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Dame Agatha Christie DBE (15 September 1890 12 January 1976), was an English crime writer of novels, short stories and plays. She also wrote romances under the name Mary Westmacott, but is best remembered for her 80 detective novels and her successful West End theatremarker plays. Her works, particularly those featuring detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple, have given her the title the 'Queen of Crime' and made her one of the most important and innovative writers in the development of the genre.

Christie has been referred to by the Guinness Book of World Records as the best-selling writer of books of all time and the best-selling writer of any kind, along with William Shakespeare. Only the Bible is known to have outsold her collected sales of roughly four billion copies of novels. Agatha Christie gets a clue for filmmakers Entertainment News, Michael Fleming, Media Variety UNESCOmarker states that she is currently the most translated individual author in the world with only the collective corporate works of Walt Disney Productions surpassing her. Christie's books have been translated into at least 56 languages.

Her stage play The Mousetrap holds the record for the longest initial run in the world: it opened at the Ambassadors Theatremarker in Londonmarker on 25 November 1952 and as of 2009 is still running after more than 23,000 performances. In 1955 Christie was the first recipient of the Mystery Writers of America's highest honour, 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 and 4.50 From Paddington for instance), and many have been adapted for television, radio, video games and comics.

In 1968 Booker Books, a subsidiary of the agri-industrial conglomerate Booker-McConnell, bought a 51 percent stake in Agatha Christie Limited, the private company that Christie had set up for tax purposes. Booker later increased its stake to 64 percent. In 1998, Booker sold its shares to Chorion, a company whose portfolio also includes the literary estates of Enid Blyton and Dennis Wheatley.

In 2004, a 5,000-word story entitled "The Incident of the Dog's Ball" was found in the attic of the author's daughter. It was published in Britain in September 2009. On November 10, 2009, Reuters announced that the story will be published by The Strand Magazine.

Biography

Early life and first marriage

Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born in Torquaymarker, Devonmarker, Englandmarker. Her mother, Clarissa Margaret Boehmer, was the daughter of a British army captain, but had been sent, as a child, to live with her own mother's sister, who was the second wife of a wealthy Americanmarker. Eventually Margaret married her stepfather's son from his first marriage, Frederick Alvah Miller, an American stockbroker. Thus the two women Agatha called "Grannie" were sisters. Despite her father's nationality as a "New Yorkermarker" and her aunt's relation to the Pierpont Morgans, Agatha never claimed United Statesmarker citizenship or connection.

The Millers had two other children: Margaret Frary Miller (1879–1950), called Madge, who was eleven years Agatha's senior, and Louis Miller (1880–1929), called Monty, ten years older than Agatha. Later, in her autobiography, Agatha would refer to her brother as "an amiable scapegrace of a brother".

During the First World War she worked at a hospital as a nurse; she liked the profession, calling it "one of the most rewarding professions that anyone can follow". She later worked at a hospital pharmacy, a job that influenced her work, as many of the murders in her books are carried out with poison.

Despite turbulent courtship, on Christmas Eve 1914 Agatha married Archibald Christie, an aviator in the Royal Flying Corps. The couple had one daughter, Rosalind Hicks. They divorced in 1928, two years after Christie discovered her husband was having an affair. It was during this marriage that she published her first novel in 1920, The Mysterious Affair at Styles. In 1924, she published a collection of mystery and ghost stories entitled The Golden Ball.

Disappearance

In late 1926 Agatha's husband Archie revealed that he was in love with another woman, Nancy Neele, and wanted a divorce. On 8 December 1926 the couple quarrelled, and Archie Christie left their house in Sunningdalemarker, Berkshire to spend the weekend with his mistress at Godalmingmarker, Surreymarker. That same evening Agatha disappeared from her home, leaving behind a letter for her secretary saying that she was going to Yorkshiremarker. Her disappearance caused an outcry from the public, many of whom were admirers of Agatha Christie's novels. Despite a massive manhunt, there were no results until eleven days later.

Eleven days after her disappearance, Christie was identified as a guest at the Swan Hydropathic Hotel (now the Old Swan Hotelmarker) in Harrogatemarker, Yorkshire where she was registered as 'Mrs Teresa Neele' from Cape Townmarker. Christie gave no account of her disappearance. Although two doctors had diagnosed her as suffering from amnesia, opinion remains divided as to the reasons for her disappearance. One suggestion is that she had suffered a nervous breakdown brought about by a natural propensity for depression, exacerbated by her mother's death earlier that year, and the discovery of her husband's infidelity. Public reaction at the time was largely negative with many believing it was all just a publicity stunt, whilst others speculated she was trying to make the police think her husband killed her as revenge for his affair.

