Agatha Mary Clarissa, Lady Mallowan, DBE (15 September 1890 – 12 January 1976), mainly known as Agatha Christie, was an English crime fiction writer. She also wrote romance novels under the name Mary Westmacott, but is best remembered for her 80 detective novels and her successful West End theatre plays. Her works, particularly featuring detectives Hercule Poirot or 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 called — by the Guinness Book of World Records, among others — the best-selling writer of books of all time, and the best-selling writer of any kind outsold only by William Shakespeare and the Bible. An estimated one billion copies of her novels have been sold in English, and another billion in 103 other languages. UNESCO states that she is currently the most translated individual author in the world with only the collective corporate works of Walt Disney Productions superseding her. (Seehttp://databases.unesco.org/xtrans/stat/xTransStat.a?VL1=A&top=50&lg=0). As an example of her broad appeal, she is the all-time best-selling author in France, with over 40 million copies sold in French (as of 2003) versus 22 million for Emile Zola, the nearest contender.
Her stage play, The Mousetrap, holds the record for the longest run ever in London, opening at the Ambassadors Theatre on 25 November 1952, and as of 2007 is still running after more than 20,000 performances. In 1955, Christie was the first recipient of the Mystery Writers of America’s highest honor, 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, 4.50 From Paddington), and many have been adapted for television, radio, video games and comics.
In 1998, the control of the rights to most of the literary works of Agatha Christie passed to the company Chorion, when it purchased a majority 64% share in Agatha Christie Limited.
Agatha Christie was born as Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller in Torquay, Devon, to an American father and an English mother. She never claimed United States citizenship. Her father was Frederick Miller, a rich American stockbroker, and her mother was Clara Boehmer, a British aristocrat. Christie had a sister, Margaret Frary Miller (1879–1950), called Madge, eleven years her senior, and a brother, Louis Montant Miller (1880–1929), called Monty, ten years older than Christie. Her father died when she was very young. Her mother resorted to teaching her at home, encouraging her to write at a very young age. At the age of 16 she went to a school in Paris to study singing and piano.
Her first marriage, an unhappy one, was in 1914 to Colonel Archibald Christie, an aviator in the Royal Flying Corps. The couple had one daughter, Rosalind Hicks, and divorced in 1928.
During World War I she worked at a hospital and then a pharmacy, a job that influenced her work; many of the murders in her books are carried out with poison. (See also cyanide, ricin, and thallium.)
On 8 December 1926, while living in Sunningdale in Berkshire, she disappeared for ten days, causing great interest in the press. Her car was found in a chalk pit in Newland’s Corner, Surrey. She was eventually found staying at the Swan Hydro (now the Old Swan hotel) in Harrogate under the name of the woman with whom her husband had recently admitted to having an affair. She claimed to have suffered a nervous breakdown and a fugue state caused by the death of her mother and her husband’s infidelity. Opinions are still divided as to whether this was a publicity stunt. Public sentiment at the time was negative, with many feeling that an alleged publicity stunt had cost the taxpayers a substantial amount of money. A 1979 film, Agatha, starring Vanessa Redgrave as Christie, recounted a fictionalised version of the disappearance. Other media accounts of this event exist; it was featured on a segment of Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story, for example.
In 1930, Christie married a Roman Catholic (despite her divorce and her Anglican faith), the archaeologist Sir Max Mallowan. Mallowan was 14 years younger than Christie, and his travels with her contributed background to several of her novels set in the Middle East. Their marriage was happy in the early years, and endured despite Mallowan’s many affairs in later life, notably with Barbara Parker, whom he married in 1977, the year after Christie’s death. Other novels (such as And Then There Were None) were set in and around Torquay, Devon, where she was born. Christie’s 1934 novel, Murder on the Orient Express was written in the Pera Palas hotel in Istanbul, Turkey, the southern terminus of the railroad. The hotel maintains Christie’s room as a memorial to the author. The Greenway Estate 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 Hall in Cheshire, 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.”
In 1971 she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Agatha Christie died on 12 January 1976, at age 85, from natural causes, at Winterbrook House in the north of Cholsey parish, adjoining Wallingford in Oxfordshire (formerly Berkshire). She is buried in the nearby St Mary’s Churchyard in Cholsey.
Christie’s only child, Rosalind Hicks, died on 28 October 2004, also aged 85, from natural causes. Christie’s grandson, Mathew Pritchard, 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 30 of Christie’s novels and 50 short stories.
Her other well known character, Miss Marple, was introduced in The Murder at the Vicarage in 1930, and was based on Christie’s grandmother.
