The Queen of Crime: Agatha Christie
I. Life and Career
A. Family background and Childhood
B. First marriage and the First World War
C. Christie’s first novels
E. Second marriage and later life
II. Famous Characters on her work
A. Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple
III. Archaeology and Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie is one of the most popular and best-known novelists ever, and her books have been translated into more languages than those of any other writer. Born Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller on 15 September 1890 in Torquay, England. She enjoyed a settled, comfortable childhood, her family, did not have to work for a living as they had a private income, and the family employed servants to help with the housework. Agatha later missed this easy way of life, which provided the background of her later life and stories. II. Body
Agatha Christie was born to a wealthy upper-middle-class family in Torquay, Devon in South West England. Christie’s mother, Clara, suffered under financial strain and she is sent to live with relations in the North of England, where she would meet her future husband, an American stockbroker named Frederick Alvah Miller. He soon developed a romantic relationship with Clara, and they were married in April 1878. Their first child Margaret Frary Miller was born when the couple were renting lodgings, while their second, Louis Montant was born In the U.S. state of New York, when Frederick was on a business trip. Clara soon purchased a villa, named “Ashfield”, and it was here that her third and final child, Agatha, was born. Christie would describe her childhood as “very happy”, her time was spent alternating between her grandmother’s home where her family would holiday during winter. She was also raised in a household with various esoteric beliefs, and they believe that their mother Clara was a psychic. Her mother did not believe that girls needed a formal education and so she was not sent to school. So her parents were responsible for teaching her to read and write, and to be able to perform basic arithmetic, a subject she particularly enjoyed. They also taught her about music, and she learned to play both the piano and mandolin. Much of her childhood was spent alone although she spent much time with her pets that she adored. Eventually making friends with a group of girls in Torquay, she noted that “one of the highlights of my existence” was her appearance in a local theatrical production of The Yeoman of the Guard where she starred alongside them. Agatha’s father was often ill, suffering from a series of heart attacks, and in November 1901 he died. His death left the family devastated. Agatha claims that her father’s death, occurring when she was 11 years old, marked the end of her childhood. Her mother Clara became restless and began to travel, taking Agatha with her. These early trips began Agatha’s lifelong love of travel.
In 1912 Agatha met Archibald “Archie” Christie at a dance given by Lord and Lady Clifford of Chudleigh, Archie is a qualified aviator who had applied to join the Royal Flying Corps. After a tempestuous romance, they married on Christmas Eve 1914, by special licence, with Archie returning to the war in France on Boxing Day. Agatha was not idle during the war. She became a nurse in the Voluntary Aid Detachment of the Red Cross Hospital in Torquay – ultimately working in the dispensary where she enjoyed the work and completed the examination of the Society of Apothecaries.
Christie had long been a fan of detective novels, her writing career really began after her sister Madge challenged her to write a novel. It took a several years to get her first book The Mysterious Affair at Styles published – with the publisher suggesting an alternative final chapter – but the reviews were kind and the murder by poison so well described that Agatha received the...
Links: In late 1926, her life was in tatters: Christie’s mother Clara died and Archie left her for another woman. On 3 December 1926 the couple quarrelled, and Archie left their house Styles in Sunningdale, Berkshire, to spend the weekend with his mistress at Godalming, Surrey. That same evening Agatha disappeared from her home, leaving behind a letter for her secretary saying that she was going to Yorkshire. Her disappearance caused an outcry from the public, many of whom were admirers of her novels. Despite a massive manhunt, she was not found for 11 days. On 14 December 1926 Agatha Christie was identified as a guest in Swan Hydropathic Hotel where she was registered as Mrs Teresa Neele. Christie never accounted her disappearance. Although two doctors diagnosed her as suffering from psychogenic fugue, opinion remains divided. A nervous breakdown from a natural propensity for depression may have been exacerbated by her mother’s death earlier that year and her husband’s infidelity. Public reaction at the time was largely negative, supposing a publicity stunt or attempt to frame her husband for murder. But author Jared Cade interviewed numerous witnesses and it provided a substantial amount of evidence that Agatha planned the entire disappearance to embarrass her husband. The Christies divorced in 1928.
