Monday, September 6, 2010

All About Agatha - Part I

I am honored to be a part of the second annual Agatha Christie Blog Tour. While today is my first official post for the blog tour I did start a little early with a review of my latest Christie read, The Body in the Library, which was posted yesterday.

Today's post I am calling "All About Agatha - Part I" (the second part will be posted on Wednesday, September 29 as my last blog tour posting.) There is so much that I could write about the Queen of Crime and still I wouldn't scratch the surface of everything there is to know about this best selling author; thus I am keeping this post more along the lines of an self imposed interview as a fan of Agatha Christie novels. The second part (9/29) will be more of a "Did you know" type post with fun facts, trivia, and a give-away, so be sure to check back later in the month. For now, I hope you enjoy learning more about my own history and thoughts relating to Agatha Christie.

Q: What was your first Agatha Christie read?
A: I honestly don't remember. I do remember discovering her books when I was a teenager, but I do not remember what the first title was. It might have been her last book, Sleeping Murder or it might have been my most recent review, The Body in the Library. I just remember that I was fascinated with her stories from day one.

But for some reason I read only a few titles and then moved on to other authors. More than a decade passed before I picked up another Christie novel. In 2008 I decided I need to read ALL of her books. I set a personal challenge to read at least one Agatha Christie mystery a month beginning with her first novel published and proceeding by date of publication until I had read all 80 novels. In the past 18 months I have read 31 novels and at the rate I am going I expect to finish some time in late 2013. That fact alone astonishes me -- six years to read 80 novels, such a long time. Well, that's not so bad when you consider it took her 56 years to write them and would have taken me as long had I lived during the time they were first published.

Q: What attracts you to Agatha Christie books?
A: I love a good detective mystery. I love puzzling through the book and trying to solve the crime. There are a number of reasons why I particularly enjoy Agatha Christie's books. For starters I think she was a clever woman. Though others may disagree, I think her writing never takes on the feel of formula fiction. I love that each plot is fresh, exciting, and in some form a puzzle for the reader's mind to solve. I also enjoy the witty and charming characters. I love the quirkiness of Hercule Poirot and the sly cleverness of Miss Marple. I love that many of the mysteries end on a happy note with some romance blooming, a romance that is carefully woven into the story without detracting from the mystery. I love the way Christie draws from history, from current events, from literature, and from her imagination to create very real characters, settings and story plots. I love that you never know what you're going to get until you're smack in the middle of the story and even then you might be in for a surprise. And I admit, I even like that not all of Agatha Christie's mysteries have happy endings (e.g. And Then There Were None) because again, this just keeps the reader on their mental toes.

Q: What is your favorite Agatha Christie novel?
A: I've been asked this question and I really am stumped as to the answer. I have a top 5 and a top 10 list, but to choose juts one that is my all-time favorite. That is very hard. I really don't feel I can choose just one when I still have another 49 novels to read. Ask me in three years and then I believe I will be able to answer this question definitely. But for my top five list I'd say (in no particular order): Death on the Nile, The A.B.C. Murders, Murder on the Links, N or M?, and The Man in the Brown Suit.

Q: What was one of the scariest Agatha Christie novels you've read?
A: Even with knowing the ending before I read the book I still found And Then There Were None to be the scariest of her novels (at least thus far in my reading).

Q: Who is your favorite detective?
A: Still early to say, but I definitely favor Hercule Poirot with a close second being Tommy and Tuppence, only because I've had more time (and more books) to get acquainted with Poirot.

Q: Is there anything you don't like about Agatha Christie's books?
A: Not that I can think of. Only slightly related are the movie adaptations. I cannot stand when screenwriters alter Christie's stories. I believe if the story has been good enough to survive the last fifty years they should just leave it alone. I love a good film adaptation, but unfortunately have become very wary of the recent releases by Masterpiece Mystery as the screenwriters for their adaptations frequently take liberties with the stories, sometimes going as far as to change the whole motive for the crime to something scandalously modern. I always read the book first and do my best to watch with an open mind, but in the end I always favor any adaptation that is faithful to the original.

Q: If you could travel to any of the places mentioned in a Christie mystery which would it be?
A: Besides all of England? Probably upon the Orient Express. I watched the PBS Masterpiece Mystery special David Suchet on the Orient Express and fell in love with the beautiful scenery and the spectacular train. With the exception of the lack of bathing facilities I think traveling in style by train would be a very exciting experience.

Q: What one thing that you've read about in an Agatha Christie book have you wanted to do in real life?
A: This might sound rather dull, but I'm very curious to learn Bridge. I have no idea how to play and I'd like to learn. Time after time I find this card game a central part of entertainment in books written during the first half of the 20th century by Agatha Christie, D. E. Stevenson and the link. And as anyone who has read Christie's novel Cards on the Table would know, it plays a significant part in solving the murder mystery, a mystery I feel certain I could have solved had I understood the game. One day I will learn to play...I just need to find three more people who feel the same as I.