During World War II, Christie wrote two novels intended as the last cases of these two great detectives, Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple, respectively. They were Curtain and Sleeping Murder. 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 realised 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, 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 “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 what the public liked was Poirot.
In contrast, Christie was fond of Miss Marple. However it is interesting to note that the Belgian detective’s titles outnumber the Marple titles by more than two to one.
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 in the book with 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 (which, like Curtain, was written in the 1940s) despite the fact he is noted as having died in books that were written after but published before the posthumous release of Sleeping Murder in 1976—such as, The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side. 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 Saint Mary Mead.
On an edition of Desert Island Discs in 2007, Brian Aldiss recounted how 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.
In popular culture
Christie has been portrayed on a number of occasions in film and television: * The first occasion was the 1979 Agatha, when Vanessa Redgrave portrayed her. * Hilda Gobbi in a 1980 Hungarian film, Kojak Budapesten * Peggy Ashcroft in a 1986 TV play, Murder by the Book in which Ian Holm appeared as Poirot * Esme Lambert played the part in The Dead Zone episode “Unreasonable Doubt”, transmitted on July 14, 2002. * Olivia Williams played the part in a BBC television programme entitled Agatha Christie: A Life in Pictures which, like Agatha, revolved around the 1926 disappearance. It was transmitted on September 22, 2004. * Aya Sugimoto in an episode of a Japanese television series called Hyakunin no Ijin in 2006 * On August 10, 2007, it was announced that actress Fenella Woolgar (who had appeared as Ellis in Lord Edgware Dies) would appear as Christie in the 2008 season of the science fiction TV series Doctor Who. * Michelle Trout will play the part in a US film, Lives and Deaths of the Poets, which is due for release in 2009. * A precog in the movie Minority Report (film) is named after her. *The play Murder By Indecision parodies Christie with the character Agatha Crispy and her theme of writing.
List of works
Collections of Short Stories
* 1924 Poirot Investigates (short stories: eleven in the UK, fourteen in the US) * 1929 Partners in Crime (fifteen short stories; featuring Tommy and Tuppence) * 1930 The Mysterious Mr. Quin (twelve short stories; introducing Mr. Harley Quin) * 1932 The Thirteen Problems (thirteen short stories; featuring Miss Marple, also known as The Tuesday Club Murders) * 1933 The Hound of Death (twelve short stories – UK only) * 1934 The Listerdale mystery (twelve short stories – UK only) * 1934 Parker Pyne Investigates (twelve short stories; introducing Parker Pyne and Ariadne Oliver, also known as Mr. Parker Pyne, Detective) * 1937 Murder in the Mews (four novella-length stories; featuring Hercule Poirot, also known as Dead Man’s Mirror) * 1939 Regatta Mystery and Other Stories (nine short stories – US only) * 1947 The Labours of Hercules (twelve short stories; featuring Hercule Poirot) * 1948 The Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories (eleven short stories – US only) * 1950 Three Blind Mice and Other Stories (nine short stories – US only) * 1951 The Under Dog and Other Stories (nine short stories – US only) * 1960 The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding (six short stories – UK only) * 1961 Double Sin and Other Stories (eight short stories – US only) * 1966 Surprise! Surprise! (twelve short stories) * 1971 The Golden Ball and Other Stories (fifteen short stories – US only) * 1974 Poirot’s Early Cases (eighteen short stories, also known as Hercule Poirot’s Early Cases) * 1979 Miss Marple’s Final Cases and Two Other Stories (eight short stories – UK only) * 1991 Problem at Pollensa Bay and Other Stories (eight short stories – UK only) * 1997 The Harlequin Tea Set (nine short stories – US only) * 1997 While the Light Lasts and Other Stories (nine short stories – UK only)
Novels written as Mary Westmacott
* 1930 Giant’s Bread * 1934 Unfinished Portrait * 1944 Absent in the Spring * 1948 The Rose and the Yew Tree * 1952 A Daughter’s a Daughter * 1956 The Burden
* 1930 Black Coffee * 1943 And Then There Were None * 1945 Appointment with Death * 1946 Murder on the Nile/Hidden Horizon * 1951 The Hollow * 1951 A Daughter’s a Daughter (Written in the late 1930’s. Performed once. Unpublished and later turned into the 1952 Mary Westmacott novel) * 1952 The Mousetrap * 1953 Witness for the Prosecution * 1954 Spider’s Web * 1958 Verdict * 1958 The Unexpected Guest * 1960 Go Back for Murder * 1962 Rule of Three (Comprised of Afternoon at the Seaside, The Rats and The Patient) * 1972 Fiddler’s Three (Originally written as Fiddler’s Five. Unpublished.) * 1973 Akhnaton (Written in 1937) * 2003 Chimneys (Written in 1931, but unperformed for 72 years. Unpublished.)
