I love a bit of Agatha Christie!
Today is a bit of a depressing anniversary date to hang this thought on … because it was today - January 12th 1976 - that Dame Agatha Christie passed away … but it’s an opportunity to celebrate one of my favourite authors.
Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile – these works have always been popular stories for filmmakers down the years, and in fact they’ve recently been re-worked again, with Sir Kenneth Branagh as the magnificent Hercule Poirot.
In recent decades on TV here in the UK, the fabulous actor David Suchet brought Christie’s Belgian detective to life for a load of episodes ('Poirot') across more than 20 years. I loved it! And many people are also now very familiar with Christie's Miss Marple through television and film.
But I’m pleased to say that way before I even knew there were movies and before I watched much TV, I loved the books.
From Christie’s very first successful narrative featuring the extravagantly moustached Poirot working his ‘little grey cells’ in ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’, to classics like ‘Evil Under the Sun’, and ‘They do it with Mirrors’ and ‘The Moving Finger', featuring the aforementioned Jane Marple, as well as other stories with other ‘detectives’ at the centre … at one point in my life I just immersed myself in her stories. I can’t say I’ve read all 66 of her detective novels but I’ve given it good go!
Recently I’ve been re-reading lots of the books and thoroughly enjoying it. It’s pure escapism, but the older I get the more I realise just how clever Dame Agatha was.
They say you should write what you know, but from what I know about Agatha Christie, she wasn’t personally immersed in the world of crime and policing. But, undoubtedly, she must have been a great observer of human nature, and I’m guessing that she probably squirrelled away lots of information in her head (or maybe notebooks) about strange things that were in the news, or odd people who crossed her path.
I do know she had an inquiring mind. I love the fact that she had a fascination and passion for archaeology, which is the ultimate mystery solver. She often accompanied her second husband Sir Max Mallowan – a prominent archaeologist - on his digs, often to exotic destinations. Max, by the way, was somewhat younger than Agatha – 13 years younger – and she also defied other conventions by being not just a successful woman of words, but also a shrewd businesswoman.
And I know she had an amazing imagination – how else could she come up with some of the plots, twists and turns, and personalities she devised for her stories?
Agatha Christie has been called the "Duchess of Death", the "Mistress of Mystery", and the "Queen of Crime". And she was developing her storytelling techniques during what has become known as the ‘Golden Age’ of detective fiction … and her work helped to make it so!
As a writer myself, Dame Agatha is a bit of a heroine for me. Not that I want to write mystery novels, but her tenacity and ability to imagine and articulate her ideas gives me real inspiration for my own writing. Being able to just enter another world of MY imagination is something I know needs practice. And that means observing the real world I live in, and yes, ferreting away information about the people and places around me - in my own 'little grey cells'!
But also, sometimes, especially when life is a bit tough, I find it’s just good to stop thinking too hard and maybe suspend my reality, if only for a little while.
So if you don’t mind, I’ll just turn to my bookcase and grab another Agatha Christie.
See you later!