Agatha Christie

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Biography of Agatha Miller Boehmer, better known as Agatha Christie, is the novelist who has sold the most novels worldwide: 2 billion copies.

Her novels have been translated into at least 103 languages. Her “The Assassination of Roger Ackroyd” is considered by experts to be the best crime novel of all time.

Childhood and family of novelist Agatha Christie

Agatha Miller was born on December 15, 1890 to an upper middle class family in Torquay, a town on the south west coast of England.

Torquay is a beautiful tourist town in Devon County. Credit: web

Her mother Clara Boehmer, born in Belfast in 1854, was orphaned by a father at age 9.

Agatha was sent to her home by Margaret, who lived in Sussex with a millionaire husband, Nathaniel Miller, who had a son named Frederick.

Agatha Christie’s father was young Frederick Miller, who had become a prosperous businessman and who, in April 1878, had married Clara Boehmer.

Clara and Frederick had three children: Margaret (1879), Louis Montant (1880), and Agatha (1890).

Agatha Miller Boehmer’s early life

Agatha Christie had a very happy childhood, surrounded by strong and independent women. Her life was spent with her parents or at her aunts’ house.

They all spent frequent holiday seasons in Europe.

Her parents wanted Agatha to study at home and they took care of teaching her to read, write and solve basic arithmetic operations.

She also studied music and learned to play guitar and mandolin.

Agatha learned to read when she was four years old and was a voracious reader of children’s books.

She was just 11 years old when her father died of a heart attack in 1901.

Agatha and her mother, Clara Miller, continued to live together in Torquay, in Devon County.

Her sister Margaret married and her brother Montant was sent to South Africa, where he fought in the Boer War.

In 1902 Agatha enrolled at the Miss Guyer Girls’ School in Torquay.

Agatha Christie lived happy years in this coastal town of Torquay. Credit: web

When she was 15 years old, in 1905, she was sent to study in Paris for five years. In 1910 she returned to Torquay to accompany her mother, who was ill.

Beginnings as a writer and World War I

In that same year 1910, Agatha and her mother decided to spend time in a warmer area.

They chose to go to Cairo and take the opportunity to visit ancient Egyptian monuments, especially the Great Pyramid of Giza.

They stayed at the Gezirah Palace Hotel, specially built in 1869 to accommodate international dignitaries during the opening of the Suez Canal.

Gezirah Hotel
Here it housed Agatha Christie and also the Empress Eugenia de Montijo. Credit: web

Agatha Christie’s first novel

While in Cairo, Agatha Miller wrote her first novel, “Snow Upon theDesert“.

She sent it to several publishers and none wanted to publish it.

A friend of her mother, the writer Eden Philpotts, introduced her to his literary agent, Hughes Massie.

Massie did not like the novel either and suggested that she write another.

Agatha’s marriage to Archibald Christie

When they returned to Torquay, Agatha was already over 20 years old and searching for a husband. At a dance, she met Archibald Christie, aviator, the son of a judge.

Both quickly fell in love; Archie proposed to her, and Agatha accepted the proposal. Thereafter she was considered “Agatha Christie”.

In 1914, at the outbreak of World War I, Archibald was sent to France to fight against German forces.

Agatha joined the volunteer nurses at the Torquay Hospital.

Between October 1914 and December 1916, she devoted herself to the care of wounded soldiers.

She also collaborated with the Red Cross, until September 1918.

In September 1918 Archie was sent back to Britain and appointed Colonel in the Air Ministry.

The Christie marriage in London

Both went to live in an apartment, at number 5 Northwick Terrace, northwest London, near Regent’s Park.

In August 1919 Agatha Christie gave birth to her daughter Rosalind.

Towards the end of the war, Archie left the Air Force and began working in London, on matters related to finances.

Agatha Christie’s early novels

After reading two Wilkie Collins novels (“The Lady in White” and “The Moonstone“) and the first Arthur Conan Doyle stories (creator of Sherlock Holmes), Agatha became addicted to detective stories.

Thinking of writing a new novel, Agatha created a fictional character who wrote “Hercules Poirot“.

What as a detective, a former Belgian police officer, who fled to Britain when the German army invaded Belgium.

She imagined him with magnificent mustaches and an egg-shaped head.

With these ideas, in 1920 she wrote “The Mysterious Case of Styles“, her first detective novel.

She sent it to various publishers; six rejected it and one agreed to publish it, on condition that Agatha modify the ending. 2,000 copies were sold.

One of the literary critics wrote: “The only flaw this story has is that it is, almost too ingenious … It is said to be the author’s first book … it is a detective story in which the reader would not be able to locate the criminal “.

The character Hercules Poirot in the Agatha novels

Hercules Poirot appeared in 33 of her novels and in 54 short stories.

