AGATHA CHRISTIE: THE EVIDENCE
75 Facts About the Queen of Crime
1. According to the Guinness Book of Records, Agatha Christie is the best-selling fiction author of all time with an estimated two billion copies of her books in print. By comparison, around 270 million copies of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books have been sold.
2. Agatha is the most-translated fiction author in the world, according to the UNESCO. Her work has been translated into more than 70 languages. It is often said that she is outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare.
3. She wrote 80 novels and short story collections and 19 plays. She also wrote two books of poetry, a children's book, and two autobiographical works.
4. Agatha penned six romance novels under the name of Mary Westmacott. This pseudonym remained a secret for almost 20 years until her nom de plume was revealed by the Sunday Times.
5. On average 97 per cent of adults in the UK know of Agatha Christie and one third have read at least one Christie novel; more than half have seen a Christie film.
6. Agatha managed to write an average of two novels a year through her working life.
7. For many years she set and corrected an essay competition for pupils of a local school.
8. She remains the most borrowed mystery author from Britain's public libraries and ranks as one of the top10 most borrowed authors, clocking up more than 12 million loans in the past ten years.
9. She is also the nation's favorite spoken book author. In 2002, 117,696 Christie audiobooks were sold, compared to 97,755 for JK Rowling, 78,770 for Roald Dahl and 75,841 for JRR Tolkein.
10. In 2000 Agatha Christie was voted Best Writer of the 20th Century and her Poirot books were named Best Series of the Century at the 31st Boucheron World Mystery Convention.
11. Her most famous play, The Mousetrap, is the longest continuously running play of all time, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. It opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in London on November 25, 1952. It moved next door to the St. Martin's Theatre on March 25, 1974, not missing a single performance. It continues to this day. It was originally written as a 20-minute radio drama, commissioned by the BBC to celebrate the 80th birthday of Queen Mary.
12. The author presented the rights to The Mousetrap to her grandson Mathew for his ninth birthday but a toy train made "much more of an impression" at the time.
13. Lord (Richard) Attenborough was a member of the original Mousetrap cast. The work has survived for more than 50 years, he believes, "because it is a bloody good play".
14. Profits from the production go towards the Mousetrap Foundation, which provides of opportunities for young people from all over the UK to come to the theatre at reduced prices.
15. Her most popular characters are the portly Belgian detective Hercule Poirot and the spinster sleuth Jane Marple. Poirot features in 33 novels and 54 short stories. There are 12 Marple novels and 20 short stories.
16. Rearranging the letters of 'Dame Agatha Christie' gives: 'I am a right death case'
17. Agatha Christie is one of the best-selling authors in Japan. The Japanese film director Kon Ichikawa is an impassioned admirer of Christie, whom he thought should have been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. Ichikawa has often written screenplays under the pen name "Kuri Shitei" (Christie), borrowed from his favorite writer.
18. The first animated television series based on Agatha Christie's stories recently aired in Japan. Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple was broadcast in primetime on the popular entertainment network, NHK1.
19. A tattered copy of a long-lost Agatha Christie play never performed at the time was found in Canada. Chimneys, written in 1931, received its world premiere in Calgary in 2003 and will be seen for the first time in Europe at Pitlochry, Scotland, next year.
20. Fans of Christie include contemporary crime writers such as Ian Rankin, who said: "The thing about Agatha Christie is she has done it all. She has got books where everybody did it, nobody did it, the narrator did it, every possible eventuality. Christie was the beginning and the end of the crime novel."
21. Agatha never went to school. She was educated at home by a succession of governesses.
22. Her first book was written as a result of a bet. Her sister Madge wagered Agatha that writing a detective novel would be too difficult a task.
23. The resulting novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, was written in 1916 in the down time while working in a hospital dispensary in Torquay. But it took five years to find a publisher. The manuscript was sent to several publishers before it was eventually accepted by the Bodley Head in 1920.
24. In her teens she studied to be a classical musician but had to give it up because of stage fright.
25. She once had three plays running simultaneously in London's West End an unrivalled feat.
26. Agatha was a fast worker, once completing an entire book Absent in the Spring by Mary Westmacott in a single weekend.
