Authored by Sylvia Cochran in Comics and Literature
Published on 12-23-2009
Even an only cursory review of an Agatha Christie biography shows that the grand dame of whodunit writing honed her craft early and often. What is more, she was never at a loss for words, even as she continued to grow older and frailer. Recent medical investigations led to some startling revelations with respect to Dame Christie.
Born as Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller on 09-15-1890, the famous author did not receive the formal education her older sister enjoyed. She married aviator Archie Christie in 1914 and while her husband returned to France to fight in the war, she joined the Red Cross Hospital in Torquay as a nurse and later on as a pharmacist. After a much publicized disappearance and divorce in 1926, she traveled. In 1930 she met her second husband, Max Mallowan. They remained married until her death on 01-12-1976.
Often lost in translation when reading over an Agatha Christie biography is the author’s use of the pseudonym “Mary Westmacott” for what many consider to be romantic novels. Under this name she published six novels, which differed greatly from her famous whodunits. They are Giant’s Bread, Unfinished Portrait (a largely autobiographical sketch), Absent in the Spring (the book that Agatha Christie considered her favorite work), The Rose and Yew Tree, A Daughter’s Daughter and The Burden.
It is interesting to note that Agatha Christie had very personal relationships with the characters she created. While Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple are by far the most famous ones, the author was never too fond of Poirot and his insufferable arrogance. As such, it is a testament to her skill as a writer that she nonetheless wrote successful and engaging stories using this character. This skill is also expressed in various other tidbits related to her writing. For example, did you know that in the book Endless Night – written when she was already 76 years old – she assumes the narrative as a young man?
All in all, Agatha Christie wrote a total of 80 novels and numerous plays. She largely relied on her powers of observation for plot ideas. This accounts for the very detailed and verifiable descriptions of events, societal mores, boundaries of interaction and of course also the vivid archeological and travel related scenery. Unlike the stereotypical writer, who will waste endless pieces of paper in the pursuit of honing one scene, her son in law is quoted as saying that Ms. Christie would work out an entire scene in her head before committing it to paper. That being said, she would still put some ideas on paper by putting them into a notebook. It helped her stay focused and work numerous red herrings into her whodunits.
Canadian researchers eventually decided to investigate rumors of mental illness in the final years of the author’s life. Although unlikely to be contained in any official Agatha Christie biography, they claim that she was indeed suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. They did so by painstakingly analyzing vocabulary content of her final works, only to discover that the last two novels contained a significantly smaller vocabulary when compared to her prior works.