Posted by Kathy Waller
This month mystery lovers celebrate two of the most important figures in the history of crime fiction:
~ Agatha Christie, who was born on September 15, 1890, and whose mysteries have outsold everything except Shakespeare and the Bible; and
~ Hercule Poirot, who, having appeared in 1916 in Christie’s first published novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, is marking his one hundredth birthday.
The Royal Mail is observing the occasion with a special stamp issue focusing on six of Christie’s novels. Each stamp contains clues and features related to a specific book. “As the solving of mysteries is the focus of Christie’s art,” said a spokesman for the Royal Mail, “it is fitting that the public have to turn detective to find the hidden words and images in each stamp.”
A series of literary events–Agatha Christie Birthday Celebrations: Marking 100 Years of Creativity–is in progress, including those in Torquay, where Christie was born, and in Wallingford, where she lived at Winterbrook House from 1934 to her death in 1976.
Closed Casket, Sophie Hannah’s second Hercule Poirot novel, was released on September 6th, just in time for Hannah to take part in the festivities, including a book signing at Christie’s holiday home, Greenway.
(Kirkus Reviews on Closed Casket: As in The Monogram Murders (2014), Hannah provides both less and more than Agatha Christie ever baked into any of her tales. But the climactic revelation that establishes the killer’s motive is every bit as brilliant and improbable as any of Christie’s own decorous thunderclaps.)
And BBC One will produce seven more adaptations of Christie’s works.
Austin Mystery Writers, alas, couldn’t attend the festivities in England, so we celebrate here in our own small but sincere way–by letting the Queen of Crime speak for herself.
*The best time to plan a book is while you’re doing the dishes.
*Many friends have said to me, ‘I never know when you write your books, because I’ve never seen you writing, or even seen you go away to write.’ I must behave rather as dogs do when they retire with a bone; they depart in a secretive manner and you do not see them again for an odd half hour. They return self-consciously with mud on their noses. I do much the same.
*All I needed was a steady table and a typewriter…a marble-topped bedroom washstand table made a good place; the dining-room table between meals was also suitable.
*Plots come to me at such odd moments, when I am walking along the street, or examining a hat shop… suddenly a splendid idea comes into my head.
*Every murderer is probably somebody’s old friend.
*There’s no agony like [getting started]. You sit in a room, biting pencils, looking at a typewriter, walking about, or casting yourself down on a sofa, feeling you want to cry your head off.
*One problem is that the interruptions are generally far more enjoyable than writing, and once you’ve stopped, it’s exceedingly difficult to get started again.
*One’s always a little self-conscious over the murderer’s first appearance. He must never come in too late; that’s uninteresting for the reader at the end of the book. And the dénouement has to be worked out frightfully carefully.
*I myself always found the love interest a terrible bore in detective stories. Love, I felt, belonged to romantic stories. To force a love motif into what should be a scientific process went much against the grain.
*God bless my soul, woman, the more personal you are the better! This is a story of human beings – not dummies! Be personal – be prejudiced – be catty – be anything you please! Write the thing your own way. We can always prune out the bits that are libellous afterwards!
*I know nothing about pistols and revolvers, which is why I usually kill off my characters with a blunt instrument or better with poisons. Besides, poisons are neat and clean and really exciting… I do not think I could look a really ghastly mangled body in the face. It is the means that I am interested in. I do not usually describe the end, which is often a corpse.
*If I were at any time to set out on a career of deceit, it would be of Miss Marple that I should be afraid.
*Three months seems quite a reasonable time to complete a book, if one can get right down to it.
*I am like a sausage machine. As soon as [I finish a novel] and cut off the string, I have to think of the next one.
*When I re-read those first [detective stories I wrote], I’m amazed at the number of servants drifting about. And nobody is really doing any work, they’re always having tea on the lawn.
*I’ve always believed in writing without a collaborator, because where two people are writing the same book, each believes he gets all the worry and only half the royalties.
*I am not mad. I am eccentric perhaps–at least certain people say so; but as regards my profession. I am very much as one says, ‘all there.’
*If one sticks too rigidly to one’s principles, one would hardly see anybody.
*I married an archaeologist because the older I grow, the more he appreciates me.
*What they need is a little immorality in their lives. Then they wouldn’t be so busy looking for it in other people’s.
*A man when he is making up to anybody can be cordial and gallant and full of little attentions and altogether charming. But when a man is really in love he can’t help looking like a sheep.
*Mr. Jesmond made a peculiar noise rather like a hen who has decided to lay an egg and then thought better of it.
*Coffee in England always tastes like a chemistry experiment.
*I know there’s a proverb which that says ‘To err is human,’ but a human error is nothing to what a computer can do if it tries.
*People should be interested in books, not their authors.
*If anyone is really determined to loan you a book, you can never get out of it!
*I’ve got a stomach now as well as a behind. And I mean – well, you can’t pull it in both ways, can you? … I’ve made it a rule to pull in my stomach and let my behind look after itself.
*Writing is a great comfort to people like me, who are unsure of themselves and have trouble expressing themselves properly.
*I would like it to be said that I was a good writer of detective and thriller stories.
For a everything about Agatha Christie, go to http://www.agathachristie.com/
And for more:
Quotations from Agatha Christie were drawn from following sources:
Kathy Waller blogs at
Telling the Truth, Mainly,
Writing Wranglers and Warriors.