Investigating Agatha Christie

 

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About a month ago I went to Investigating Agatha Christie an exhibition on the life and work of one of the greatest 20th-century novelists. If that was not enough to get me to Old Montreal – a charming area of the city with its European flavour – the fact that it was being held at The Montreal Archaeology and History Museum got my curiosity along with my feet walking the cobble stoned street of the Old Port.  Here’s what I discovered:

I. With her husband, Max Mallowan, a prominent archaeologist, Christie spent plenty of time travelling with him and his team actively taking part on excavation sites in Syria, Iran and Egypt. Her day job was to photograph and film the artifacts that were being dug up. In the evenings she wrote and drew on her experiences in the Middle East for novels such as Murder in Mesopotamia and They Came to Baghdad.

II. Agatha Christie learned about poisons by being an assistant apothecary. Some 30 of the victims in her books died of poisoning.

Give me a decent bottle of poison,” she is supposed to have said, “and I’ll construct the perfect crime.”

Click here for more on how Christie’s fictions are profoundly shaped by the poisons that their characters skillfully employ

III. In Death Comes as an End Christie invents the historical whodunit.

IV. As a child Agatha was considered the slow one in the family.

V.  66 detective novels

6 novels

150 short stories

10 plays

and 2 memoirs.

Akhnaton

 

VI. Ariadne Oliver, the fictional character in several Agatha Christie novels is a mystery novelist and a friend of Hercule Poirot. She was patterned after Christie herself.

“People say things to me — you know — how much they like my books, and how they’ve been longing to meet me — and it all makes me feel hot and bothered and rather silly. But I manage to cope more or less. And they say how much they love my awful detective Sven Hjerson. If they knew how I hated him! But my publisher always says I’m not to say so.”

For more on Ariadne Oliver’s writing advice click here.

VII. Her most famous play The Mousetrap opened in the West End of London in 1952, and has been running continuously since then.

VIII. A rose is named after her.

Image result for The Agatha Christie rose

 

IX. She dedicated her novel Dumb Witness to her wire-haired terrier Peter.  In the novel, the dog Bob is directly inspired by her own pet.

Agatha Christie pictured in the 1920s

 

X. Total sales of her books are estimated at 2 billion exceeded only by The Bible.

Do you have a favorite Agatha Christie book? 

 

 

57 thoughts on “Investigating Agatha Christie

  1. What a wonderful exhibit to visit. Looks like she had some great real-life experiences to draw from and use in her fiction. I’ve actually only read one of her books. I’m so ashamed. I can’t remember the title exactly. The Murder of (?) Ackroyd. I enjoyed it.

    • The murder of Roger Ackroyd. It’s considered one of her best. If you ever have to poison someone in one of your novels, she’s a good reference.
      She does seem to draw a lot from her experiences. The exhibit was a lot of fun.

  2. I haven’t been to beautiful Old Montreal in years….but can imagine how lovely it must have been where you went to see the exhibition. My Mother loved all the Agatha Christie books……and I have enjoyed a few myself. Remarkable woman and statistics surrounding her work. Have a lovely weekend…janet.x

  3. What a wonderful exhibiton and as a Agatha Christie fan I’m jealous! Seriously sounds good and thank you for sharing all these interesting snippets relating to her. Now so many of her books make sense. I’ve seen The Mousetrap in London and it was very good and a great occasion to just see it. We sailed past her old house on the River Dart just a few months before The National Turst opened Greenway to visitors. Oh, such a pity. I do like the sound of Old Montreal.

    • Seeing The Mousetrap in London must have been so special. Now, I’m jealous! The exhibit showed several of her homes but sailing by Greenway must have been exciting.
      Have a great weekend, Annika. Thanks for stopping by.

    • You’ve read all her books! I’m impressed. I don’t know if the exhibit is travelling to Toronto. It will be in Montreal until April 17. If ever you make it to Montreal perhaps we can meet for tea.
      I also love the Ariadne link. Thanks for stopping by, Judy.

  4. The slow one, huh? I know her works although I have never read a book. Writing about poisoning somebody sounds like a good way to metaphorically “off” somebody….just as one of my followers suggested that I do….LOL. I am by no means a writer but I could probably come up with some pretty good ideas to get revenge.

  5. Wow! Thanks for sharing such interesting facts about Christie. What a fun experience that must have been! I would have to say one of my favourites is Murder on the Orient Express. 🙂

    • Oh, Debby, you would have loved this exhibit because there was a reproduction of the car of The Orient Express Agatha Christie took. I should have taken more notes, especially the explanations about her writing the novel The Orient Express.
      The exhibit is on until April 17. Should you make it then or any time after, I’d be delighted to meet you for tea. 🙂
      Have a great weekend. I hope that you’re all settled in.