Second marriage and later life

In 1930 Christie married archaeologist Max Mallowan after joining him in an archaeological dig. Their marriage was especially happy in the early years and remained so until Christie’s death in 1976. In 1977, Mallowan married his longtime associate, Barbara Parker.

Christie's travels with Mallowan contributed background to several of her novels set in the Middle East. Other novels (such as And Then There Were None) were set in and around Torquaymarker, Devonmarker where she was born. Christie's 1934 novel, Murder on the Orient Express was written in the Hotel Pera Palacemarker in Istanbulmarker, Turkeymarker, the southern terminus of the railway. The hotel maintains Christie's room as a memorial to the author. The Greenway Estatemarker in Devon, acquired by the couple as a summer residence in 1938, is now in the care of the National Trust. Christie often stayed at Abney Hallmarker in Cheshiremarker, which was owned by her brother-in-law, James Watts. She based at least two of her stories on the hall: The short story The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, which is in the story collection of the same name, and the novel After the Funeral. "Abney became Agatha's greatest inspiration for country-house life, with all the servants and grandeur which have been woven into her plots. The descriptions of the fictional Styles, Chimneys, Stoneygates and the other houses in her stories are mostly Abney in various forms."

During the Second World War Christie worked in the pharmacy at London’s University College Hospitalmarker, where she acquired a knowledge of poisons that she was to put to good use in her post-war crime novels. For example, the use of thallium as a poison was suggested to her by UCH Chief Pharmacist Harold Davis (later appointed Chief Pharmacist at the UK Ministry of Health), and in The Pale Horse, published in 1961, she employed it to dispatch a series of victims, the first clue to the murder method coming from the victims’ loss of hair. So accurate was her description of thallium poisoning that on more than one occasion it helped solve cases that were baffling doctors.

Agatha Christie's room at the Hotel Pera Palace, where she wrote Murder on the Orient Express.
To honour her many literary works, she was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1956 New Year Honours. The next year, she became the President of the Detection Club. In the 1971 New Year Honours she was promoted Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, three years after her husband had been knighted for his archeological work in 1968.

From 1971 to 1974, Christie's health began to fail; however, she continued to write. Recently, using experimental, computerized, textual tools of analysis, Canadian researchers have suggested that Christie may have begun to suffer from Alzheimer's disease or other dementia. In 1975, sensing her increasing weakness, Christie signed over the rights of her most successful play, The Mousetrap, to her grandson. Agatha Christie died on 12 January 1976, at age 85, from natural causes, at her Winterbrookmarker House in the north of Cholseymarker parish, adjoining Wallingfordmarker in Oxfordshire (formerly Berkshire). She is buried in the nearby churchyard of St Mary's, Cholsey.

Christie's only child, Rosalind Margaret Hicks died, also aged 85, on 28 October 2004 from natural causes, in Torbaymarker, Devon. Christie's grandson, Mathew Prichard, was heir to the copyright to some of his grandmother's literary work (including The Mousetrap) and is still associated with Agatha Christie Limited.

Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple

Agatha Christie's first novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles was published in 1920 and introduced the long-running character detective Hercule Poirot, who appeared in 33 of Christie's novels and 54 short stories.

Her other well known character, Miss Marple, was introduced in The Tuesday Night Club in 1927 (short story), and was based on women like Christie's grandmother and her "cronies".

During the Second World War, Christie wrote two novels, Curtain and Sleeping Murder, intended as the last cases of these two great detectives, Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple, respectively. Both books were sealed in a bank vault for over thirty years, and were released for publication by Christie only at the end of her life, when she realized that she could not write any more novels. These publications came on the heels of the success of the film version of Murder on the Orient Express in 1974.

Like Arthur Conan Doyle with Sherlock Holmes, Christie was to become increasingly tired of her detective, Poirot. In fact, by the end of the 1930s, Christie confided to her diary that she was finding Poirot “insufferable," and by the 1960s she felt that he was "an ego-centric creep." However, unlike Conan Doyle, Christie resisted the temptation to kill her detective off while he was still popular. She saw herself as an entertainer whose job was to produce what the public liked, and the public liked Poirot.

In contrast, Christie was fond of Miss Marple. However it is interesting to note that the Belgianmarker detective’s titles outnumber the Marple titles by more than two to one. This is largely because Christie wrote numerous Poirot novels early in her career, while The Murder at the Vicarage remained the sole Marple novel until the 1940s.