27. She described The Mystery of the Blue Train as "easily the worst book I ever wrote". Of her own work, her favorite play was Witness for the Prosecution, later turned into a film starring Charles Laughton and Marlene Dietrich.
28. When the character of Hercule Poirot died in 1975's Curtain, he received a front-page obituary in the New York Times.
29. Hallowe'en Party is dedicated to comic writer PG Wodehouse, whom Christie admired.
30. Agatha married Archie Christie, a young pilot who became a war hero, in 1914. Her only daughter, Rosalind, was born five years later. But it was not a happy marriage, and Archie's infidelity caused Agatha great unhappiness. The couple divorced in 1928.
31. She remarried in 1930 to archaeologist Max Mallowan. They remained happily married until Agatha's death in 1976.
32. Between 1930 and 1958 Agatha spent most of her winters in Iraq and Syria, assisting her husband Max Mallowan on his archaeological digs. Come Tell Me How You Live is her delightful autobiographical account of this other life she led. Many of famous adventures, including Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express, were informed by her regular visits to the Middle East.
33. Her love of and support for archaeology was so strong that Agatha's daughter donated some of the royalties from one of the Poirot novels to the British School of Archaeology in Iraq.
34. Agatha loved traveling and took her first journey on the Orient Express in 1928. Her travels through France and the Middle East are relived in Andrew Eames' recent bestseller The 8.55 to Bagdhad.
35. Greenway House, Agatha's home near Torquay, was requisitioned by the US Navy during WWII. It is now a National Trust property and the glorious woodland gardens on the banks of the River Dart are open to the public.
36. Lancashire songstress Gracie Fields was the first television Miss Marple, starring in a 1956 adaptation of A Murder is Announced for NBC's Goodyear TV Playhouse.
37. Agatha dedicated The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side to Margaret Rutherford, the first cinema Miss Marple.
38. After seeing Joan Hickson playing the part of a spinster in a stage production of Appointment With Death, Christie wrote to the actress expressing the hope that "one day you will play my Miss Marple". Her wish came true, and Joan Hickson starred as the spinster sleuth in the long-running BBC series (1984-1992).
39. The current Miss Marple series for ITV, starring Geraldine McEwan, has created a storm of controversy among fans because the character has been given a back-story. Marple's spinster status, never explained in the books, is now put down to a doomed affair she conducted with a married man during the First World War.
40. Agatha's favorite color was green.
41. It is often mistakenly assumed that Agatha based the character of Marple upon herself. In her autobiography, however, she explains: "Miss Marple is the sort of old lady who would have been rather like some of my grandmother's Ealing cronies old ladies whom I have met in so many villages where I have gone to stay as a girl. Miss Marple is not in any way a picture of my grandmother; she is far more fussy and spinsterish than my grandmother ever is. But one thing she did have in common with her -- though a cheerful person, she always expected the worst of everyone and everything, and is, with almost frightening accuracy, usually proved right."
42. However one of her fictional characters does appear to bear a superficial resemblance to Agatha Christie. Ariadne Oliver, who often assists Poirot, is a successful crime writer whose main protagonist is a fussy foreign detective. Remarkably, one of Mrs Oliver's fictional stories, The Body in the Library, later became the title of one of Agatha's own books.
43. Two Christie characters more commonly associated with Hercule Poirot Ariadne Oliver and the secretary Felicity Lemon first appeared in the company of another of her creations, the plump, balding former civil servant-cum-detective Parker Pyne.
44. Agatha said she regretted the inclusion of Poirot in the novel Sad Cypress but felt compelled to write him into the story because her publishers and the public expected it.
45. Poirot was dropped from the stage adaptations of The Hollow, Appointment with Death, Death on the Nile, Five Little Pigs and Cards on the Table. The latter was not an original Christie play but an adaptation of one of her stories by Leslie Darbon.
46. For many years Christie was the president of her local amateur dramatics society in Wallingford, Oxfordshire.
47. Her work on digs cataloguing her husband's significant archaeological finds led to her becoming an expert photographer.
