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).


(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.)

Agatha Christie Biography

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Agatha Christie was born Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller just outside Torquay, England, on September 15, 1890, to Frederick Alvah Miller and Clarissa Margaret Beohmer Miller. Because her two older siblings were at school, Agatha spent much time alone, which she passed by inventing characters and adventures for them. She was also often in the company of her two grandmothers (who later served as models for Jane Marple). Though she received no formal education except in music, she read voraciously and showed an early interest in writing, publishing a poem in the local newspaper at the age of eleven.

At eighteen, bored while recovering from influenza, Christie (then Miller) took her mother’s suggestion to write a story. Her first attempt, “The House of Beauty,” was published in revised form as “The House of Dreams” in the Sovereign Magazine in January, 1926, and two other stories from this period later grew into novels. Turning to longer fiction, she sent a manuscript titled “Snow upon the Desert” to Eden Phillpotts , a popular novelist who was a family friend, and he referred her to his agent, Hughes Massie, who would become hers as well.

After her marriage to Archie Christie on Christmas Eve, 1914, she went to work, first as a nurse and then as a pharmacist. The latter post gave her a knowledge of poisons as well as free time to apply that information as she composed The Mysterious Affair at Styles: A Detective Story (1920). Rejected by several publishers, the manuscript went to John Lane at the Bodley Head in 1917, where it lay buried for two...

(The entire section is 651 words.)

Agatha Christie Biography

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa (Miller) Christie was born into an upper-middle-class Victorian family on September 15, 1890, in Torquay, a refined English seaside town. Her mother (Clara), grandmothers, and a companion-teacher educated young Agatha at home. While this may sound stifling, her parents maintained an active salon and frequently entertained the likes of Rudyard Kipling and Henry James. Agatha learned to read at an early age and availed herself of her parents’ library.

The first unhappy event in Christie’s life occurred in 1901, when her father, Fredrick, died, leaving the family with an uncertain financial future. Her mother rallied, however, spurred by the desire to provide her youngest daughter with the same opportunities that her sister and brother had had. Consequently, Christie was sent to the Continent (perhaps encountering there the prototype of the Belgian Hercule Poirot) and to Cairo for the social season. With the outbreak of World War I, Christie worked at a hospital, initially as a surgical nurse but then in the dispensary, an experience that would come in handy later as she killed unlucky victims in her stories with cyanide and arsenic. She had, by this time, been writing poems and short stories with a modicum of success, but this practice temporarily ended when she met and married young flying ace Archibald Christie in 1914. In fact, she did not write again until 1916, when she dashed off The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920) in a matter of weeks. The manuscript was shunted from one publisher to another; in fact, it was four years until the book went into print. By then, Christie was busy with a new house and a new baby, so her writing again took second place.

In 1925, Christie published The Secret of Chimneys, and the next year she witnessed the highly acclaimed publication of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926). The...

(The entire section is 775 words.)

Agatha Christie Biography

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born in Torquay, England, on September 15, 1890; the impact of this location on her was enormous. Near the end of her autobiography, Christie indicates that all other memories and homes pale beside Ashfield, her parents’ home in Torquay: “And there you are again—remembering. ’I remember, I remember, the house where I was born. . . .’ I go back to that always in my mind. Ashfield.” The roots of Christie’s self-contained, quiet sense of place are found in her accounts of life at Ashfield. Her love of peace, routine, and order was born in her mother’s well-ordered household, a household cared for by servants whose nature seemed never to change, and sparked by the sudden whims of an...

(The entire section is 1586 words.)

Agatha Christie Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

On September 15, 1890, Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born in Torquay, Devon, England. Her father, who died when she was eleven, was American, and her mother was British. At this point in time, formal schooling for young women usually took place in the home. At sixteen, Agatha went to Paris to study piano and singing. She became an accomplished pianist and was fluent in French. This linguistic knowledge helped her to create realistic dialogue for her famous character, the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, whose English was fractured and frequently included French expressions.

In 1912, Miller became engaged to Archibald Christie, a young officer in what would become the Royal Air Force in 1918. They were married on...

(The entire section is 853 words.)

Agatha Christie Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Taken as a whole, Agatha Christie’s crime-fiction novels constitute some of the best-known works in the genre. Her primary detectives, Jane Marple and Hercule Poirot, are some of the best-known characters in popular fiction. Chistie’s talents include the ability to weave a cunning plot, construct realistic dialogue, and create believable characters. All these traits combine to create novels that are entertaining and engaging. While Christie’s writing is somewhat old-fashioned, she uses realistic motivations that enable readers to relate easily to the situations at hand.

(The entire section is 87 words.)

Agatha Christie Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The acknowledged “queen of crime,” Agatha Christie is probably still the world’s best-known and most popular mystery writer. Born Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller, Christie was the child of an English mother, Clarissa Boehmer Miller, and an American father, Frederick Alvah Miller. After her father’s death, Christie was educated at home by her mother, who encouraged her talents as a storyteller. She later studied piano and voice in Paris. Hers was a typically upper-middle-class British upbringing; the environment in which she was raised would form the basis for nearly all of her later novels.{$S[A]Mallowan, A. C.;Christie, Agatha}{$S[A]Westmacott, Mary;Christie, Agatha}

In 1914, she married Colonel Archibald...

(The entire section is 1079 words.)

Agatha Christie Biography

(Novels for Students)

Agatha Christie sets Ten Little Indians on an island that lies off the coast of Devon, England, where she grew up. She was born on...

(The entire section is 358 words.)

Agatha Christie Biography

(Drama for Students)

Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie also wrote as Agatha Christie Mallowan and under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott. Christie was born September...

(The entire section is 564 words.)