Who is the greatest selling author in the world? If you said William Shakespeare you wouldn’t be wrong as he is tied with Agatha Christie for that distinctive honour according to Google. This forty years after her death in 1976. Of course, William has been dead a few centuries longer than that (1616).
Why do I bring this up at all – because my sister-in-law has been gadding about Europe for the past two years mostly in France, Spain and Italy but with a few exotics thrown in for good measure like Morocco. To say that I am livid with envy would be an understatement. Naturally I comment positively on all the photos she posts on Facebook but the whole time I’m wishing it were me. I am very proud of her for leaving the rat race, storing all her stuff and taking off to see all the places she’s read about for years… unlike her fine arts family member she is a history and literature buff so some of the places she has chosen to visit might not have occurred to me. For instance, visiting the summer home of Agatha Christie as mentioned. After seeing the pictures I decided to do a little research and thought I’d share with you.
Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born on September 15 1890 in Ashfield on the northern edge of Torquay, a seaside town in Devon, England. The Victorian villa was demolished in the Sixties – a blue plaque marks the spot – but the town is replete with sites associated with the author’s life. Educated at home by her mother, Christie began writing detective fiction while working as a nurse during World War I. It was due to this avocation that she developed a knowledge of poisons which she used quite liberally in a lot of her novels. She did not like violence – a side effect I’m sure of seeing it first hand during the war. When she married Lieutenant Archibald Christie, they honeymooned at the Grand Hotel. Her marriage to Archibald did not last, perhaps yet another casualty of that devastating war. In 1930, Christie married noted archaeologist Max Mallowen.
She travelled extensively with both her husbands, and owned many houses during the course of her long life – including several in London, important homes in Oxfordshire and Berkshire, and even one in Baghdad.
Her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920), introduced Hercule Poirot, her eccentric and egotistic Belgian detective; Poirot is one of Christie’s most famous and long-lived characters, appearing in 33 novels, one play, and more than 50 short stories published between 1920 and 1975 before returning to Styles, where, in Curtain (1975), he died. Believe it or not, this fictional character had his obit published in the New York Times, that’s how popular he was. The Nicaraguan government put Poirot’s face on a postage stamp.
The elderly spinster Miss Jane Marple, her other principal detective figure, first appeared in Murder at the Vicarage (1930). She featured in 12 of Agatha Christie’s crime novels and in 20 short stories.
Dame Agatha Christie is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s Bestselling Author. Her books have sold over 2 billion copies in 44 languages. Royalties are about $4 million per year. Agatha Christie is also one of the world’s most prolific writers, or authoress (as she called herself). She was created a Dame of the British Empire in 1971.
Agatha Christie’s play The Mousetrap has the longest theatrical run, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. It opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in London on November 25, 1952. It moved next door to the St. Martin’s Theatre on March 25, 1974, not missing a single performance. It continues to this day.
3,000,000 copies of Murder on the Orient Express (published in 1934) were sold in 1974 alone when the Albert Finney film adaptation opened! Recently, Sir Kenneth Branagh brought the fussy detective Poirot back to life in his movie adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express which also starred Johnny Depp and a certain other grand Dame — Judi Dench and an all star cast.
Later on I will post some of my sister-in-laws photos of Agatha’s summer home with information on where and how it came to be on the National Historic register. Right now I will leave you with a few quotes from the great authoress herself.
An archaeologist is the best husband a woman can have. The older she gets the more interested he is in her.
Good advice is always certain to be ignored, but that’s no reason not to give it.
It is a curious thought, but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realize just how much you love them.