Welcome to day 3 of the A-Z Challenge for April. Today is brought to you by the letter C!!
C is for Christie…Agatha Christie
I first came across the work of Agatha Christie when I was around 14 years old. My Dad had some paperbacks on the bookshelf and one day, fed up with the Hardy Boys and the Three Investigators (good old Alfred Hitchcock’s teenage crime busters who had a den in a salvage yard) I went trawling on his shelf for something new to read. I remember clearly picking up his edition of The Body in the Library and from page one I was hooked.
I fell in love with the location – who wouldn’t want to live in St Mary Mead for goodness’ sake?? – and Miss Marple was a lovable, dotty old granny who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind and give the Inspector what for when he was making a hash of things. In quick succession, I read The ABC Murders (literally blown away by the twists and turns of the railways being used as part of the plot), A Pocketful of Rye, Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?, Murder On The Orient Express…. and so on.
What appealed to me most about Agatha Christie’s work was that it was a lot like Enid Blyton’s mysteries, which I was so familiar with by then, but with more grown up prose and narrative. Whereas Enid Blyton dealt with things like petty theft, racehorse smuggling and dodgy goings on in mountains of adventure, Agatha Christie got down to the nitty gritty of good old fashioned murder and revenge. Their way of writing is very similar, so it was a natural progression for me to go from one to the other.
I remember being really disappointed when I saw Margaret Rutherford playing Miss Marple in the 4.50 From Paddington. She was NOTHING like the Miss Marple in my mind!! There have been quite a few attempts at playing Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot over the years in both TV and film, and I have to say that my favourite Marple has been Joan Hickson, and my favourite Poirot is David Suchet. If you push me hard enough I will admit to you that I am not really a huge fan of Poirot on the screen, he is much better in the books. My favourite Christie characters to have made it to the screen were by far Tommy and Tuppence. I loved all that “tally ho!” nonsense and the cut-glass English accents were fantastic to try and copy. As a working class Mancunian they were way above me, but I just loved them for what they were and the totally out-of-touch lifestyle they observed.
Agatha Christie herself had a life that is worthy of a novel or two. She didn’t actually have any formal schooling but she was not uneducated by any stretch of the imagination and threw herself into anything and everything she could. Not only was she a prolific author and playwright, she was a nurse during World War I, was married twice (once to an RAF pilot and once to an eminent archaeologist), went on archaeological digs with her husband to Egypt and the Middle East, travelled extensively all around the world, was one of the first Britons to learn to surf standing up (!) and mysteriously disappeared for a short time in 1926 after a marital row. Under the name of Mary Westmacott, Agatha Christie also wrote a series of romance novels.
Agatha Christie died in 1976 aged 86 and left behind an astounding amount of work and influencing thousands of writers in her wake. She was quite some gal!!