Q: Of her stories not adapted to film which one are you most wanting to see?
A: Again, this answer might change as I continue to read through her books, but for now I'd say N or M? with Tommy and Tuppence, if adapted faithfully to the book. As runner up I'd vote for Hallowe'en Party, a Hercule Poirot mystery.I read it years ago and found it to be a spine-tingling mystery that could adapt well to the screen. I've heard rumors that it will be, but have yet to see it listed with a date to air.

Q: You recently viewed the 2002 film Agatha Christie: A Life in Pictures what did you think?
A: The movie is not a complete picture of Agatha Christie's life though it does include a rough sketch from birth to late in her life with items in the past being addressed through the form of flashbacks. The main goal of the movie is to tell the story of her famous 11 day disappearance during the winter of 1926. It also addresses her troubled relationship with her first husband, Archie Christie, and lightly touches upon her role as mystery writer and her relationship with second husband Max Mallowan.

Overall I thought the movie was interesting even if it wasn't a complete picture. I will add that from as far as I can tell it appears to be fairly faithful to fact and includes direct quotes from Agatha Christie as well as documented details from other sources. The movie is very artistic in its portrayal of Agatha's story (weird camera angles, special effects during flash-backs, etc., but the actors, costumes and sets were well chosen so all-in-all it was a worthwhile viewing. Still, I have decided if I really want to get more information about who Agatha Christie was and what made her tick then I need to read her autobiography. It just arrived at my library so I am looking forward to digging into it this month and will have more to share in my 9/29 post.

Q: Why do you think Agatha Christie was a successful writer?
A: I think several things lead to her success and popularity as an author. For starters I believe, (though she often complained she was out of ideas and finished as a writer), that Agatha was blessed with a very creative and active imagination. All around her in every day life she found ideas for stories. She went through life with her eyes wide open and her brain constantly pondering, dreaming, and plotting. I find this fascinating. Another factor that led to her success as a writer is her love for books. I've heard numerous times that in order to write well one must read well. Agatha was read to as a child and once she began to read to herself she was an active reader for life. Her reading was diverse as she read both books written by contemporaries and books written long before she was born (a.k.a. the classics). As I mentioned before, Agatha's stories were often based in real places or places based on real places. She drew upon personal experience, she drew upon life. When she didn't know something she researched it. Her stories were creative yet real-life. Last, I believe Agatha Christie made an effort to keep her storytelling fresh. She might re-use a character, place or setting, or even a motive or weapon, but she never let her stories become cliches or formula. Each story is a puzzle with some factor changed to keep the reader guessing. I think all of these factors led to her success and in turn her popularity as a writer.

Q: If there was one question you could ask Agatha Christie what would it be?
A: This is a difficult question to answer, but the first that comes to mind has to do with writing. If she had the chance to start afresh would she sitll have taken the career as the author of crime novels? Or did she prefer the stories she wrote that dealt with romance and tragedy? She wrote a detective novel and it was received well. She wrote another and another and soon had established herself as the Queen of Crime. Did she love to write these novels as much as her fan base loves to read them? I think the answer would be she must have... but you never know. She came to despise Hercule Poirot, but she continued to write stories about him because it was what her readers liked.

Thanks for sharing a few minutes with me and my thoughts about Agatha Christie. I hope I've inspired you to add one of her novels to reading list this month as well as to check out what other writers have to say each day on the Agatha Christie Blog Tour. If you're interested to know what I thought of a particular book (spoilers usually excluded) you can click on any one of the links below to read my reviews. I will have some other Agatha Christie related links when I post on the 29th. Hope to see you then.

In the meantime, happy reading!

Other Agatha Christie Reviews:
*Novels published from 1920-1923 see note below.

The Man in the Brown Suit (1924)
The Secret of Chimneys (1925)
The Big Four (1927)
The Mystery of the Blue Train
The Seven Dials Mystery (1929)
The Murder at the Vicarage
The Sittaford Mystery (1931)
Peril at End House
Lord Edgware Dies
Murder on the Orient Express (1934)
Why Didn't They Ask Evans?
Three Act Tragedy (1935)
Death in the Clouds
The A.B.C. Murders (1936)
Murder in Mesopotamia (1936)
Cards on the Table
Dumb Witness
Death on the Nile (1937)
Appointment With Death (1938)
Hercule Poirot's Christmas (1938)
Murder Is Easy (1939)
And Then There Were None (1939)
Sad Cypress (1939)
One, Two Buckle My Shoe (1940)
Evil Under the Sun (1941)
N or M? (1941)
The Body in the Library (1942)

Absent In the Spring by Mary Westmacott (a.k.a. Agatha Christie) (1944)

* Christie's novels written from 1920 (The Mysterious Affair at Styles) through 1923 (Murder on the Links) I read before I began this blog hence no reviews are currently available.

1 comment:

Kerrie said...

Thanks for participating in the blog tour Sarah.