Agatha Christie, who wrote sixty-six detective novels and fourteen short story collections (!), began her famed writing career 101 years ago.
We can thank Christie’s sister who jump-started the famous author’s calling. According to literary lore, Agatha bet her sibling that she could write a book and get it published.
In 1920 Agatha Christie was thirty when The Mysterious Affair at Styles was serialized in a British newspaper. The book, which features Hercule Poirot, was rejected six times before appearing in print in the U.S. and later in Britain.
Christie created iconic characters, including Belgian detective Poirot and amateur sleuth Miss Marple. She wrote about the world she knew and saw – village politics, local rivalries, family jealousies and was described as someone who “listened more than she talked and saw more than she was seen.”
The most everyday events and casual observations could trigger the idea for a new Christie plot. Her second book The Secret Adversary stemmed from a conversation overheard in a tea shop: “Two people were talking at a table nearby, discussing somebody called Jane Fish… That, I thought, would make a good beginning to a story — a name overheard at a tea shop — an unusual name, so that whoever heard it remembered it. A name like Jane Fish, or perhaps Jane Finn would be even better.”
Cool Christie Facts:
• Tired of the tedious Poirot, the author killed him in her 1975 novel Curtain. The reaction to his demise was so fierce that The New York Times published a front-page “obituary” for the detective.
• According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Christie is “the best-selling novelist of all time.” Her novels have allegedly sold over two billion copies so far, and she’s said to be eclipsed only by William Shakespeare and the Bible. • Her best-selling book is And Then There Were None. It’s been sold over 100 million times, making it the best-selling mystery novel of all time.
• Christie kills her characters in wildly creative ways including being strangled by a ukulele string, jabbed in the neck with a venom-tipped dart, stabbed with a corn knife and an ornamental Tunisian dagger, drowned in an apple tub, and crushed by a bear-shaped marble clock.
• She also wrote 19 plays, of which the most famous, The Mousetrap, opened in 1952. It is the world’s longest-running play, being performed continually until March when its London theatre home closed due to the pandemic.
• Christie eschewed violence. Her preferred methodology for slaying her characters was poison. Having worked in a dispensary during wartime, she was very familiar with pharmaceuticals. Her protagonists rarely carry a gun and her two most famous detectives, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, were virtual pacifists.
• Along with other members of the London Detection Club, Christie promised to never keep vital clues from readers and or use fictional poisons as a plot crutch.
• You can rent Christie’s old home in in Devonshire, England for $500 a night.