48. In 1917, aged 24, she qualified as a dispensing chemist thus acquiring a useful knowledge of poisons.
49. Twice in her life Agatha Christie 'saw' the living embodiment of Poirot; once lunching in the Savoy and once on a boat in the Canary Islands.
50. In her prime Agatha was rarely out of the bestseller lists. Her British publishers actively marketed the availability each year of a "Christie for Christmas".
51. On Friday, December 3rd 1926, Agatha Christie vanished from her home in Berkshire. Her car was later found abandoned in Surrey, with her clothes and papers inside it but no sign of the famous author. Following sensational media speculation and national appeals for information, Agatha turned up a couple of weeks later in a health spa in Harrogate, having apparently suffered a breakdown as a result of her first husband's infidelity. She never referred to the incident again and it does not appear in her autobiography.
52. The first stage Poirot was Charles Laughton, the portly actor better known for playing Captain Bligh in 1935's Mutiny on the Bounty.
53. Agatha was a lifelong teetotaler and non-smoker.
54. Agatha dedicated her novel Dumb Witness to her pet dog Peter, a wire-haired terrier, of whom she said is "a dog in a thousand." The "dumb" witness in the novel, of course, is a wire-haired terrier called Bob.
55. Her favorite writers were Graham Greene and Elizabeth Bowen.
56. Lord Louis Mountbatten, below, was an avid fan of Agatha's work, - and it was he who suggested the plot device for The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.
57. Agatha was passionate about music. Her favorite composers were Elgar, Sibelius and Wagner.
58. Two of her pet hates were marmalade pudding and cockroaches.
59. Her publishers, Collins, tried to make Agatha Christie change the ending to Ordeal by Innocence as they felt it was too shocking. She kept the original.
60. In 1948, Penguin published ten of her novels simultaneously, each in an edition of 100,000 copies. That made a total of one million books - the first time this had ever been done.
61. There were plans to turn the Poirot novel Hickory Dickory Dock into a stage musical called 'Death Beat'. The driving force behind the project was playwright and Private Eye contributor John Wells but it failed to find a producer.
62. In 1962 Agatha was contracted by an American television company to adapt Dickens' Bleak House for the screen, but gave up because she considered the book was too complex to allow condensation without artistic damage.
63. She accepted the presidency of the famous Detection Club in 1958 on the strict understanding that she would never have to make a speech.
64. A pile of all of the editions of Murder on the Orient Express would stretch to the moon.
65. She never allowed any representation of Poirot to appear on book jackets.
66. And Then There Were None is soon to be revived for the West End stage in a lavish new production starring Tara Fitzgerald.
67. The original production marked was the first time Christie adapted one of her own books for the stage. It was also the first of Christie's works to be adapted for television. The BBC play went out live on 20 August 1949.
68. The new adaptation at the Gielgud Theatre will also be the first Agatha Christie production ever to have been staged in London's legendary Shaftesbury Avenue.
69. Her last public appearance in London was in 1974 at a banquet at Claridge's following the gala premiere of Murder on the Orient Express. In the audience for the movie was Her Majesty the Queen.
70. At the time, Murder on the Orient Express was the most successful British film ever made, grossing £20 million. Christie, who generally disliked the film adaptations of her books, expressed approval for this one.
71. Agatha Christie is the most popular author in France, having sold nearly twice as many books as the next best selling author Emile Zola. Other French literary giants outwitted by Christie include de Maupassant and Balzac.
72. Death Comes as the End, set in ancient Egypt, is Agatha's only attempt at historical fiction. Its genesis came from a suggestion by Egyptologist Stephen RK Glanville.
73. She continues to be adapted to new mediums. A North American firm has developed a computer game based on And Then There Were None, which is to be released in the UK in November. Visit www.agathachristiegame.com.
74. In an interview shortly before her death, Agatha was asked how she wanted to be remembered. "Well, I would like it to be said that I was a good writer of detective and thriller stories," was her reply.
75. On the day she died, January 12, 1976, her latest book, Curtain: Poirot's Last Case, was still heading the bestseller lists in the UK, the United States and Japan. The two West End theatres in which her plays were running dimmed their outside lights as a mark of respect.
For more information on "Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None" please visit: www.AgathaChristieGame.com
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