Agatha Christie, DBE, CBE and dame of detective fiction was born on September 15, 1890. She would be 120 years old today. Outsold only be the Bible and Shakespeare, author Agatha Christie’s books on Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple enthrall mystery lovers decades later. Born Agatha May Clarissa Miller in Torquay, Devon, England in 1890 (d. Jan. 12, 1976) Agatha Christie, writing under the name Mary Westmacott, wrote her first book The Mysterious Affair at Styles in 1920. After working in a dispensary as a nurse during WWI, Agatha Christie divorced her first husband Archie Christie and later married archaeologist Max Mallowan (later awarded an OBE, to be come Sir Max Mallowan).
The Mysterious Affair at Styles first introduced the world to Hercule Poirot, the little Belgian detective with the big moustaches and egg-shaped head. Poirot’s method of detection, not to ‘run about like the dog after cigarette ashes’, but to use his ‘little grey cells’, became legend in literary detective circles. Readers follow Hercule Poirot through many more full-length novels, several plays, and collections of short stories, covering almost six decades, to Curtain, the final Poirot novel. Hercule Poirot has been brought to life by Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov, Albert Finney and David Suchet.
Agatha Christie also gave us Miss Marple, a little spinster from St. Mary Mead who has outwitted some of the biggest brains at Scotland Yard, as Sir Henry Clithering is pleased to state. With her knitting and wooly-headed manner, Miss Marple has lulled many a criminal and detective into thinking that she is just a ‘gossipy old pussy’. Margaret Rutherford, Joan Hickson, Geraldine McEwan and most recently Julia McKenzie portrayed Miss Jane Marple over the years.
Other Agatha Christie detectives include Ariadne Oliver, who generally works with Hercule Poirot and is said to be Agatha Christie’s alterego, Young Adventurers Tommy and Tuppence, Mr. Parker Pyne and my favorite, the man of mystery, Mr. Harley Quin (harlequin). There are several Agatha Christie novels which feature none of the main detectives: The Pale Horse (made into new movie in 2010 as an Agatha Christie Marple) and the play The Mouse Trap (or Three Blind Mice), which enjoys the longest run of any play in London’s West End. Agatha Christie books are the most oft-translated books.
Join me is wishing my favorite author and her fans a very happy birthday on this Agatha Christie’s 120th birthday. Celebrate with a piece of Jane Asher’s cake Delicious Death (recipe here)