Agatha Christie Biography

Agatha Christie Biography

Agatha Christie is the mother of all mystery writers. Indeed, it is hard to imagine the success of novelists such as Mary Higgins Clark without the work of Agatha Christie behind them. Christie’s prolific (and prolifically successful) output has secured her a unique position among mystery writers and in popular fiction as a whole. Though she often was chided by critics for skimping on character in favor of plot, Christie created two of the most memorable sleuths in mystery fiction with the characters Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. Together, these two detectives solved the majority of Christie’s twisty plots. Due to her extensive travels with her second husband, Christie’s stories took place all over the globe, from England to the Middle East.

Facts and Trivia

  • Along with the Bible and the works of William Shakespeare, Agatha Christie’s novels rank among the best-selling of all time, with printed copies numbering in the billions.
  • Christie’s success wasn’t limited to writing novels. The initial production of her play The Mousetrap has been running for 55 years and counting. That’s more than 20,000 performances.
  • One of the reasons poison figures so prominently as a means of murder in her books is because Christie herself worked with pharmaceuticals during World War I.
  • One of Christie’s greatest mysteries occurred in her real life rather than her written work. She disappeared for ten days in late 1926. While she would later attribute it to depression brought on by family trauma, others wrote it off as a publicity stunt.
  • Many of Christie’s plays and novels were turned into successful films, including the Academy Award-nominated Witness for the Prosecution (1957) and Murder on the Orient Express (1974).

Biography

(History of the World: The 20th Century)
ph_0111201531-Christie.jpg Agatha Christie. Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Article abstract: Because of her ingenuity in devising plots, her skill in creating characters (particularly detectives such as Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot), and her genial humor, Christie won international fame and a considerable fortune as the best-selling detective story writer in history.

Early Life

Agatha Miller was born September 15, 1890, in the seaside English town of Torquay. Although her father, Frederick Alvah Miller, was a New York businessman, he had settled in Torquay with his English wife, née Clarissa Margaret Beochmer, the daughter of a military officer who had died young. Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was the third child in the family.

At their country home, Ashfield, the Millers lived the pleasant life of the prewar English gentry, depending on their servants for the care of the large house and of the young children. Perhaps because she was shy, Agatha was educated at home until she turned sixteen, when she spent two years at a finishing school in Paris. Even as a child, she dabbled in writing. Later, she had some poems published. The important business of life, however, was to find a husband.

There was no shortage of candidates. With her fine features, fair complexion, gray eyes, striking reddish-gold hair, and, above all, her lively personality, Miller was popular. Yet she did not lose her heart until she met handsome, dashing Lieutenant Archibald Christie, of the Royal Field Artillery. In 1914, they were married. Then he went to war, and Agatha went into nursing.

By 1916, Christie had accumulated some weeks of leave, and on a bet from her sister, she retreated to a hotel on Dartmoor. There she wrote her first detective story, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920). Set in a seaside town like Torquay, the novel introduced the kind of characters which were to be typical of Christie: ladies and gentlemen of the British upper classes and their servants. This first novel was also significant because it introduced the Belgian detective who was to appear in many of her later works: the vain, precise, and delightful Hercule Poirot. Although at the time no one realized it, certainly not Christie herself, a career which was to make her famous throughout the world had begun.

Christie had already demonstrated the qualities which would ensure her success. The vivacity which had attracted Lieutenant Christie could sparkle in her works. The firsthand knowledge of life in a country house would serve her well in stories which so often have such a setting, where murder is more fascinating because it seems impossible. Above all, the discipline which she had evidenced in her nursing years would be necessary for the long career in which she wrote at least one book every year for fifty-six years.

Life’s Work

Even before the publication of The Mysterious Affair at Styles in 1920, Christie was at work on another book, The Secret Adversary (1922), which introduced her seemingly scatterbrained detective couple, Tuppence and Tommy Beresford.

Although her first novel sold only two thousand copies, by 1926 Christie’s earnings were substantial. She had a country home, a daughter, Rosalind, a satisfying career, and a handsome husband. The year which saw the publication of her seventh book, however, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926), was one of personal disaster. Not only did her beloved mother die, but also Christie discovered that her husband was involved with an acquaintance of hers named Nancy Neele. On December 3, 1926, began the great mystery of Christie’s own life. She disappeared, and despite the publicity that her name now attracted and the efforts of police throughout England, she was not found until December 14, when she was spotted at a Harrowgate hotel, where she was registered as “Mrs. Neele.” Whether she planned her disappearance or had some kind of mental breakdown, perhaps amnesia, has never been determined. At any rate, she was divorced in 1928. Meanwhile, she continued to write, completing The Mystery of the Blue Train (1928), which used as its setting the boat-train on which she and her husband had traveled during the unhappy final period of their marriage.

In 1930, Christie’s fortunes took a turn for the better. In September, she married the archaeologist Max Mallowan, whose enthusiasm for his profession she had come to share, and with whom she lived happily until her death. In that year she also published Murder at the Vicarage, the book in which her spinster detective Miss Jane Marple first appeared, a character who would reappear in...

(The entire section is 1906 words.)