Another of her best-known characters, Miss Jane Marple, first appeared in “The Tuesday Club“, a short story written in 1927.

Christie’s first steps in writing were really difficult and she often thought her ideas weren’t good.

On one occasion, she said that “there is no pain like this. You are in a room, biting pencils, looking at a typewriter, walking around or throwing yourself on a sofa, feeling like you’re going to cry”.

Other novels by Agatha Christie

In 1922, she published her second novel, “The Mysterious Mr. Brown” (1922), in which she let Hercules Poirot rest and put a pair of detectives on paper: Tommy and Tuppence Beresford.

The following year, in 1923, she published her third novel, “Murder on the Golf Course“, again with detective Hercules Poirot as the protagonist.

The press had already noted that the new writer offered the reader a gripping mystery of a rare type and that a commendable novel was required.

One of the rules Agatha imposed on herself was to play fair with the reader, making sure to offer her in her stories all the information necessary to solve the puzzle.

Always allow the reader to test and try to decipher the identity of the culprit before reaching the end of the story.

The puzzle to be discovered is always based on the function of psychological observation.

Shortly after publishing their third novel, the Christie couple left their daughter Rosalind in the care of Grandma Clara and Aunt Margaret; and both undertook a journey through South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii.

Agatha Christie’s early editorial successes

Agatha’s first great success as a novelist came in 1926, with the publication of “The Assassination of Roger Ackroyd“.

In the first edition, 5,000 copies were sold quickly. The novel received much praise and generated quite a stir for the way the writer changes the traditional rules of the detective novel.

In this case, the protagonist of the novel is a rural doctor who becomes a skilled assistant to the Belgian detective Hercules Poirot.

In late 1926, a serious disagreement arose between Archie and Agatha.

A few days later, on December 3, 1926, Agatha Christie disappeared.

More than a thousand police officers, 15,000 volunteers and several planes raked and investigated the rural area, searching for the missing person.

All this without result until eleven days later, on December 14, 1926.

Agatha Christie could never say what happened to her.

Some psychiatrists said they had a nervous breakdown caused by her mother’s death earlier in the year, compounded by her husband’s infidelity.

Marital harmony was never restored and the Christies divorced in 1928.

Agatha remained in the custody of her daughter Rosalind and traveled with her to the Canary Islands, where Agatha finished writing a novel titled “The mystery of the blue train“.

Publication of novels and second marriage

In May 1928, the publication of “The Sittaford Mystery” received a wealth of criticism.

Many of them praised the insight of Hercules Poirot. In others, comments were made about the veracity of communication with spirits.

Agatha always thought that her mother had paranormal powers and she believed in the reality of spiritism herself.

In late 1928 Agatha wrote her first novel not under her name, but under the pseudonym “Mary Westmacott”. She titled it “The Giant’s Bread“, and it does not belong to the detective genre.

These ruins are 24 km from Nasiriyah in Iraq. Credit: Wikipedia

In 1928, during a dinner, she was persuaded to go to Baghdad and visit the archaeological site of Ur.

There she made friends with Leonard and Katharine Wooley, leaders of one of the excavations. She accept the invitation of the two of them to return the following year.

On this second trip she met the distinguished archaeologist Max Mallowan, a very calm young man and fourteen years her junior.

After a brief courtship, they married in September 1930. During the honeymoon they traveled through Italy, Yugoslavia and Greece.

Agatha’s marriage to Max Mallowan was successful and lasted until the writer’s death.

They used to spend summers with Agatha’s sister; and Christmas, with Max’s brother’s family.

In the late autumn, they were going to work on archaeological excavations, mainly in Syria and Iraq.

The rest of the year, the alternative between London and the cottage in Wallingford, Oxfordshire.

While accompanying her husband on countless trips, 3-4 months, in Syria and Iraq,

Agatha Christie actively collaborated in the work of archaeological sites, in matters related to the restoration and classification of samples.

She always paid her own support, accommodation and travel expenses; she even supported excavations, as an anonymous sponsor.

After World War II, she chronicled her statistics in Syria, titled “Come and tell me how you live“, where she recounted anecdotes, memories, and funny episodes.

The experiences lived in the trips with Max, had an important influence on several of her novels set in the Middle East.

After a statistic in Turkey and Baghdad, she present her character Miss Jane Marple in the novel “Death in the Vicarage“.

Years later, this novel was brought to the theater and performed in London.

Her 1934 novel “Murder on the Orient Express” was written at the Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul, a building that keeps intact the room in which Agatha Christie remained.

At this hotel housed by wealthy travelers on the Oriente Express in 1926. Credit:

Agatha Christie bought a house in Greenway, Devon

In 1938 Agatha and Max bought a property in Greenway, Devon, to have as a vacation home.

The location is ideal and has stunning views of the beautiful Dart River and the sea.

