About the Author
Very prolific British author of mystery novels and short stories, creator of Hercule Poirot, the Belgian detective, and Miss Jane Marple. Christie wrote more than 70 detective novels under the surname of her first husband, Colonel Archibald Christie. She also published a series of romances and a children's book.
Agatha Christie was born in Torquay, in the county of Devon, as the daughter of Frederick Alvah Miller, an American with a moderate private income, and Clarissa Miller. Her father died when she was a child. Christie was educated home, where her mother encouraged her to write from very early age. At sixteen she was sent to school in Paris where she studied singing and piano. Christie was an accomplished pianist but her stage fright and shyness prevented her from pursuing a career in music. When Christie's mother took her to Cairo for a winter, she wrote there a novel. Encouraged by Eden Philpotts, neighbor and friend in Torquay, she devoted herself into writing and had short stories published.
In 1914 Christie married Archibald Christie, an officer in the Flying Royal Corps; their daughter, Rosalind, was born in 1919. During World War I she worked in a Red Cross Hospital in Torquayas a hospital dispenser, which gave her a knowledge of poisons. It was to be useful when she started writing mysteries. Christie's first detective novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, introduced Hercule Poirot, the Belgian detective, who appeared in more than 40 books, the last of which was Curtain (1975). Poirot was an amiably comic character with egg-shaped head, eccentric whose friend Captain Hastings represents the "idiot narrator" - familiar from Sherlock Holmes stories. Poirot draws conclusions from observing people's conduct and from objects around him, creating a chain of facts that finally reveal the murderer. '"He tapped his forehead. "These little gray cells. It is 'up to them' - as you say over here."' Behind the apparently separate details is always a pattern, which only Poirot is able to see. Miss Marple, an elderly spinster, was a typical English character, but when Poirot used logic and rational methods, Marple relied on her feminine sensitivity and empathy to solve crimes. Both Poirot and Marple did not have any family life - they belong to the wide cast of monks and nuns of the detective fiction. Marple was featured in 17 novels, the first being Murder at the Vicarage (1930) and the last Sleeping Murder (1977).
In 56 years Christie wrote 66 detective novels, among the best of which are The Murder of Roger Acroyd (1926), Murder on the Orient Express (1934), Death on the Nile (1937) and Ten Little Niggers (1939). In addition to these works, Christie wrote her autobiography (1977), and several plays, including The Mousetrap, which run more than 30 years continuously in London, and had 8 862 performances at the Ambassadors Theatre.
Christie's marriage broke up in 1926. Archie Christie, who worked in the City, announced that he had fallen in love with a younger woman, Nancy Neele. In the same year Christie's beloved mother died. The story of Christie's real life (love?) adventure in the 1926, when she disappeared for a time and lived in a Harrowgate hotel under the name Mrs. Neele, was basis for the film Agatha. It was directed in 1978 by Michael Apted. In title role was Vanessa Redgrave. Her divorce was finalized in 1928, and two years later she married the archaeologist Max Mallowan. She had met him on her travels in Near East in 1927, and accompanied him on his excavations of sites in Syria and Iraq. Later Christie used these exotic settings in her novels Murder in Mesopotamia (1936) and Death on Nile (1937). Her own archeological adventures were recounted in Come Tell Me How You Live (1947). Mallowan was Catholic and fourteen years her junior; he became one of the most prominent archaeologist of his generation. Of her marriage the writer told reporters: "An archaeologist is the best husband any woman can have. The older she gets, the more interested he is in her."
Christie's most prolific period began in the late 1920s. During the 1930s he published four non-series mystery novels, fourteen Poirot novels, two Marple novels, two Superintendent Battle books, a book of stories featuring Harley Quin and another featuring Mr. Parken Pyne, an additional Maru Westmacott book, and two original plays. In 1936 she published the first of six psychological romance novels under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott.
During WW II Christie worked in the dispensary of University College Hospital in London. After the war she continued to write prolifically, also gaining success on the stage and in the cinema. Witness for the Prosecution, for example, was chosen the best foreign play of the 1954-55 season by the New York Drama Critics Circle. Among the many film adaptations were Murder on the Orient Express (1974), with Albert Finney as Poirot, and Death on the Nile (1978), with Peter Ustinov as Poirot.
Christie's characters are usually well-to-do people. Often the comfortable lifestyle of his characters is undermined by financial problems, which lead to murder. Coziness is deceptive and in many stories the reader is fooled to suspect an innocent character. Christie's world view was conservative, which also was seen on her emphasis on logical explanation of crimes - there is no anarchy in Christie's world and society is not blamed for the crime committed within the narrative. Although her writing career spanned over six decades, she registered changing manners and mores without remaining in the atmosphere of the period between the two World Wars.
In 1967 Christie became president of the British Detection Club, and in 1971 she was made a Dame of the British Empire. Christie died on January 12, 1976 in Wallingford, Oxforshire. With over one hundred novels and 103 translations into foreign languages, Christie was by the time of her death the best-selling English novelist of all time. As Margery Allingham said: Christie has "entertained more people for more hours at time that any other writer of her generation."
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