Christie never wrote a novel or short story featuring both Poirot and Miss Marple. In a recording, recently re-discovered and released in 2008, Christie revealed the reason for this: "Hercule Poirot, a complete egoist, would not like being taught his business or having suggestions made to him by an elderly spinster lady".

Poirot is the only fictional character to have been given an obituary in The New York Times, following the publication of Curtain in 1975.

Following the great success of Curtain, Christie gave permission for the release of Sleeping Murder sometime in 1976, but died in January 1976 before the book could be released. This may explain some of the inconsistencies compared to the rest of the Marple series — for example, Colonel Arthur Bantry, husband of Miss Marple's friend, Dolly, is still alive and well in Sleeping Murder despite the fact he is noted as having died in books published earlier. It may be that Christie simply did not have time to revise the manuscript before she died. Miss Marple fared better than Poirot, since after solving the mystery in Sleeping Murder she returns home to her regular life in St. Mary Mead.

On an edition of Desert Island Discs in 2007, Brian Aldiss claimed that 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. The evidence of Christie's working methods, as described by successive biographers, contradicts this claim.

Formula and plot devices

Almost all of Agatha Christie’s books are whodunits, focusing on the English middle and upper classes. Usually, the detective either stumbles across the murder or is called upon by an old acquaintance, who is somehow involved. Gradually, the detective interrogates each suspect, examines the scene of the crime and makes a note of each clue, so readers can analyze it and be allowed a fair chance of solving the mystery themselves. Then, about halfway through, or sometimes even during the final act, one of the suspects usually dies, often because they have inadvertently deduced the killer's identity and need silencing. In a few of her novels, including Death Comes as the End and And Then There Were None, there are multiple victims. Finally, the detective organizes a meeting of all the suspects and slowly denounces the guilty party, exposing several unrelated secrets along the way, sometimes over the course of thirty or so pages. The murders are often extremely ingenious, involving some convoluted piece of deception. Christie’s stories are also known for their taut atmosphere and strong psychological suspense, developed from the deliberately slow pace of her prose.

Twice, the murderer surprisingly turns out to be the narrator of the story.

In four stories, Christie allows the murderer to escape justice (and in the case of the last three, implicitly almost approves of their crimes); these are The Witness for the Prosecution, Murder on the Orient Express, Curtain and The Unexpected Guest. After the dénouement of Taken at the Flood, her sleuth Poirot has the guilty party arrested for the lesser crime of manslaughter. (When Christie adapted Witness into a stage play, she lengthened the ending so that the murderer was also killed.) There are also numerous instances where the killer is not brought to justice in the legal sense but instead dies (death usually being presented as a more 'sympathetic' outcome), for example Death on the Nile, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Crooked House, Appointment with Death and The Hollow. In some cases this is with the collusion of the detective involved. Five Little Pigs, and arguably Ordeal by Innocence, end with the question of whether formal justice will be done unresolved.

Critical reception

Agatha Christie was revered as a master of suspense, plot, and characterization by most of her contemporaries and, even today, her stories have received glowing reviews in most literary circles. Fellow crime writer Anthony Berkeley Cox was an admitted fan of her work, once saying that nobody can write an Agatha Christie novel but the authoress herself.

However, she does have her detractors, most notably the American novelist Raymond Chandler, who criticised her in his book, The Simple Art of Murder.

Stereotyping

Christie occasionally inserted stereotyped descriptions of characters into her work, particularly before the end of the Second World War (when such attitudes were more commonly expressed publicly), and particularly in regard to Italians, Jews, and non-Europeans generally. For example, in the first editions of the collection The Mysterious Mr Quin (1930), in the short story "The Soul of the Croupier," she described "Hebraic men with hook-noses wearing rather flamboyant jewellery"; in later editions the passage was edited to describe "sallow men" wearing same.

Portrayals

Christie has been portrayed on a number of occasions in film and television.

Several biographical programs have been made, such as the 2004 BBC television program entitled Agatha Christie: A Life in Pictures, in which she is portrayed by Olivia Williams, Anna Massey, and Bonnie Wright.

Christie has also been portrayed fictionally. Some of these have explored and offered accounts of Christie's disappearance in 1926, including the 1979 film Agatha (with Vanessa Redgrave) and the Doctor Who episode "The Unicorn and the Wasp" (with Fenella Woolgar). Others, such as 1980 Hungarian film, Kojak Budapesten (not to be confused with the 1986 comedy by the same name) create their own scenarios involving Christie's criminal skill. In the 1986 TV play, Murder by the Book, Christie herself (Peggy Ashcroft) murdered one of her fictional-turned-real characters, Poirot.

