973 Aknaton (Written in 1937)
  • 1977 Murder is Announced
  • 1981 Cards on the Table
  • 1992 Problem at Pollensa Bay
  • 1993 Murder is Easy
  • 2005 And Then There Were None

Radio Plays

  • 1937 The Yellow Iris
  • 1947 Three Blind Mice (The Mousetrap)
  • 1948 Butter In a Lordly Dish
  • 1960 Personal Call

Television Plays

  • 1937 Wasp's Nest

Movie Adaptations

Agatha Christie is no stranger to the cinema. Over the last 78 years, Poirot, Miss Marple, Tommy and Tuppence, Mr. Quin, Parker Pyne, and many others have been portrayed on numerous occasions:

  • 1928 Die Abenteuer G.m.b.H. (The Secret Adversary)
  • 1928 The Passing of Mr. Quinn
  • 1931 Alibi
  • 1931 Black Coffee
  • 1934 Lord Edgware Dies
  • 1937 Love From A Stranger
  • 1945 And Then There Were None
  • 1947 Love From A Stranger
  • 1957 Witness for the Prosecution
  • 1960 The Spider's Web
  • 1962 Murder, She Said (Based on 4.50 From Paddington)
  • 1963 Murder at the Gallop (Based on After the Funeral)
  • 1964 Murder Most Foul (Based on Mrs. McGinty's Dead)
  • 1964 Murder Ahoy! (An original Movie, not based on any of the books)
  • 1966 And Then There Were None (Ten Little Indians)
  • 1966 The Alphabet Murders (Based on The ABC Murders)
  • 1972 Endless Night
  • 1974 Murder on the Orient Express
  • 1975 And Then There Were None (Ten Little Indians)
  • 1978 Death on the Nile
  • 1980 The Mirror Crack'd
  • 1982 Evil Under the Sun
  • 1984 Ordeal by Innocence
  • 1988 Appointment with Death
  • 1989 And Then There Were None (Ten Little Indians)

Television

  • 1938 Love from a Stranger
  • 1947 Love from a Stranger
  • 1949 Ten Little Indians
  • 1959 Ten Little Indians
  • 1970 Murder at the Vicarage
  • 1980 Why Didn't They Ask Evans?
  • 1982 The Spider's Web
  • 1982 The Seven Dials Mystery
  • 1982 The Agatha Christie Hour
  • 1982 Murder is Easy
  • 1982 The Witness for the Prosecution
  • 1983 Partners in Crime
  • 1983 A Caribbean Mystery
  • 1983 Sparkling Cyanide
  • 1984 The Body in the Library
  • 1985 Murder With Mirrors
  • 1985 The Moving Finger
  • 1985 A Murder Is Announced
  • 1985 A Pocket Full of Rye
  • 1985 Thirteen At Dinner
  • 1986 Dead Man's Folly
  • 1986 Murder in Three Acts
  • 1986 Murder at the Vicarage
  • 1987 Sleeping Murder
  • 1987 At Bertram's Hotel
  • 1987 Nemesis (Christie)
  • 1987 4.50 From Paddington
  • 1989 The Man In The Brown Suit
  • 1989 Agatha Christie's Poirot
  • 1989 A Caribbean Mystery
  • 1990 Peril at End House
  • 1990 The Mysterious Affair at Styles
  • 1991 They Do It With Mirrors
  • 1992 The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side
  • 1994 Hercule Poirot's Christmas
  • 1995 Murder on the Links
  • 1995 Hickory Dickory Dock
  • 1996 Dumb Witness
  • 1997 The Pale Horse
  • 2000 The Murder of Rodger Ackroyd
  • 2000 Lord Edgware Dies
  • 2001 Evil Under the Sun
  • 2001 Murder on the Orient Express
  • 2001 Murder in Mesopotamia
  • 2003 Sparkling Cyanide
  • 2004 Five Little Pigs
  • 2004 Death on the Nile
  • 2004 Sad Cypress
  • 2004 The Hollow
  • 2004 Marple (TV play)
  • 2004 The Body in the Library
  • 2004 Murder at the Vicarage
  • 2004 Appointment with Death
  • 2005 A Murder is Announced
  • 2005 The Mystery of the Blue Train
  • 2005 Cards on the Table
  • 2005 Sleeping Murder
  • 2005 Taken at the Flood
  • 2006 After the Funeral
  • 2006 The Moving Finger
  • 2006 By the Pricking of My Thumbs
  • 2006 The Sittaford Mystery
  • 2007 Hercule Poirot's Christmas (A French film adaptation)

Video games

  • 1988 The Scoop, published by Spinnaker Software and Telarium
  • 2005 And Then There Were None, the Adventure Company, AWE Games
  • 2006 Murder On The Orient Express, Dream Catcher Interactive

Unpublished material

Snow Upon the Desert (novel)

The Greenshore Folly (novella, featuring Hercule Poirot)

Personal Call (radio play, featuring Inspector Narracott - a recording is in the British National Sound Archive)

Butter in a Lordly Dish (radio play)

The Green Gate (supernatural)

The War Bride (supernatural)

The Woman and the Kenite (horror)

Stronger than Death (supernatural)

Animation

In 2004, the Japanese broadcasting company Nippon Housou Kyoukai(NHK) turned Poirot and Marple into animated characters in the anime series Agatha Christie's Great Detectives Poirot and Marple, introducing Mabel West (daughter of Miss Marple's mystery-writer nephew Raymond West, a canonical Christie character) and her duck Oliver as new characters.

Agatha Christie in Fiction

Dame Agatha appears as one of the title characters, with Dorothy L. Sayers, in the fictional murder mystery Dorothy and Agatha by Gaylord Larsen. ISBN 052524865X

The Poisoned Chocolates Case by Anthony Berkeley contains characters based on Christie, Sayers, John Dickson Carr, and Chesterton. ISBN 0862208203

The movie Agatha (1979) is about a fictional solution to the real mystery of Agatha Christie's disappearance in 1926.

Notes

  1. http://uk.agathachristie.com/site/about_christie/queen_of_crime.php

External links

All links retrieved May 17, 2013.

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