Hi all: Like all Fridays I bring you a classic author. I think she’s a new classic, although to our minds she’s a true classic and the world of crime fiction wouldn’t be the same without her.
Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie (born Miller) was born in Torquay, Devon, in an Upper-Middle-Class family on 15th September 1890. Her mother was an Englishwoman born in Belfast and her father an American. She was home-schooled and she loved reading from a very young age. She spent most of her childhood travelling between Devon, London (to visit her step-grandmother and aunt), and on holidays in the South of Europe. It seems her family, although nominally Christian, had an interest in paranormal phenomena and they believed their mother, Clara, was a medium. Her father died when she was 11 of a heart attack (he was in poor health and had suffered from cardiac problems for some time). She was sent to Paris for education and attended three different schools.
When she came back to England in 1910 her mother was ill and they travelled together to Egypt, Cairo. On return to England she started writing some stories and a novel, although this was rejected. She met her first husband, Archibald (‘Archie’) Christie, at a dance. He had been born in India and joined the Air Force. During WWI he was sent to fight in France. Agatha got involved in the war effort and she got married to Archie on Christmas Eve in 1914. By 1918 he had become a colonel and was posted back in London.
Her first novel was The Mysterious Affair at Styles featuring Hercules Poirot. It was rejected by several publishers but finally published by The Bodley Head when she agreed to change the ending. She entered in a contract with them (that later she would find exploitative). She had long been a fan of crime novels, like Wilkie Collins’s and also those of my guest last week, Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.
She had a daughter in 1919 (Rosalynd). Her next novel was in 1922 The Secret Adversary with a new detective, Tommy and Tuppence, and alter another Poirot novel Murder on the Links (1923). To promote the British Empire Exhibition she travelled extensively with her husband leaving her daughter with her mother and sister. It seems they were amongst the first Britons to surf standing in Hawaii.
In 1926 her husband asked her for the divorce as he had fallen in love with the secretary (yes, I know it’s like the plot of a bad romantic novel; I guess it happens in real life too). They quarrelled, she left a note for the secretary saying she was going to Yorkshire and went missing in strange circumstances. There was public outrage, she was searched everywhere (even Doyle gave her glove to a medium…). After 10 days she appeared in a spa-hotel in Harrogate (to give her her due, it’s in Yorkshire, lovely place and very popular for waters and spas, and posh). She was registered at the hotel as ‘Mrs Teresa Neele’ from Cape Town. She never explained her disappearance and there has been much speculation about it. Trying to get back at her husband? Psychogenic fugue?
They eventually divorced in 1928 and she always kept the name for her writing.
She married Max Mallowan, an archaeologist, in 1930 and their marriage lasted until her death in 1976. She travelled extensively with him.
She set most of her novels in familiar places. Middle East, that she visited with her husband, Devon, Abner-Hall, owned by her brother-in-law James Watts, she wrote Murder at the Orient Express in Istambul where they were staying, near the southern terminus of the railway.
During WWII she worked in the Pharmacy at University College London and she learned about poisons that she would put to good use in later novels. She was investigated by MI5 who suspected she might have a spy in their code-breaking centre, Bletchley Park, as she names one of her characters Bletchley, but it seems that was not the case.
She was appointed Commander of the Order of British Empire in 1956, in 1976 she became Dame Commander of the same order, three years after her husband had been knighted for his archaeological work.
From 1971 to 1974 she started to become ill and signed the rights of The Mousetrap to her grandson.
She died on 12th January 1976 (she was 85) of natural causes and is buried at St Mary’s, Chorley.
Miss Marple first appeared in 1927 and it seems that she wrote the final novel of both Poirot and Marple many years in advance, keeping them in a vault and only publishing them in 1974 when she realised she could no longer write.
She became interested in archaeology in later life (probably in relation to her husband’s work) and it features prominently in many novels.
Wikipedia (fairly comprehensive including list of adaptations to TV and film):
Her Facebook page:
Her Goodreads page:
Her holiday home, Geenway, now a National Trust property:
For links to adaptations of her work, IMDB
Links to books:
In her case she’s a classic but a bit more modern than my previous guests, so I could find very cheap versions of her work, but most still in copyright. Of course you’ll find her in charity shops, libraries, second hand bookshops…I did find websites offering many of her novels in e-book format for free but as this should be pirate copies I decided not to share them.
Project Gutenberg offers only her two first novels here (that are now not on copyright any longer):
I promise I’ll go back to older classics, but couldn’t talk about Doyle and forget Christie…
Thanks for reading, I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and if you have, please, like, share, comment, and click!
- 11 Reasons Agatha Christie Was as Interesting as Her Characters (mentalfloss.com)
- Agatha Christie’s Poirot : The Big Four (2013) (ameliegsdiary.wordpress.com)
- Book Review: Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks (musingsofanaspiringscribbler.wordpress.com)
- David Suchet’s final Poirot episodes: the end of one of TV’s great castings (theguardian.com)
- Famous Birthday, Agatha Christie! (thebirthdayregister.wordpress.com)
- The pick of Halloween week TV: Agatha Christie’s Poirot, Dracula and a Celebrity Juice special (mirror.co.uk)
- Award-winning author Sophie Hannah to write new ‘Agatha Christie’ novel (panarmenian.net)