Agatha Christie’s mansion, ceded by her children to the National Trust. Credit: web

Agatha Christie in World War II

During World War II, Max was sent by the government to Cairo.

Agatha stayed in London and lost at the University College pharmacy. She taked advantage of this circumstance to enrich the knowledge she already had about poisons.

She had already learned a lot from them when she had spent the First World War as a volunteer at the Torquay hospital.

In the novel “The Mystery of the Pale Horse“, which she published in 1961, her description of thallium poisoning was so accurate that it was puzzling to specialists.

The war period was Agatha’s most prestigious moment.

Frequently published novels; but “And Then There Were None” is the best-selling mystery novel in history and one of the best-selling books of all time is reserved.

The action takes place around Torquay, the town of her childhood.

Later life and death of Agatha Christie

In the early 1950s, Christie slowed her work rate and wrote less regularly.

In addition, she devoted much of her time to theatrical productions.

In 1952, at the St. Martin Theater in West End, her play “The Mousetrap” was performed. It was a great theatrical success.

In 1982, the Theater celebrated 30 years of performances and 12,483 stagings. In London alone, the play had been viewed by more than five million people.

Teatro San Martin
The San Martín theater in 2010. Credit: Wikipedia

In 1961 Agatha Christie was named Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of Exeter.

From 1971 to 1974, her health deteriorated with difficulty.

Her last public appearance took place in 1974, when she attended the premiere of the film version of “Murder in the Orient Express“, a novel she had published 40 years earlier, in 1934.

In 2017, the movie “Murder on the Orient Express” was released based on the eponymous novel written by Agatha Christie and directed by Kenneth Branagh. The film grossed more than $ 350 million worldwide. It starred Branagh as Hercules Poirot, alongside Penélope Cruz, Michelle Pfeiffer, and many other famous actors.

In 1975, two novels she had written in 1940 were published: “Curtain”, in which Detective Hercules Poirot had appeared; and “A Sleeping Crime“, starring the cunning Miss Jane Marple.

In January 1976, Christie suffered a severe flu condition.

She died of natural causes on January 12, 1976 at the age of 85, at his Winterbrook House residence in Wallingford, Oxfordshire.

Her remains were buried in the Santa María cemetery in Cholsey. Her husband, Max, passed away just two years later, in 1978.

Agatha Christie’s grave. Credit: web

Christie’s only daughter Margaret died on October 28, 2004 at the same age and from the same causes as her mother.

Her grandson, Mathew Prichard, born in 1943, inherited the rights to some of his grandmother’s works and is currently president of “Agatha Christie Limited“.

Agatha Christie published 66 crime novels, various plays, six romance novels, and a children’s book.

In addition, she wrote two autobiographies – published after her death – one that summarizes her professional and private life until 1965; and another, who recounts her experiences in the Middle East with her husband, Max Mallowan.

In her teenage years and during the First World War, she entered the field of poetry. Her first collection of poems and ballads was “The way of dreams“, published in 1924.

The second collection of her poetry was published in 1973. It contains verses written in the 1920s, and poems inspired by the places she had visited on her numerous trips. In her verses, late nostalgia for childhood and the admiration inspired by art and beauty.

Between the years 1930 and 1956, she published six romance novels under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott. She was considered to use a false name, since she had a certain modesty to have emotions and feelings, especially in some stories that have an autobiographical tint.

Her work technique after imagining the initial ideas of the plot, is to write down in a notebook, newspaper articles related to her plot; she also carefully noted the scientific data related to the poisons that she intended to introduce into the account.

She carefully observed and took note of the people who had to see: her grandmother, her aunts, the neighbors, a school teacher, a minister, a waiter, a clerk, a butler, a governess. She analyzed everything and wrote it down explicitly.

From November 2001 to March 2002, the British Museum put on an exhibition called Agatha Christie and archeology: “Mystery in Mesopotamia“, which presents little-known aspects of Agatha Christie’s life and the influences of archeology on her work.

The Guinness Book of World Records rated Christie as the novelist who has sold the most books.

It seems undeniable that Agatha Christie has entertained more people with her novels for longer hours than any other writer of her generation. In all fairness she can be called the “crime lady“. Their stories are well plotted and the resulting brain game enjoyable and rewarding.

Most of her novels and stories have been adapted to film, television and theater. “Murder on the East Express” and “Death on the Nile“, more than once.

Her two favorite characters, Poirot and Miss Marple, have appeared in certain movies, radio shows, and stage performances. In film and television, the great actor Peter Ustinov embroiders the role of Hercules Poirot; and the wonderful actress Helen Hayes, the one from Miss Marple.

In 2013, 600 members of the “Crime Writers Association” chose their play “The Assassination of Roger Ackroyd” as the best crime novel of all time.

Click here if you want to see this biography in Spanish translation.

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