Christie has also been parodied on screen, such as in the film Murder by Indecision, which featured the character "Agatha Crispy".

List of works

See List of works by Agatha Christie

Other works based on Christie's books and plays

Plays adapted into novels by Charles Osborne



Plays adapted by other authors



Movie Adaptations

Year Title Story Based On Other Notes



Television Adaptations



Agatha Christie's Poirot television series

Episodes include:

Graphic novels

Euro Comics India began issuing a series of graphic novel adaptations of Christie's work in 2007.



HarperCollins independently began issuing this series also in 2007.

In addition to the titles issued the following titles are also planned for release:



Video games



Unpublished material

  • Snow Upon the Desert (romantic novel)
  • Personal Call (supernatural radio play, featuring Inspector Narracott; a recording is in the British Library Sound Archivemarker)
  • The Woman and the Kenite (horror: an Italian translation, allegedly transcribed from an Italian magazine of the 1920s, is available on the internet: La moglie del Kenita ).
  • Butter In a Lordly Dish (horror/detective radio play, adapted from The Woman and the Kenite)
  • Being So Very Wilful (romantic)
  • Two previously unpublished Poirot short stories are included in The Secret Notebooks of Agatha Christie by John Curran, published in 2009. (ISBN 0007310560)


Animation

In 2004 the Japanese broadcasting company Nippon Hōsō Kyōkaimarker 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.

See also



Notes

  1. Chorion
  2. Burton Frierson, Lost Agatha Christie story to be published, Reuters, November 10, 2009, accessed November 11, 2009.
  3. Morgan, Janet. Agatha Christie, A Biography. (Page 2) Collins, 1984 ISBN 0-00-216330-6
  4. Wagoner, Mary S. Agatha Christie. (Page 26) Twayne Publishers, 1986 ISBN 0805769366, 9780805769364
  5. Brief Biography of Agatha Christie Christie Bio
  6. Christie, p. 230
  7. Christie, pp. 215, 237
  8. The Harrogate Hydropathic hotel, nowadays the Old Swan Hotel, was also known as the Swan Hydro, because of its location on Swan Road, on the site of an earlier Old Swan Hotel. A Brief History of Harrogate
  9. Adams, Cecil, Why did mystery writer Agatha Christie mysteriously disappear? The Chicago Reader, 4/2/82. [1] Accessed 5/19/08.
  10. jbottero; "Agatha Christie's Hotel Pera Palace" http://virtualglobetrotting.com/map/51232/ 2008-06-05 23:08:11
  11. Agatha Christie: A Reader's Companion Vanessa Wagstaff and Stephen Poole, Aurum Press Ltd. 2004. Page 14. ISBN 1 84513 015 4.
  12. "Thallium poisoning in fact and fiction" http://www.pharmj.com/pdf/comment/pj_20061125_onlooker.pdf
  13. "Biography: Agatha Christie" Retrieved 22 February 2009; http://www.illiterarty.com/authors/biography-agatha-christie
  14. Kingston, Anne. “ The ultimate whodunit,” Maclean’s. 2 April 2009. (Retrieved 2009-08-28.)
  15. Boswell, Randy. “ Study finds possible dementia for Agatha Christie,” The Ottawa Citizen. 6 April 2009. (Retrieved 2009-08-28.)
  16. Devlin, Kate. “ Agatha Christie ‘had Alzheimer’s disease when she wrote final novels,’” The Telegraph. 4 April 2009. (Retrieved 2009-08-28.)
  17. Flood, Alison. “ Study claims Agatha Christie had Alzheimer’s,” The Guardian. 3 April 2009. (Retrieved 2009-08-28.)
  18. Thompson, Laura. Agatha Christie: An English Mystery. London: Headline Review. 2008. ISBN 978-0-7553-1488-1.
  19. Deaths England and Wales 1984-2006
  20. BBC:Dusty clues to Christie unearthed
  21. "Agatha Christie – Her Detectives and Other Characters" Retrieved 22 February, 2009 http://www.christiemystery.co.uk/detectives.html
  22. "Kojak Budapesten" 1990. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081006/plotsummary


References



Further reading

Articles

  • Agatha Christie's holiday home |url=http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/4785905/Agatha-Christies-holiday-home-opens-to-the-public.html|


Books

  • Reprinted as New York: Mysterious Press, 1987.


External links






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