Monday, July 31, 2017

Favorite Authors: Agatha Christie

I don't recall how old I was when I first read a mystery by Agatha Christie. But I do remember going through a phase of checking each book out of the Mesa Public Library. It was summer and I would ride my bike twice a week the three miles to the library to get a new batch of books. I remember loving Christie's books because it was almost impossible to guess who was the murderer.

Agatha Christie is a British author born in Devon in 1890. Unusual for the time, Agatha was homeschooled by her father. She loved to read and had a vivid imagination. She started writing in her later teen years, first experimenting with short stories. In 1910 her family moved to Cairo to benefit her mother's health. Cairo became the setting of several of her books later in life.

In 1912 Agatha met Archie Christie, a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps. Their courtship progressed quickly, but was interrupted by WWI. They were not able to marry until Christmas Eve of 1914. Just three days later Archie had to return to the war. It was not until after the war ended their married life truly began.

Agatha began writing more in earnest at this time. Her sister, Madge, bet her she could not write a good detective story. Additionally, Agatha found her day job at a local hospital to be extremely boring. When the hospital opened a dispensary, she took the exam to become an apothecary and changed jobs. This knowledge of medicine and poisons became invaluable to her writing. Her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, which uses her knowledge as an apothecary, took a while to get published, but resulted in a publisher asking for five more manuscripts. Agatha had won her bet with Madge.

Agatha is actually known for a real-life personal mystery. In December 1925, possibly concussed, she disappeared. Her car was found abandoned the next morning. She was eventually discovered in a hotel in London suffering from amnesia. She did not recognize her husband when he came to get her. Her marriage began to fail after this and she never spoke of this time to others. By 1928 she and Archie were divorced. About five years later she met and married Max Mallowan, an archaeologist and language specialist.

Christie's career as an author was most prolific during her later years. She is known for several famous detective characters, including Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. Poirot is a Belgian retired detective who is known for his methodical, precise work, as well as his mustache. Miss Jane Marple is an elderly, charming British woman who blends into the background, but has intuitive listening and observation skills.

I don't own all that many Agatha Christie books, since I read most of them from the library. I did notice, however, that Project Gutenberg has two of Agatha Christie's books available as free ebook downloads. You can find them here. I downloaded The Mysterious Affair at Styles to re-read (I could not remember the plot having read it so long ago) and enjoyed once again Christie's writing ability. If you have not read any of Agatha Christie's works, this is a great place to start!

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