* 1937 Yellow Iris (Based on the short story of the same name) * 1947 Three Blind Mice (Christie’s celebrated stage play The Mousetrap was based on this radio play) * 1948 Butter In a Lordly Dish * 1960 Personal Call (A BBC Radio recording of this play is known to exist)
* 1937 Wasp’s Nest (Based on the short story of the same name)
* 1946 Come Tell Me How You Live * 1977 Agatha Christie: An Autobiography
Other published works
* 1925 The Road of Dreams (Poetry) * 1965 Star Over Bethlehem and other stories (Christian stories and poems) * 1973 Poems
* 1930 Behind The Screen. A radio serial written together with Hugh Walpole, Dorothy L. Sayers, Anthony Berkeley, E. C. Bentley and Ronald Knox of the Detection Club. Published in book form in 1983 in The Scoop and Behind The Screen. * 1931 The Scoop. A radio serial written together with Dorothy L. Sayers, E. C. Bentley, Anthony Berkeley, Freeman Wills Crofts and Clemence Dane of the Detection Club. Published in book form in 1983 in The Scoop and Behind The Screen. * 1931 The Floating Admiral. A book written together with G. K. Chesterton, Dorothy L. Sayers and certain other members of the Detection Club. * 1956 Towards Zero (A West End theatre dramatization of her 1944 novel co-written with Gerard Verner)
Other works based on Christie’s books and plays
Plays adapted into novels by Charles Osborne
* 1998 Black Coffee * 1999 The Unexpected Guest * 2000 Spider’s Web
Plays adapted by other authors
* 1928 Alibi (dramatized from her novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Michael Morton) * 1936 Love from a Stranger (play) (dramatized by Frank Vosper from her adaptation of her short story Philomel Cottage) * 1939 Tea for Three (dramatized by Margery Vosper from the short stort Accident) * 1940 Peril at End House (dramatized from her novel by Arnold Ridley) * 1949 Murder at the Vicarage (dramatized from her novel by Moie Charles and Barbara Toy) * 1977 Murder at the Vicarage (dramatized from her novel by Leslie Darbon) * 1981 Cards on the Table (dramatized from her novel by Leslie Darbon) * 1992 Problem at Pollensa Bay * 1993 Murder is Easy * 2005 And Then There Were None
* 1928 The Passing of Mr. Quinn (Based on the short story The Coming of Mr. Quin) * 1929 Die Abenteurer GmbH (Based on The Secret Adversary) * 1931 Alibi (Based on the stage play of the same name from the novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd) * 1931 Black Coffee * 1934 Lord Edgware Dies * 1937 Love from a Stranger (Film) (Based on the stage play of the same name from the short story Philomel Cottage) * 1945 And Then There Were None * 1947 Love from a Stranger (Film) * 1957 Witness for the Prosecution * 1960 Spider’s Web (film) * 1962 Murder, She Said (Based on the novel 4.50 From Paddington) * 1963 Murder at the Gallop (Based on the novel After the Funeral) * 1964 Murder Most Foul (Based on the novel Mrs. McGinty’s Dead) * 1964 Murder Ahoy! (An original movie not based on any of the books, though it borrows some of the elements of They Do It with Mirrors) * 1966 Ten Little Indians * 1966 The Alphabet Murders (Based on The A.B.C. Murders) * 1972 Endless Night * 1974 Murder on the Orient Express * 1975 Ten Little Indians * 1978 Death on the Nile * 1980 The Mirror Crack’d * 1982 Evil Under the Sun * 1984 Ordeal by Innocence * 1988 Appointment with Death * 1987 Desyat Negrityat (Ten Little Niggers) * 1989 Ten Little Indians
* 1938 Love from a Stranger (TV) (Based on the stage play of the same name from the short story Philomel Cottage) * 1947 Love from a Stranger (TV) * 1949 Ten Little Indians * 1959 Ten Little Indians * 1970 Murder at the Vicarage * 1980 Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? * 1982 Spider’s Web * 1982 The Seven Dials Mystery * 1982 The Agatha Christie Hour * 1982 Murder is Easy * 1982 The Witness for the Prosecution * 1983 The Secret Adversary * 1983 Partners in Crime * 1983 A Caribbean Mystery * 1983 Sparkling Cyanide * 1984 The Body in the Library * 1985 Murder with Mirrors * 1985 The Moving Finger * 1985 A Murder Is Announced * 1985 A Pocket Full of Rye * 1985 