      • Funny Carol, as I was reading your article I was wishing we lived close to one another so we could share such events together in our writing world.
        I’m barely caught up here in my real life, never mind my writing life, and I’m busy in these next few weeks preparing taxes, working on a new podcast show with Heather Debreceni on empowering women (which we will be inviting YOU to attend one of our shows), and eagerly anticipating starting revisions on my newest book, the sequel to Conflicted Hearts, or I’d be there hopping on a train in a heartbeat. But this is good food for thought later down the road for us to endeavour into something together. 🙂

  6. Reblogged this on mira prabhu and commented:
    As a teenager I loved Agatha Christie’s books…today hundreds of great crime fiction writers flood the market, but then, as I recall, perhaps because I had little access to world literature/writing, she was the One. Read Carol Balawyder’s great post about the woman who wrote and wrote and wrote at a time when few women were doing what she did…by following her heart, she fascinated millions of readers all over the world.

    • I’ve never read this novel but I suspect that it highlights Christie’s expertise with poisons.
      It was a great exhibit. It’s still on until mid April and i might go back. There’s lots I missed the first time.

  7. Lucky you to have visited that exhibition, A. Christie has a huge fan following in Pakistan and India because most populations are fluent in English due to our colonial past. It might be of interest for you to also know that once she said, “I don’t know Urdu but have knowledge of detective novels in the sub-continent and there is an original writer: Ibn-e-Safi”Mr. Safi wrote 254 books and was an admirer of Chrstie 🙂

    • Thanks, Shey. I haven’t read Endless Night. After going to the exhibit and writing this post I’m very much intrigued by the novels with the mystery writer, Ariadne Oliver in them.
      I’ve always been attracted to novels with writers in them.

  8. Oh what a wonderful summary. I’m a Christie fan and have watched all the hercule Poirot TV shows. I’m sharing your comment about Agatha being considered the slow one with my son. In a family of Type A personalities, he isn’t and equates that with lesser intelligence. Ive tried many arguments not to mention his own list of successes but this is pretty darn effective.

    • There are quite a few geniuses who were considered to be “not so brilliant” such as Thomas Edison whose teacher nice said that he was stupid. But the point is more this: why is slow considered as something negative? I’m always telling myself to slow down.
      On something very serendipitous. I was working on my novel and wanted to consult your blog posts on describing rooms. As I connected to wordpress there you were in my inbox.
      Have a great Saturday and thanks for stopping by. 🙂

      • That’s the Universe at work, innit. Thanks for the Thomas Edison reference. I’ll pass that one on too. I’ll never forget one of my son’s high school teachers (in an AP class) telling me one of Sean’s strengths was he didn’t get caught up in the fervor to speed ahead, be the best, out-perform classmates. He stuck to his own pace.

  9. How spooky! I just went to see ‘The Mousetrap’ last night. It was great fun! I’m proud she is a national treasure and the godmother of all crime writers. I’ve always loved the period feel of her work.

    • It’s strange how thoughts or actions can connect. I’m reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic and she talks of this connection, especially related to inspiration and creativity. It is rather mysterious. 🙂

  10. What a fun exhibition! Thank you for sharing it, Carol. I’m surprised by #4: Really, if she was considered the slow one in her family … I wonder what the rest of them did? I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never read any of her novels, but I’ve seen countless movies and TV series based on her work.

    • Your question made me laugh. If she was slow when she was growing up, she sure made up for it later. When she told her sister that she’d like to write detective novels, her sister responding by telling her that they were difficult to write and she bet that Agatha couldn’t do it.

  11. Taking a moment also to say Women’s day wishes and here’s something at http://wp.me/p2Mxgu-1ed
    I know you are an acomplished writer so hopefully you won’t be offended at my post though, I just want to widely share your wonderful work. Thanks 🙂

  12. I really enjoyed this tribute to Agatha Christie, Carol — I never knew her character Ariadne Oliver was based on her. Sounds like a wonderful exhibit.

    • I now want to read all her books with Ariadne Oliver in them. I imagine it to be like reading about Christie herself as well as her writing. I think we all have a character in our writing based on ourselves.

  13. 🙂 She is one of my favorites, I think I have read many of her books and I have some in my collections, Hercule Poirot is my favorite character. I like the character of Vioctoria Jones in They Came to Baghdad, I read it many times 🙂

  14. Hi Carol,

    I saw an Agatha Christie statue/sculpture the other day around Covent Garden. Your blog post reminded me of it – wow, she really was a prolific author. She created the foundation of the whodunnit with her story-lines – she’s a huge influence in crime/detective fiction. I haven’t got any read any of her books, but I have “And Then There Were None” on my shelf. Thanks for liking my comment! 🙂

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