|Subject: ARCHIVE: January 12, 1976 ~English writer Dame Agatha Christie, best known for her 66 best-selling detective novels, and 14 short story collections, particularly those revolving around her fictional detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, dies at 85. ...
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Date Posted: Saturday, January 12, 02:28:50pm
Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie
[ Lady Mallowan, DBE (née Miller) ]
15 September 1890 – 12 January 1976)
English writer. She is known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections, particularly those revolving around her fictional detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. Christie also wrote the world's longest-running play, a murder mystery, The Mousetrap, and, under the pen name Mary Westmacott, six romances. In 1971 she was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for her contribution to literature.
Christie was born into a wealthy upper-middle-class family in Torquay, Devon. Before marrying and starting a family in London, she had served in a Devon hospital during the First World War, tending to troops coming back from the trenches. She was initially an unsuccessful writer with six consecutive rejections, but this changed when The Mysterious Affair at Styles, featuring Hercule Poirot, was published in 1920. During the Second World War, she worked as a pharmacy assistant at University College Hospital, London, acquiring a good knowledge of poisons which feature in many of her novels.
Guinness World Records lists Christie as the best-selling novelist of all time. Her novels have sold roughly 2 billion copies, and her estate claims that her works come third in the rankings of the world's most-widely published books, behind only Shakespeare's works and the Bible. According to Index Translationum, she remains the most-translated individual author, having been translated into at least 103 languages. And Then There Were None is Christie's best-selling novel, with 100 million sales to date, making it the world's best-selling mystery ever, and one of the best-selling books of all time. Christie's stage play The Mousetrap holds the world record for longest initial run. It opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in the West End on 25 November 1952, and as of September 2018 is still running after more than 27,000 performances.
In 1955, Christie was the first recipient of the Mystery Writers of America's highest honour, the Grand Master Award. Later the same year, Witness for the Prosecution received an Edgar Award by the MWA for Best Play. In 2013, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was voted the best crime novel ever by 600 fellow writers of the Crime Writers' Association. On 15 September 2015, coinciding with her 125th birthday, And Then There Were None was named the "World's Favourite Christie" in a vote sponsored by the author's estate. Most of her books and short stories have been adapted for television, radio, video games and comics, and more than thirty feature films have been based on her work.
Learn MORE of Life & Career of Agatha Christie ...
No Mystery With Agatha Christie's Standing Among All-Time Authors. …
SCOTT S. SMITH
Agatha Christie had a most unusual childhood for a top author. Her eccentric and superstitious mother was convinced that formal education would harm her mind before she was 8, and she wasn’t allowed to go to school and wasn’t taught to read.
So Agatha taught herself with the help of a nurse and by looking at books that had been read aloud to her. Her mother relented, and the girl developed a passion for books. That set her on the path to become the best-selling fiction writer of all time, with 2 billion copies sold of her 66 crime mystery novels and 14 volumes of short stories. She is also the most translated author, with her books published in 103 languages (more than Shakespeare).
“She became the iconic author of detective stories not just by creating convoluted plots that led to unexpected and delicious endings,” Andrew Neiderman, the author of 115 novels under his own name and as V. C. Andrews (the next is “The Incident” in July), told IBD. “She never lost sight of the need to develop complex characters that enable her stories to be so lifelike and lasting. We fall in love with Hercule Poirot, for example, even before he unravels the clues: His peculiarities and methods of detection capture our attention as much as the solution of the crime does. That’s a principle that can be applied to everything in life — build your foundation well and success will follow.”
British Rise …
Christie (1890-1976) was born into a wealthy family in Torquay in southwest England. Her mother was from Belfast, Northern Ireland, and her father was an American stockbroker.
“Agatha liked arithmetic and had a natural aptitude for music,” wrote Janet Morgan in “Agatha Christie: A Biography.” “She read voraciously, (with a library that included) compendia of general knowledge and books of lists and questions and answers, Jules Verne’s science fiction and … novels by Charles Dickens, Walter Scott, Rudyard Kipling and the Bronte sisters.”
Agatha's father died when she was 11, and the next year she attended a girls’ school. From 15 to 20, she rounded out her education in Paris, returning to England in 1910 to spend time with her ill mother. They traveled to Egypt to take advantage of its warm climate, and the country would play a starring role in her fiction.
...She had been writing short stories for several years, coached by a family friend, the eminent novelist Eden Phillpotts, who was impressed with her initial efforts, though magazines rejected them. He recommended she broaden her reading to sophisticated French novels, like “Madame Bovary” by Gustave Flaubert.
