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Clues to Christie: The Definitive Guide to Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot and all of Agatha Christie’s Mysteries

Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2018 год
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      Clues to Christie: The Definitive Guide to Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot and all of Agatha Christie’s Mysteries
Agatha Christie

John Curran

Литагент HarperCollins

CLUES TO CHRISTIE

The Definitive Guide to

Miss Marple,

Hercule Poirot,

Tommy & Tuppence

and All of Agatha Christie’s Mysteries

Copyright

CLUES TO CHRISTIE. Copyright © 2011 by HarperCollins Publishers.

Published by HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd

1 London Bridge Street London SE1 9GF www.harpercollins.co.uk (http://www.harpercollins.co.uk)

FIRST EDITION

"Agatha Christie: An Introduction." Copyright © 2011 by John Curran.

"The Affair at the Victory Ball" from The Under Dog and Other Stories . Copyright © 1951 Agatha Christie Ltd.

"Greenshaw’s Folly" from Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories. Copyright © 1985 Agatha Christie Ltd.

"A Fairy in the Flat" from Partners in Crime. Copyright © 1929 by Agatha Christie Ltd ("The Queen of Mystery’s Personal Favorites," "Ten Other Ways to Read Agatha Christie," "On Agatha Christie and Poisons," and "The A to Z of Agatha Christie." Copyright © 2011 by Agatha Christie Ltd.

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the nonexclusive, nontransferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins e-books.

EPub Edition © 2011 ISBN: 9780007455959

Version: 2017-04-11

Contents

Cover (#ubeca30b8-172f-5f3b-b5f6-3f6a9eeb00c5)

Title Page (#ub350c0aa-9a2d-51b6-bc38-2d1de1d24171)

Copyright (#u941e92d6-5552-5c57-b322-20df3149f053)

Agatha Christie: An Introduction (#ue49e56b5-08bb-5ca1-b2f3-d7e319f79059)

The Hercule Poirot Mysteries (#litres_trial_promo)

“The Affair at the Victory Ball” (#litres_trial_promo)

The Miss Marple Mysteries (#litres_trial_promo)

“Greenshaw’s Folly” (#litres_trial_promo)

The Tommy and Tuppence Mysteries (#litres_trial_promo)

“A Fairy in the Flat” (#litres_trial_promo)

Stand-Alone Mysteries and Short-Story Collections (#litres_trial_promo)

The Queen of Mystery’s Personal Favorites (#litres_trial_promo)

Ten Other Ways to Read Agatha Christie (#litres_trial_promo)

On Agatha Christie and Poisons (#litres_trial_promo)

The A to Z of Agatha Christie (#litres_trial_promo)

Related Products (#litres_trial_promo)

About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo)

Agatha Christie:

An Introduction

JOHN CURRAN

Who is known as the Queen of Crime, the Mistress of Mystery, the Duchess of Death? Who is the world’s most translated writer? Who is the biggest-selling writer in the world, with only Shakespeare and the Bible selling more copies? Who wrote the longest-running stage play—almost sixty years—in the history of the theater? The answer: Agatha Christie.

In a career spanning over fifty years, Agatha Christie transformed detective fiction both on the page and, later, on the stage. Through the creation of a gallery of immortal characters—Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Tommy and Tuppence Beresford—she sold more books in more parts of the globe than any crime writer before or since. Almost forty years after her death, her entire output is still available in bookstores and seen in theaters around the world. How did she do it? A look at her life may provide some clues. . . .

Life

The youngest of three children of an American father and English mother, Agatha Miller was born in Torquay, England, on September 15, 1890. Her family home, Ashfield, was a large, comfortable house and her childhood was a very happy one. Although she never went to school, the young Agatha devoured books, many of which—The Three Musketeers, Vanity Fair, Bleak House—are mentioned in her Autobiography and can be seen to this day on the shelves of her last home, Greenway House.

