Friday, January 6, 2012

Dame Agatha's Secrets 01/6/12

Dame Agatha Christie died on January 12, 1976. Even 36 years after her death most of her work is still in print, there is a steady stream of adaptations of her novels, stories and plays for movies and television, and there is continued academic interest in her life and work. What could possibly be the secret of this author’s enduring success?

In a recent work, John Curran helps us to answer this question. Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks: Fifty Years of Mysteries in the Making has won the Agatha, Anthony and Macavity awards in the category of nonfiction. Mr. Curran gives readers a look into the notebooks that Christie kept at hand in which she would jot down ideas for characters, plot lines and settings. In this very interesting work, the author reveals one of Dame Agatha’s secrets: productivity. “During the height of her powers publication could hardly keep pace with creation…It is possible to read a different Christie title every month for almost seven years…”(p.40). In fact, there was so much material covered in the Christie notebooks that John Curran has just published a second book, Agatha Christie: Murder in the Making:  More Stories and Secrets from Her Notebooks.

Another secret to the enduring interest in Christie’s work is her diversity. She created two of the world’s most famous detectives and very different creations they were: the very proper British spinster, Miss Jane Marple, and the well-traveled and fussy Belgian, Hercule Poirot. If you don’t like Miss Marple, try one of the Tommy and Tuppence stories (The Secret Adversary, Postern of Fate); if Poirot is not your cup of tea, maybe one of the stand-alone novels (The Sittaford Mystery, Ordeal by Innocence) would be more to your liking. Christie’s settings range from the English country house (Crooked House, Mysterious Affair at Styles) to the exotic Middle East (Murder in Mesopotamia, Death on the Nile) and even back in time to ancient Egypt (Death Comes As the End).

There was also Dame Agatha’s ability to create a puzzle and keep her reader guessing until the very end. If you have read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Murder on the Orient Express and Curtain you know the surprising answer to the question “Who did it?” for each of these novels. Have you read the short stories in the collection titled The Mysterious Mr. Quin? Can you say just who (or what) is the mysterious Harley Quin?

Among the writers of her time, Agatha Christie was the only one to be successful in writing novels, short stories and plays (Mousetrap, Witness for the Prosecution). Her prodigious output over 50 plus years, her creation of diverse characters and settings, and her puzzling plots designed to hold the reader’s attention to the exciting final scenes have earned her the title “Queen of Crime”.

The library offers the works of Agatha Christie in a variety of formats: book, large print book, book on CD and DVD. You might also want to discover more of Dame Agatha’s secrets by reading John Curran’s books and some of the others written about her. So make a cup of tea and spend some time with the Queen of Crime!


Maryellen@Warrenton

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