AGATHA CHRISTIE IS BORN
Agatha Christie was lucky enough to be born into a happy, wealthy family in the seaside village of Torquay, England. Her charmed childhood involved rapacious reading, which may have hinted at a career in letters. However, there was no sign that it might involve poisonings, stabbings and murders of the most creative sort. Indeed, it took her some time to overcome the disadvantages of such a happy childhood, as her early attempts at fiction suffered outof-hand rejections from numerous publishers. Oddly, it was the First World War that proved to be the turning point in her life and work. Her service as a volunteer nurse gave her an insight into medical trauma, which she could then put to good use in her writing, as did her encounters with Belgian refugees and soldiers. These inspired her breakthrough character, Hercule Poirot, the star of her first published book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, in 1920. It was an immediate hit, winning her international fame and leading to a string of bestsellers in the ensuing decades. Her stories, especially those featuring Miss Marple, defined the “cozy mystery,” a subgenre popular to this day, as proved by continuing stage and film adaptations of her work.
An illustration by John Keay of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, with an inset picture of the author.