Her father died unexpectedly when Agatha was eleven and it was subsequently discovered that his investments, the only source of income for the family, were not as gilt-edged as previously supposed. Some economies were necessary, but the young Agatha continued to enjoy a carefree existence, participating in full in the social life of turn-of-the-century Torquay, attending concerts and dances and amateur dramatics, roller-skating on the pier; and eventually travelling to Paris to study music. Luckily for the world of crime fiction, she was too nervous to perform professionally. She retained a love of music, especially the operas of Wagner, throughout her life. A trip to Egypt with her mother, in 1910, provided her with the background for her still-unpublished novel Snow upon the Desert. (Twenty years later, in Death on the Nile, novelist Salome Otterbourne describes her novel, Snow on the Desert’s Face: Powerful—suggestive. Snow—on the desert—melted in the first flaming breath of passion!)

Although she received more than one offer of marriage, Agatha eventually settled on Archie Christie, a dashing member of the Royal Flying Corps. They married on Christmas Eve 1914 and, after a very brief honeymoon at The Grand Hotel in Torquay, Archie returned to his flying duties in World War I. Agatha also volunteered and, after a brief stint as a nurse, moved to the dispensary of the local hospital, eventually becoming a qualified dispenser. This gave her a professional knowledge of poisons, which she was to put to good use in her literary career.

As she explains in her Autobiography, during this time she read Sherlock Holmes and The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux (later to achieve immortality as the author of The Phantom of the Opera) and Anna Katherine Green’s The Leavenworth Case. In the course of a conversation with her sister Madge, she accepted a challenge to write her own detective story. Further encouraged by her mother, Agatha worked on her novel, eventually taking herself off to a hotel on Dartmoor for an undisturbed period of intense writing. Although she began The Mysterious Affair at Styles in 1916, it was not published until the end of 1920 in the United States and in early 1921 in the United Kingdom. By then, she was the mother of her only child, Rosalind, born in 1919. Although already working on her third novel (The Secret Adversary, her second novel, had been nearly finished before The Mysterious Affair at Styles was published), Agatha enjoyed homemaking in post-WWI London.

In 1921, Archie’s boss, Major Belcher, asked him to participate in a business trip to South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States, Belcher also arranged for Agatha to join the party and the trio set off on January 20, 1922. This exotic once-in-a-lifetime adventure cemented Agatha’s love of travel; her letters and photos from every stage of the trip confirm this; it also provided her the background for her fourth novel, The Man in the Brown Suit, much of which was written during the long sea journeys involved in such a trip. The couple arrived home in November 1922 and shortly afterward set up home in Sunningdale, Berkshire, in a house they called Styles, in honor of the success of Agatha’s first novel. The dream of happy wife and mother and successful author was not to last.

The first blow was the death, in 1926, of Agatha’s beloved mother, and the consequent dismantling of Agatha’s idyllic childhood home. Worse was to follow when, shortly after, Archie asked for a divorce in order to marry his sometime golf partner, Nancy Neele. Within a short time, two of the people Agatha most adored in the world had deserted her, and this combination of emotional shocks precipitated her famous disappearance in December 1926. Although for the rest of her life she never discussed this, there seems little doubt that a breakdown of some sort, coupled with a desire for some time to herself, was the sole motivation behind the bizarre episode, although the newspapers of the time and books and documentaries ever since would lead us to believe otherwise. Agatha was identified in a hotel in Harrogate ten days after leaving home; she immediately retired to Abney Hall, the home of her sister Madge and brother-in-law James Watts, to recover from the ordeal. Her lifelong aversion to the press, and publicity of almost any kind, probably stems from this unhappy experience.

Agatha produced an episodic novel, The Big Four, in 1927, with the help of Campbell Christie, her brother-in-law. She used these previously published short-story adventures featuring Hercule Poirot to keep her publishers Collins and her public happy until a new Poirot case, The Mystery of the Blue Train, appeared in 1928. Agatha wrote most of this novel while in the Canary Islands, with Rosalind and her faithful secretary, Carlo, during 1927.

In 1930, Collins inaugurated the Crime Club; Agatha Christie would be a prolific contributor to this imprint for the rest of her life. The first Christie title to feature the now-famous hooded gunman logo on its cover was also Miss Marple’s first book-length case, The Murder at the Vicarage. Thus began Agatha Christie’s golden age, in terms of both productivity and ingenuity. For almost the next twenty years she published two novels a year, at least; 1934 saw the publication of five. Most of her classic titles appeared during this period, including Lord Edgware Dies, The A.B.C. Murders, Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, And Then There Were None, The Body in the Library, The Labors of Hercules, and Crooked House. Dominating the world of detective fiction with enviable ease, she became a favorite not only of magazine editors, but critics, as well as her insatiable public.