Thirteen at Dinner * 1986 Dead Man’s Folly * 1986 Murder in Three Acts * 1986 Murder at the Vicarage * 1987 Sleeping Murder * 1987 At Bertram’s Hotel * 1987 Nemesis * 1987 4.50 from Paddington * 1989 The Man in the Brown Suit * 1989 A Caribbean Mystery * 1991 They Do It with Mirrors * 1992 The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side * 1997 The Pale Horse * 2001 Murder on the Orient Express very loose adaptation * 2003 Sparkling Cyanide very loose adaptation * 2004 The Body in the Library very loose adaptation * 2004 Murder at the Vicarage * 2004 Appointment with Death * 2005 A Murder is Announced * 2005 Sleeping Murder * 2006 The Moving Finger * 2006 By the Pricking of My Thumbs * 2006 The Sittaford Mystery * 2007 Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (A French film adaptation) * 2007 Towards Zero * 2007 Nemesis very loose adaptation * 2007 At Bertram’s Hotel – very loose adaptation * 2007 Ordeal by Innocence
‘Agatha Christie’s Poirot television series”’
Episodes include: * 1990 Peril at End House * 1990 The Mysterious Affair at Styles * 1994 Hercule Poirot’s Christmas * 1995 Murder on the Links * 1995 Hickory Dickory Dock * 1996 Dumb Witness * 2000 The Murder of Roger Ackroyd very loose adaptation * 2000 Lord Edgware Dies * 2001 Evil Under the Sun * 2001 Murder in Mesopotamia * 2004 Five Little Pigs * 2004 Death on the Nile * 2004 Sad Cypress * 2004 The Hollow * 2005 The Mystery of the Blue Train * 2005 Cards on the Table * 2005 Taken at the Flood
HarperCollins began issuing a series of comic strip adaptations of Christie’s work on July 16 2007. * 2007 Murder on the Orient Express Adapted by Francois Riviere, Illustrated by Solidor (Jean-François Miniac). * 2007 Murder on the Links Adapted by Francois Riviere, Illustrated by Marc Piskic * 2007 Death on the Nile Adapted by Francois Riviere, Illustrated by Solidor ( Jean-François Miniac). * 2007 The Mystery of the Blue Train Adapted and illustrated by Marc Piskic * 2007 The Murder of Roger Ackroyd Adapted and illustrated by Bruno Lachard * 2007 The Secret of Chimneys Adapted by Francois Riviere, Illustrated by Laurence Suhner * 2007 The Man in the Brown Suit Adapted and illustrated by Alain Paillou * 2007 The Big Four Adpated by Hichot and illustrated by Bairi
* 1988 The Scoop (published by Spinnaker Software and Telarium) * 2005 Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None * 2006 Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express * 2007 Death on the Nile “I-Spy” hidden-object game * 2007 Agatha Christie: Evil Under the Sun (announced)
* Eugenia and Eugenics (stage play) * The Case of the Caretaker’s Wife (Miss Marple short story, published – without Miss Marple – as The Case of the Caretaker) * The Capture of Cerberus (Poirot short story, completely rewritten and published as The Capture of Cerberus) * Witchhazel (supernatural short story) * Snow Upon the Desert (romantic novel) * The Greenshore Folly (detective novella, featuring Hercule Poirot, expanded into the novel Dead Man’s Folly) * Personal Call (supernatural radio play, featuring Inspector Narracott – a recording is in the British National Sound Archive) * 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) * The Green Gate (supernatural) * The War Bride (romantic/supernatural) * The Case of the Dog’s Ball (short story, featuring Poirot, expanded to the novel Dumb Witness and related to the short story How Does your Garden Grow?) * Stronger than Death (supernatural) * Being So Very Wilful (romantic) * The Last Seance (stage play) * Someone at the Window (detective stage play, adapted from the short story The Dead Harlequin)
In 2004, the Japanese broadcasting company Nippon Housou Kyoukai 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.
* Plot devices in Agatha Christie’s novels * Agatha Christie: A Life in Pictures” (Her life story in a 2004 BBC drama) * Abney Hall (home to her brother-in-law; several books use Abney as their setting) * Greenway Estate (Christie’s former home in Devon. The grounds are now in the possession of the National Trust and open to the public.