Christie became engaged to a Royal Flying Corps pilot, Archie Christie, just before World War I broke out in the summer of 1914. After serving at the front for a few months, he returned on leave, and they were married. (They would have one daughter.) She gave thousands of hours as a volunteer nurse for the wounded who were shipped back from the Continent. She also worked in a hospital pharmacy, where she learned about poison, valuable for her fiction.
Peculiar Poirot …
Christie became a fan of detective novels but wanted to make her own detective as different as possible from Sherlock Holmes or any other fictional private eye. She was inspired by Belgian refugees she knew to create Hercule Poirot, a pompous and eccentric former police officer with a big mustache and egg-shaped head, for her first book, “The Mysterious Affair at Styles.” Two publishers sent it back, but the third decided to take a chance on the unknown writer, and it was published in 1920.
Poirot would appear in 33 of her novels and 54 short stories. He is the only fictional character to rate an obituary in the New York Times, appearing on its front page in 1975 after the publication of “Curtain,” in which he dies.
Based in London, Poirot traveled the world to solve cases in best-sellers such as “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” (1926), “Murder on the Orient Express” (1934), “The A.B.C. Murders” (1936) and “Death on the Nile” (1937). Actors who portrayed him in movie versions have included Orson Welles, Tony Randall, Albert Finney, Peter Ustinov and Alfred Molina.
In 2013, the Crime Writers’ Association voted “Roger Ackroyd” the best whodunit ever written.
Eager for a second Poirot book, the publisher was alarmed when Christie turned in a manuscript featuring two more offbeat characters, blackmailers-turned-detectives Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. But when “The Secret Adversary” was published in 1922, it did better than the first book, and they would star in three other novels and a collection of short stories.
One of those books -- “N or M?” in 1941, about the hunt for a wartime spy -- resulted in Christie being investigated to determine if she had access to Britain’s secret code-breaking program. She was cleared and, in 1956, would be made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, and then upgraded to Dame Commander in 1971.
In 1926, Christie’s husband asked for a divorce so he could marry someone else. Four years later, she wed noted archaeologist Max Mallowan and would work with him at sites across the Middle East, influencing her stories. She also wrote several nonfiction books about her experiences.
Miss Marple …
Christie introduced an amateur detective, the spinster Jane Marple, in a short story, “The Tuesday Night Club,” in 1927. Miss Marple would first appear in a novel in 1930’s “The Murder at the Vicarage” and in 10 others, including “The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side” in 1962 and “Sleeping Murder,” published in 1976 after Christie’s death.
A couple of the actresses portraying Miss Marple on the big and small screens included Helen Hayes and Angela Lansbury. In Japan, a 39-part animated TV series based on the stories and novels about Marple and Poirot was broadcast from 2004 to 2005.
Christie's most popular novel, “And Then There Were None,” featured none of her favorite sleuths. Published in 1939, the tale involves eight people invited to an island, all of whom have gotten away with murder at some point. It has sold over 100 million copies, making it the No. 1 crime mystery book of all time.
By the 1940s, Christie was called the Queen of Crime for her contributions to the classic story structure for the genre. Typically, a murder is committed, with multiple suspects, all of them with secrets; the detective uncovers those secrets, and an unlikely suspect ends up the murderer.
Focus For Productivity …
Christie scribbled ideas for stories in 70 notebooks. She said characters and dialogue came to her easily, but she had difficulty with plots. She wrote with intense concentration in longhand and refused to move to safe quarters during the Nazi blitz of London in 1940 and 1941. As Christie explained in “Agatha Christie: An Autobiography,” she was so productive because “I was so frightened of interruptions, of anything breaking the flow of continuity, that after I had written the first chapter in a white heat, I proceeded to write the last chapter, because I knew so clearly where I was going that I felt I must get it down on paper.”
Not content with dominating fiction, she came up with the play “The Mousetrap” in 1952. It debuted in London’s West End, where it continues to play, holding the record as the longest-running play in world history, reaching 25,000 performances in 2012. Audiences are asked not to reveal the plot twist at the end.
Another highly regarded Christie play is “Witness for the Prosecution,” which premiered in 1953 and for which she earned the Mystery Writers of America’s first Grand Master Award, its highest honor.
In 1971, Christie began to suffer symptoms of dementia and died five years later at 85. …
Her estimated net worth at the time was $600 million. She had formed Agatha Christie Ltd., which continues to control most of the worldwide rights to her books, stories and TV movies (now owned by Acorn Media U.K., part of RLJ Cos. headed by American entrepreneur Robert L. Johnson).
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