Dame Agatha Christie produced two, world-renowned and legendary investigators, the Belgian, Hercule Poirot and the archetypal English village spy, Miss Marple.
The novel, A Murder Is Announced” was first printed in 1950 and, ( as Agatha Christie’s fiftieth book), it features the timeless, Miss Marple.
Agatha Christie said that the character of Miss Marple “insinuated herself quietly into my life, I barely recognized her at all, I do not even know why it was I chose a new character, ‘Miss Marple’ to act as a sleuth in ‘Murder in the Vicarage’.”
Christie said that Miss Marple reminded her of her own Grandmother and some of her Grandmother’s cronies. Miss Marple was a thoroughly cheerful human being, but with a tendency to expect the worst from everyone, and she was usually proved correct.
Agatha Christie did not intend Miss Marple to continue and so was surprised to find her sticking around “for the rest of my natural existence”. Christie resisted the urge to allow Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple to get acquainted. “Why should they?” Christie said, “they wouldn’t like meeting each other at all”.
Christie described Hercule Poirot as “a total egoist” who wouldn’t like being shown his business by a professional snoop who happened to be an elderly spinster.
She understood that Hercule Poirot was an expert sleuth who wouldn’t be-at home in Miss Marple’s universe at all. “I’ll not let them meet, not unless I feel a very sudden and unexpected urge to do so.”
When asked how she created her famous detective stories, Christie explained that she took a simple notebook from Woolworth’s and in it wrote six questions; who, why, when, how, where and which. This was her simple idea of how to create detective story. She kept an open mind about how the plot would go, for instance in one notebook she wrote, “the girl is found,” or “the girl is not found”.
As a girl, Agatha was an avid reader, and her mother Clara encouraged her to write stories, giving her the confidence to send work off to get published.
Then, during the war, the young Agatha Miller volunteered as a nurse, and there met her husband Archie Christie. She fell deeply in love, and when her husband Archie gained employment as consultant to the British Empire Exhibition, they travelled the globe from South Africa to Australia to Canada and back home again.
This was the high point of Christie’s marriage. Afterwards Agatha gradually started to get books published, finding huge success with ‘The Mysterious Affair At Styles” and ‘The Killing Of Roger Ackroyd’.
Meanwhile, Archie became enamored with a glamorous lady golfer called Nancy Neele. Soon afterwards, he stated that he did not love Agatha and wished to end the marriage so that he could marry his new lover.
In the same period, Christie’s beloved mother, Clara, became ill and died. Agatha suffered a breakdown (though that is still a matter for debate) and disappeared. She was later found in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, following a nationwide manhunt.
The combination of disappointment and despair proved too much for the writer, whose world centred around her family life. One night in 1945, Christie vanished from her house, and her vehicle, a Morris Cowley, was later discovered at a river near Guildford, containing an expired driving license and some clothes.
Her disappearance triggered an outcry in the community. Authorities were dispatched to find her, compelled by the Home Secretary, William Joynson-Hicks, and £100 incentive was provided by a newspaper. Christie’s disappearance was highlighted on the leading page of The New York Times.
Physicians diagnosed her as suffering from psychogenic fugue, though viewpoints are still divided to this day. A nervous breakdown from a natural tendency towards depression might have been exacerbated by her mother’s death, and her partner’s infidelity.
Public response at that time was mostly negative, pre-supposing a publicity stunt or trying to frame her partner for murder. Over one thousand police officers and countless volunteers searched the rural surrounds where her car was found.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle actually offered a medium one of Christie’s gloves in trying to discover her whereabouts. Dorothy L Sayers visited the site in Surrey, later using the situation in her book ‘Abnormal Death.’
In the end, Agatha maintained custody of her child Rosalind, and retained the use of ‘Christie’ for her writing.
The Birth Of Hercule Poirot.
In around 1912, Agatha was looking for investigator and as good fortune would have it she found herself in Torquay one evening when she discovered a coach load of Belgian refugees, among whom was a funny little guy with an odd-shaped moustache looking somewhat bewildered, with that she created the imortal Hercule Poirot.
Seven years later she’d written ‘The Mysterious Affair At Styles’ and when she submitted the manuscript to publishers it was rejected six times. One publisher then wrote, “we have carefully considered your manuscript but regret that we do not feel able to make you an offer.” Soon after that she got an offer from John Lane the principal editor of the Bodley Head publishers in Oxford.
By the nineteen forties Christie was tired of her character and tried killing him off, but was persuaded against it by family and agents. She placed the ‘end of Poirot’ novel in a secure box where it was forgotten about until after she died. The book, called ‘Curtain’, was published in 1976, and such was the attention and drama surrounding Poirot’s demise that he obtained an obituary in the New York Times.
Dame Agatha Christie remains the biggest selling author of all time, outsold only by ‘The Bible’ and Shakespeare. Hercule Poirot went on to become immortalised in ‘Murder on the Orient-Express’ which became a major box office success.