If you’re a regular reader to this blog, you’ll know that my favourite writer is Agatha Christie. Like pretty much everybody, I was vaguely familiar with her work and had seen the odd episode of Marple, but I didn’t actually read one until about 2009, while I was at university. We’d studied her in one seminar, and around the same time there was that Doctor Who episode about her, which is still one of the best episodes ever.

Some people actually are surprised that I came quite late to Christie given my fanatical love of her. The first novel I read was Death in the Clouds, and it cemented a love that has now meant just a few years later I’ve read all but three of her novels, which will all be coming later this year. Christie is the bestselling author of all time, with only The Bible and Shakespeare outselling her. Over four billion of her books have been sold, with And Then There Were None racking up over 100 million of those alone, making it the bestselling mystery book of all time. People often ask me why I’m so in love with her, and it’s an easy one to answer in some ways. She was a phenomenal plotsmith, her stories are engaging, easy, clever and accessible, but actually a big part of it is down to the woman herself. The fact that she wrote seventy-three novels, twenty-eight short story collections, three books of poems, two memoirs, and sixteen plays is perhaps the least interesting thing about her.

In a first for this blog, but perhaps not a last, I have collected here twenty-five of my favourite facts about the Queen of Crime in honour of her birthday.

  1. She was named Agatha at the suggestion of her mother’s friend and it was something of an afterthought. Her full name (at birth) was Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller.
  2. She had a choppy relationship with her publisher. She occasionally disagreed with him on book covers and publication dates, but he also once bought her a new car after seeing the wreck she had been driving around in.
  3. She is the only female playwright to ever have three West End shows on at the same time: The Mousetrap, Witness for the Prosecution and Spider’s Web.
  4. The Mousetrap is the longest running theatre production of all time, having run every night for over sixty years. It even moved theatres at one point, and still didn’t cancel the performance that night.
  5. She was once nearly arrested on charges of spying during World War Two. Her book N or M? is about codebreakers and she named one of the characters Major Bletchley, which was seen as possibly a hint to the enemy. It was purely accidental – she’d been stuck on a train at Bletchley once for a long time and in revenge named a nasty character after the place.
  6. Graham Greene asked her to help in writing propaganda during World War Two. She refused, saying she “lacked the single-mindedness to see only one side of a case.”
  7. She wrote romance novels under the name Mary Westmacott. The secret was upheld for fifteen years.
  8. Her favourite book she wrote was Crooked House, which will be adapted for the first time ever this year.
  9. Before her hair went grey, it was red. She also had grey eyes.
  10. As a young girl, she wanted to be a pianist or an opera singer, but her voice was too weak for opera.
  11. The first novel she finished was called Snow Upon the Desert, but it was never published.
  12. She wasn’t sure that writing under her own name would be a handicap for detective fiction, and for a while thought about using the pen name Martin West.
  13. She was one of the first British people to surf standing up. Until then, surfing was done laying on the board, but she learnt the technique whilst in Hawaii and was one of the first to bring it across the world.
  14. She went missing for eleven days in 1926 and, after a nationwide manhunt, was found in a hotel, signed in under the name of her husband’s mistress. She never explained where she’d gone or what happened and the incident is entirely ignored in her autobiography.
  15. She trained as a pharmacy dispenser during World War One, and even went back to do the same job again during World War Two, despite being famous by then.
  16. Once, while under training, she noted that the doctor who was in charge of her ward mixed up a medicine incorrectly, meaning it would be fatal to whoever drank it. Because of the time, it would not be right for a woman to correct a more senior man, so she worried about the consequences. When she was handed the tray with the medicines on, she dropped it and crushed the medicines beneath her feet. As she’d hoped, it was taken as an accident and the medicines were remade, correctly this time.
  17. She wrote the final stories of Marple and Poirot (Sleeping Murder and Curtain, respectively) during World War Two. If she died during the war, they were to be published, with the profits of Marple going to her husband, Max, and the profits of Poirot going to her daughter, Rosalind. Obviously, she survived the war, but the books were still the last two published.
  18. She became the President of the Detection Club in 1957, under the proviso that she never had to give a speech.
  19. She didn’t drink or smoke, and had no appreciation for either, not liking the taste. She did, however, sometimes hint that she wished she could enjoy them, as she saw how relaxed they made people, and she was very shy.
  20. Her favourite drink was cream. If you visit her home in Torquay, her cream jug is still at her table.
  21. She once arrived at a party held in her honour and was barred entry because the people on the door didn’t recognise her. Instead of causing a fuss, she sat in the hotel lobby until someone came out of the party to find out where she was.
  22. She first flew in a plane in 1911.
  23. She grew to loathe Hercule Poirot, but didn’t follow the example of Arthur Conan Doyle by killing him off, but instead continued writing him because she knew her readers loved him. She said they owed each other much – Poirot didn’t exist without Agatha, and Agatha didn’t have any money without Poirot.
  24. In 1928 she went to the Middle East alone to travel. A love affair began with the area, and with the man who would become her second husband, archaeologist Max Mallowan.
  25. If you ever find yourself stuck in one of her novels (hey, it happens), head to the kitchen. No one ever dies in the kitchen in her books, probably because it would upset Cook, and to do that would be unforgivable.

So there you have it, twenty-five things you may not have known about Dame Agatha Christie. I’m not one of for belief in an afterlife, but if there is one, I hope she’s gathered with the other great writers, at William Shakespare’s right hand, chatting amiably with Douglas Adams and Mary Shelley. Happy birthday, Agatha. You will never be forgotten.

I’m currently crowdfunding to get my second novel, The Third Wheel, published. In it, we meet Dexter who is struggling with the fact that he’s the last single friend of his group. When aliens invade, however, it puts a lot of things into perspective. If you’d like to know more or pledge your support to the project, please click here.

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