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Sunday, 23 December 2012

The Creation of a Detective - Agatha Christie

1916 was a watershed year for Agatha Christie - she had been married to her husband Archie for just over a year, but because of the war she saw little of him. He was serving in the Royal Field Artillery which meant that Agatha had a lot of time to herself.

Agatha found herself working in the dispensary of Torquay hospital and as part of her training the young, soon to be bestselling author made careful notes of the appearance and effects of all the different substances she would have to dispense. She knew how different poisons acted, their aroma and how their use could be disguised - useful knowledge for a woman who would become the queen of crime fiction.

During the period Agatha was working on what would become her first novel and with her knowledge it was natural that she should use poisoning for her storyline.

'I was steeped in Sherlock Holmes, so I carefully considered the kind of detective I would create. I knew I could never emulate Holmes and must create one of my own. I started to carefully examine the detectives I found in books." Agatha Christie.

After toying with the idea of both a schoolboy detective and a scientists, Agatha' attention turned to the Belgian refugees who were living in the nearby parish of Tor. She decided to make her detective Belgian, a refugee police officer and from that idea the character of Hercule Poirot began to form in Agatha's imagination.

The novel that would introduce the world to the new detective was The Mysterious Affair at Styles and it was rejected by Hodder and Stoughton, the first publisher Agatha sent it to.However the young writer stuck with it and it was first published in the US by John Lane in 1920 and then in the UK by Bodley Head the following year.

"The only fault this story has is that it is almost too ingenious." It went on to describe the basic set-up of the plot and concluded: "It is said to be the author's first book, and the result of a bet about the possibility of writing a detective story in which the reader would not be able to spot the criminal. Every reader must admit that the bet was won." The Times Literary Supplement

"Though this may be the first published book of Miss Agatha Christie, she betrays the cunning of an old hand … You must wait for the last-but-one chapter in the book for the last link in the chain of evidence that enabled Mr. Poirot to unravel the whole complicated plot and lay the guilt where it really belonged. And you may safely make a wager with yourself that until you have heard M. Poirot's final word on the mysterious affair at Styles, you will be kept guessing at its solution and will most certainly never lay down this most entertaining book." The New York Times Book Review

1 comment:

B2B said...

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's writing style is definitely my favorite, but Dame Agatha Christie is second to none when it comes to complex plots!