Agatha Christie of course had to feature in my vintage crime A-Z, it was always just which letter to use! A for Agatha, M for Miss Marple or P for Poirot. O for the Orient Express or H for Hastings. Such a prolific crime author, I wonder who hasn’t heard of Agatha Christie? So I decided that rather than deal with what you all know, that she wrote 80 novels featuring a Belgian Sleuth, Poirot, or a little old lady sleuth, Miss Marple. I thought I would write a bit about her… I’ve found that I certainly know the name but I knew little about her. Lots of things have become clearer to me through reading a bit of her biography.
Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born on 15 September 1890. She married Archie Christie in 1914 and they had a child, Rosalind. Her first novel, The Murder at Styles was published in 1920 and introduced Poirot to the world. The family named their home in Berkshire Styles, after the novel.
On 3rd December 1926 Agatha disappeared. Her 6th novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was published and selling well but late one evening her vehicle was found abandoned with the door open and a fur coat on the seat. Agatha was nowhere to be seen. An extensive police investigation began, searching for her. Pressure was put on the police to do more by the government when Agatha was not found. A local natural spring, The Silent Pool, was dredged to see if her body was there. The Silent Pool was the location of several sightings of ghosts over previous years as regarded as a site in history of suspicious deaths. Dorothy L Sayers visited the scene and used the spot in a future novel. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was allowed to take one of Agatha’s abandoned gloves to take to a spiritualist to see what information could be obtained. They believed that she was dead but saw trouble ahead.
It was 11 days later that Agatha was found in a hotel in Harrogate where she had booked in under the name of Theresa Neale. The name of her husbands secretary. It appears that Archie had just told Agatha that he had fallen in love with her. Agatha was of course distraught.
Agatha went on to marry a young archaeologist after her divorce, Max Mallowan, and remained married to him until her death. During their lifetimes he was knighted for his work and she made a Dame for hers. She kept the name Christie for her publishing work because she was so well known by the time of her divorce.
The hotel where Agatha was finally located is now called The Old Swan Hotel and there is a plaque on the wall recalling the event. An annual crime writing festival is hosted within the hotel.
Like G K Chesterton, who featured in last weeks episode, Agatha spent time as the president of The Detection Club, an elite group of the selected crime authors of the day who swore an oath to stick to the rules when writing crime fiction!