AGATHA CHRISTIE IS BORN

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - NEWS - KEN CARRIERE

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.

LOOK AND LEARN/BRIDGEMAN IMAGES

An il­lus­tra­tion by John Keay of Agatha Christie’s Mur­der on the Ori­ent Ex­press, with an in­set pic­ture of the au­thor.

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