Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Agatha Christie

When people think of authors from the 1920s I don't think many people think of Agatha Christie because she was prolific for such a long time, her final book being published posthumously in 1976 a few months after her death. Hercule Poirot might be inseparable from the the Art Deco trappings of the 1920s but Christie herself has become timeless. Yet her first book featuring the Belgian detective, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, was published in 1920 and she went on to publish ten more books during this decade. From an early age it was clear Christie was a voracious reader and budding writer. Her mother, due to some whim, decided that Agatha wasn't to learn to read or write until she was eight. Agatha taught herself at age four. By age ten she had written her first poem, "The Cowslip," which is so beautiful and elegant it's hard to imagine a girl of only ten writing it. By age eleven her father died and she viewed it as the end of her childhood. What came next was marriage and war. Two things that would forever change her.

On Christmas Eve, 1914 she married Archie Christie while he was home on leave. To do her patriotic duty she worked first as a nurse and then as a dispenser, which is where she learned all about medicine, and more importantly, about poisons. No one could ever fault her writing for getting these details wrong due to her experience. During the war in 1916 she wrote her first detective novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, being inspired by her work in the dispensary and the Belgian refugees she encountered in the hospital. But before she would see it published the war would end and she would have a child. The twenties also brought about the death of her mother and her divorce, which lead to her own mysterious disappearance in 1926 that was never explained and had the country in an uproar. Whether the public thought it a publicity stunt or not, one thing was clear, they needed Agatha Christie and her books. Lucky for them she wrote 66 detective novels and 14 short-story collections in total that have sold over two billion copies, an amount surpassed only by the Bible and the works of William Shakespeare.


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