Author Study: Agatha Christie

Did you know that the world’s most translated author is none other than famed mystery novelist, Agatha Christie? According to the Index Translationium, a database of book translations, Agatha Christie’s novels have been translated into 103 various languages. Agatha Christie is also recognized as the world’s bestselling fiction author. She has sold approximately 2 million copies of her novels. The only novels to exceed Christie’s sales are the works of William Shakespeare and copies of The Bible.

Agatha Christie’s work is everywhere. She is constantly inspiring those of the mystery genre. She is a literary icon, and her work is exceptional.

Early Years

On September 15th, 1890, Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born. She was raised in Torquay, Devon, in South West England. She was homeschooled by her father, an American. Her mother was Clara, an extraordinary storyteller. Despite being homeschooled, neither her mother nor father taught her how to read; Agatha taught herself by the age of five simply out of boredom.

Agatha was strikingly creative. She developed a passion for writing and reading through authors such as Edith Nesbit and Louisa M. Alcott. Agatha also took dance classes, was a brilliant pianist, and wrote poetry.

Devastatingly, her father died from a heart attack when Agatha was eleven. From this point forward, Agatha became her mother’s closest companion. Unfortunately, after her father’s death, Agatha and her mother became very poor.

It was shortly after Agatha’s eighteenth birthday that she began to write short stories.

The First World War  

In 1912, Agatha met Archie Christie. He was an aviator who had applied to the Royal Flying Corps. The two fell in love. They wanted to marry, but neither had much money, which made this difficult for them. However, they finally managed to marry on Christmas Eve in 1914. Shortly after their honeymoon, Archie had to return to France. Separated by the War, the couple would visit one another whenever they could. When Archie was posted to the War Office in London in 1918, the couple was finally able to begin their married life.

While working as a nurse, Agatha began to write detective stories. Her debut novel was The Mysterious Affair at Styles. This novel started merely as a bet from her sister Madge, who told Agatha that she couldn’t write a good detective story. The novel was a long process. It took her a long duration to write, and she struggled to find a publisher. However, the book was a success. The murderer’s use of poison was so detailed and well-described that once the book was published, Agatha received a review in the Pharmaceutical Journal.

New Beginnings

In 1919, with the end of the War, Archie found an occupation in London. Agatha and Archie were able to rent a flat and begin their life together. On August 5th, Agatha gave birth to their daughter, Rosalind.

Agatha received exciting news when John Lane of The Bodley Head had contracted Agatha to write five more novels. She felt that her career was beginning, and she was beyond thrilled. She began to write multiple different thriller and murder mystery stories. She created the characters Tommy and Tuppence and then beloved Miss Marple. Later, she found herself a new publisher by the name of William Colins and Sons, now known as HarperCollins. Shortly after, Agatha, Archie, and Rosalind moved to a beautiful home in the Berkshires. They named the home Styles after Agatha’s first novel.

The Mysterious Vanishing of Agatha Christie

Agatha was passionate about mystery, but nobody guessed that she would mysteriously disappear on her own.

Agatha and Archie began to experience difficulties in their marriage in the 1920s. Agatha’s mother had sadly died from bronchitis, and she was suffering greatly. As well, it was no secret that Agatha was becoming an extremely successful author who was receiving more money than she had ever encountered. Despite their financial stability, Agatha insisted on living a modest and simple lifestyle. Agatha’s belief’s on how she and her family should live was said to have caused turmoil between her and Archie. Their marriage broke down due to Agatha’s state of sadness over the loss of her mother and financial disagreements. Archie began an affair with Nancy Neale, a friend of the family.  

One late evening in December, Archie and Agatha had a brutal argument and Archie left the home to spend the weekend with his friends and mistress. The overwhelmed Agatha left her home in the Berkshires, leaving her daughter Rosalind in the care of the maids without telling anyone where she would go.

The next morning, police officers found Agatha’s vehicle. It had crashed. The headlights were still on, and a suitcase and coat remained in the seat of the car. The disappearance of Agatha Christie became known to the nation, and the press and public began to wonder what became of the mystery novelist. Her vanishing strangely seemed like a tale Agatha Christie would tell in one of her novels. Archie Christie and Nancy Neale were under suspicion from the public and law enforcement. A manhunt ensued, and thousands of volunteers began to search for Agatha in the area where her car had been left.

Ten days later, a waiter at a hotel contacted law enforcement to report that a guest at the hotel may actually be Agatha Christie. It was said that Agatha had travelled to Kings Cross station where she took a train to Harrogate and checked into a hotel under the fake name of Theresa Neale. Archie travelled to the hotel. He witnessed his wife sitting in the hotel’s dining room and reading a newspaper about her own disappearance. When Archie approached his wife, Agatha was visibly confused. It was said that she had no recollection of who she was or who Archie was.

The truth behind Agatha’s disappearance remains unsolved. Some say that it was a nervous breakdown after the events of her mother’s death and the affair between Nancy and Archie. Others believe that it was a public stunt to promote Agatha’s novels. Archie Christie stated that doctors had diagnosed his wife with a concussion and amnesia. Agatha never publicly spoke of the event of her disappearance.

Agatha and Archie began to live apart. Agatha and Rosalind lived in London while Agatha underwent psychiatric treatment. Agatha soon divorced from Archie in 1928. Then, Agatha took Rosalind to the Canary Islands where Agatha finished her novel, The Mystery Of The Blue Train, a book she had struggled to write as she mourned her mother’s death. Then, she wrote Giant’s Bread.

Inspiration in the Middle East

Agatha finally achieved one of her lifelong ambitions of riding the Orient Express in 1928. She travelled to Baghdad where she met archaeologist in training, Max Mallowan who shortly became her second husband. Max and Agatha were married on September 11th, 1930, in Edinburgh. Max and Agatha began a very happy marriage. Agatha has jokingly said, “An archeologist is the best husband a woman can have. The older she gets, the more interested he is in her”.

During her time in the Middle East, Agatha wrote Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, Murder in Mesopotamia, Appointment With Death, and They Came To Baghdad. As well, Agatha Christie began writing as Mary Westmacott, a penname that she used. Rosalind describes the Mary Westmacott series as “bitter-sweet stories about love”. These stories explore the relationships that Agatha had with her family members.

The Second World War

Max got a job in Cairo during the second World War, while Agatha stayed in England. She spent her time writing and volunteering at the University College Hospital in London. She wrote novels such as And Then There Were None, Evil Under The Son, The Body In The Library, Five Little Pigs, and The Moving Finger.

The Later Years

In 1945, Max had returned home. The two lived a slower pace of life as there were large shortages on resources. Food rationing from the war did not end until 1954.

In 1946, Agatha’s cover was exposed, and it was revealed that she was Mary Westmacott. This disappointed her, as she was no longer able to write without the constant pressure of being Agatha Christie.

Agatha was last seen on the opening night of the 1974 film, Murder on the Orient Express. After an extremely successful career and happy life, the prolific writer died peacefully on January 12th, 1976.

Agatha Christie is known for her 66 detective novels, 14 short story collections, and for writing the longest running play, Mousetrap. She has created famous characters such as Hercule Poirot. She was a brilliant storyteller, and her plays and novels are still adored to this day!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shopping Cart