In 1930, Agatha married archaeologist Max Mallowan, a man fourteen years her junior, whom she had met while visiting her friends the Woolleys on a dig in southeastern Iraq. Although on the face of it an unlikely alliance, they remained happily married for the next fifty years; for most of that time Agatha accompanied Max every year on his digs, where she lived in a tent, happily cleaning, cataloguing, and photographing the finds. Always one to put an experience to good literary use, she adopted the background for some of her best books—Murder in Mesopotamia (1936), Death on the Nile (1937), and Appointment with Death (1938)—as well as the memoir Come Tell Me How You Live. To produce her novels while on a dig, all she needed was a typewriter and a steady table.

Agatha bought Winterbrook House in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, in 1934; this she always considered to be Max’s house. In 1938, she bought Greenway House, a Georgian mansion on thirty acres of woodland garden with stunning views over the river Dart which lay just outside her birthplace, Torquay. She had known of this house since childhood and, when it came on the market she viewed it and fell under its spell. It became her holiday home for the rest of her life. Here she entertained family and friends, played tennis and swam in the river, enjoyed afternoon tea on the lawn and sumptuous dinners in the dining room, played the piano in the drawing room, and read her work-in-progress to her family to get their reactions. The US Navy requisitioned the house in 1942, and she was forced to store the furniture and abandon Greenway for the remainder of the war. When she regained possession, life resumed its contented pattern: enjoying long, lazy weeks in the summer, with shorter breaks throughout the year; entertaining her friends and family; her gardener winning prizes at the flower show; her butler serving the delicious produce from her garden; and making occasional forays to London to enjoy the theater and opera.

In 1956, in recognition of her unique contribution to literature and drama, Agatha Christie received a C.B.E. (Commander of the British Empire) from Queen Elizabeth. In 1961, she was declared by UNESCO the world’s most translated writer. She published her eightieth title, Passenger to Frankfurt, in 1970. The following year she was created a Dame of the British Empire. The stage adaption of her short story, “Three Blind Mice,” called The Mousetrap, which opened in 1952, continued to break every known theatrical record. Through all this, Agatha Christie continued to produce her annual novel to the delight of millions of readers the world over. In 1974, the phenomenally successful film version of one of her greatest titles, Murder on the Orient Express, was released to worldwide acclaim. Agatha’s last public appearance was its London premiere that November.

The following year, Sir William Collins, correctly assuming that the now-frail Dame Agatha would be unable to provide a new book, persuaded her to release Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case, which had been written thirty-five years earlier during her time in London during the Blitz. It had been stored ever since in a bank vault. Heralded by a front-page obituary in the New York Times, Hercule Poirot, to the chagrin of his legions of fans, had died, but not before solving his most ingenious and shocking case. It was set in Styles Court, the scene of his first triumph over fifty years earlier. Three months later, on January 12, 1976, his creator joined her most famous character; and the world mourned.

In the course of a fifty-year career Agatha Christie created many memorable characters, but the most popular were the following.

Hercule Poirot

When she created Hercule Poirot in 1916, Agatha Christie made only one serious mistake— she made him a retired member of the Belgian police force. This meant that when he died almost sixty years later in Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case (1975), even a conservative estimate must have put his age at 120. Little did she realize, when she wrote in chapter two of The Mysterious Affair at Styles, “As I came out again, I cannoned into a little man who was just entering. I drew aside and apologised, when suddenly with a loud exclamation, he clasped me in his arms and kissed me warmly. ‘Mon ami Hastings!’ he cried. ‘It is indeed mon ami Hastings,’ ” that Hercule Poirot would be with her for the rest of her life. He would become one of the most famous Belgians in history, and the second most famous detective (after Sherlock Holmes) in the world; he would appear in thirty-three novels and over fifty short stories and spawn almost one hundred movies and TV films; or that he would appear on stamps in Nicaragua and Dominica. Captain Hastings, Poirot’s faithful partner in crime for many of his early cases, narrated their first adventure together, then met his wife in the course of The Murder on the Links, eventually departing to live in Argentina after Dumb Witness (1937), and returning only for Curtain.
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