Christie slowly rebuilt her life and in 1930 she visited Baghdad for a second time. It was here she met Max Mallowman, an archaeologist. Max took Agatha on a tour of Baghdad and the desert – it was an action packed journey – their car got stuck in the sand and they were rescued by the Desert Camel Corps. When they reached Athens, Agatha received a telegram saying that Rosalind was seriously ill. Agatha’s only concern was to get home, however she badly sprained her ankle on an Athens street and was unable to walk. Max chose to accompany her back to England. She could not have made the trip without him and when they reached home he proposed and she happily accepted. Agatha accompanied Max on his annual archaeological expeditions for nearly 30 years. She continued to write, both at home and on field trips and her book Come, Tell Me How You Live wittily describes her days on digs in Syria. Her travels with Mallowman contributed background to several of her novels. Her novel And Then There Were None, which is her bestselling novel and Murder on the Orient Express were written in Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul, Turkey. During the Second World War, Christie worked in the pharmacy at University College Hospital, London, where she acquired knowledge of poisons that she put to good use in her post-war crime novels. For example, the use of thallium, which she incorporated in her novel The Pale Horse. To honour her many literary works, she was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1956 New Year Honours. The next year, she became the President of the Detection Club. In the 1971 New Year Honours she was promoted Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, three years after her husband had been knighted for his archaeological work in 1968. They were one of the few married couples where both partners were honoured in their own right. From 1968, due to her husband’s knighthood, Christie could also be styled as Lady Mallowman. From 1971 to 1974, Christie’s health began to fail, although she continued to write. In 1975, sensing her weakness, Christie signed over the rights of her most successful play, The Mousetrap, to her grandson.
Agatha Christie’s first novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles was published in 1920 and introduced the long-running character detective Hercule Poirot, who appeared in 33 of Christie’s novels and 54 short stories. Well known Miss Marple was introduced in The Thirteen Problems in 1927 and was based on Christie’s grandmother and her “Ealing cronies”. During the Second World War, Christie wrote two novels, Curtain and Sleeping Murder, intended as the last cases of these two great detectives, Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple. Both books were sealed in a bank vault for over thirty years and were released for publications by Christie only at the end of her life, when she realised that she could not write any more novels. These publications came on the heels of the success of the film version of Murder on the Orient Express in 1974. Like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with Sherlock Holmes, Christie was to become increasingly tired of her detective Poirot. In fact, by the end of the 1930s, Christie confided to her diary that she was finding Poirot “insufferable," and by the 1960s she felt that he was "an ego-centric creep." However, unlike Doyle, Christie resisted the temptation to kill her detective off while he was still popular. She saw herself as an entertainer whose job was to produce what the public liked, and the public liked Poirot. Feeling tied down, stuck with a love interest, she did marry off Hastings in an attempt to trim her cast commitments. Poirot is the only fictional character to have been given an obituary in The New York Times, following the publication of Curtain. It appeared on the front page of the paper on 6 August 1975. In contrast, Christie was fond of Miss Marple. However, it is interesting to note that the Belgian detective 's titles outnumber the Marple titles more than two to one. This is largely because Christie wrote numerous Poirot novels early in her career, while The Murder at the Vicarage remained the sole Marple novel until the 1940s.
Christie had always had an interest in archaeology. On her trip to Baghdad she visited the archaeological digs at Ur. She was received particularly warmly by the archaeologist Leonard Wooley because his wife, Katherine, had just finished The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and was a huge fan. On a return trip 1930, she met Max, the man she would later marry. And both of them threw their selves on investigating ancient civilizations. She developed the photographs on the early excavations and later photographed the digs herself. She also worked on the restoration and labelling of ancient exhibits; cleaning and conserving the delicate ivory pieces. She was, in her lifetime, one of the most informed women in the world in the archaeological field. Many of her works had archaeological influences and some of the popular are Murder in Mesopotamia (1936) which she dedicated to her many archaeological friends in Syria and Iraq. And The atmospheric description in Appointment with Death (1938) was based on her visits to Petra, while the actual layout of the Nile streamer SS Karnak is crucial to the plot of Death on Nile (1937) and They Came to Baghdad (1951) the heroine talks about her experience on a dig in Southern Mesopotamia. Looking back over her life as an author, she said that, whilst the characters that she created were fictitious, the settings were always real.
Agatha’s accomplished books are still with us today and used and bought frequently, her stage plays still running, her books still selling, and her name “The Queen of Crime,” still stuck in everybody that enjoyed her novels. Most of her things when she died were left to her nephew and daughter. Agatha one of the best authors of crime writing ever born and still remembered to this very day as the “Queen of Crime.”
I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.
The happy people are failures because they are on such good terms with themselves they don 't give a damn.
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