About Agatha . . .
An MBR Extra
by John Dwaine McKenna
The year 2020 will mark the 100th anniversary of the first novel of the most widely-read author in all the world. Her name is Agatha Christie. Her first detective novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, debuted on Nov 6, 1920.
In honor of this iconic and beloved author, the MBR is highlighting some facts about her life, as well as her writing techniques for all of our readers to enjoy; thanks to Publisher’s Weekly and author Liz Scheier, who wrote the Publisher’s Weekly article from which these elements are gleaned.
FACT: Guinness World Records cites Agatha Christie as the best-selling fiction writer of all time, with one billion copies in print in English, 7,236 translations as of 2017, and more than a billion copies in other languages.
FACT: Mrs. Christie published sixty-six novels under her own name, six under the name Mary Westmacott, fourteen short-story collections, several stage plays and also left seventy-five notebooks full of plot ideas.
FACT: Her two main protagonists were a fussy Belgian inspector named Hercule Poirot, and an amateur sleuth; Miss Marple of St. Mary’s Mead, England.
Here’s some other characteristics of an Agatha Christie work:
“There’s always a sense of justice in her novels and things will be tied up at the end which is reassuring,” says James Prichard, Agatha Christie’s great-grandson and the CEO of Agatha Christie LTD.
She first came up with the idea of the odd-ball investigator.
She popularized the limited suspect pool.
She crafted puzzles that seem to have no possible solutions, which are then solved with clues that were always in plain site. She’s always fair to the reader and never talks down to them.
Her prose style is clear, crisp, and simple. She’s a brilliant story-teller whose books are gripping, entertaining and enthralling.
Her protagonists, Miss Marple and Poirot, have no ulterior motives or underhanded schemes . . . they are always upstanding and totally honest.
Agatha Christie is recognized as the most masterful plotter of all time.
She wrote during the Golden Age of detective fiction, but none of the other big names of the day—which included Raymond Chandler, G.K. Chesterton, and Dorothy L. Sayers—have achieved Christie’s level of commercial success or the adoration of her readers that she has.
Her books never get boring. She is clearly associated with the years between World War I and World War II, which were the last days of a certain type of British Society. Nostalgia is part of her enduring appeal.
All the themes and emotions of her novels such as hate, envy, and inferiority complexes are as universal now as when she wrote them, because her fundamental interests are human nature and psychology. What makes people tick?
Her characters are recognizable human types. No matter what part of the world the reader lives in, they can recognize the type of character she’s describing.
People love her characters.
Her fans are worldwide, speak different languages and live on opposites sides of the world.
Christie’s stories encapsulate all of human nature in a small setting.
There is always a finite group of suspects.
She speaks to the human condition as she deals with evil in the world . . . but in the end goodness always comes through. She leaves her readers with hope for the future and a firm belief in a better tomorrow . . . because justice always prevails.
The following writers contributed to this article; Liz Scheier, James Prichard, Martin Edwards, Sophie Hannah, R.V. Raman, Anthony Horowitz, Marie Benedict, Alex Pavesi, Ovidia Yu, Hannah Dennison, and Ruth Ware.