It used to be an advertising mantra. ¶ Everybody wanted – no, demanded – a new “Christie for Christmas.”
Decade after decade, Agatha Christie churned out book after book, producing at least one for holiday giving each year, and sometimes a second book during the course of the year, as well. ¶ The Queen of Crime was nothing if not productive.
She produced 84 mystery novels in all, many featuring her iconic detective characters, Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple. Besides that, she also wrote plays, short-story collections, memoirs, essays, poetry, letters and critical works. ¶ “I regard my work,” Christie once wrote, “as of no importance. I’ve been out simply to entertain.” ¶ And that she has, and continues to do. In fact, Christie is trendier than ever. ¶ Now, 36 years after her death, and 92 years after she published her first detective novel, readers can once again mark their lists for Santa with a few titles by – or about – the talented woman who, many say, was the most-published author in the world, behind the Bible and Shakespeare. ¶ A slew of new Christie titles has poured onto bookstore shelves during the past year. ¶ Some of Christie’s own writings – including some of her most personal works – are available in fresh paperback editions. ¶ And some interesting books about Christie and her methods are also available. ¶ Treat yourself – or the mystery fan on your list – to a “Christie Christmas.”
“The Grand Tour: Around the World With the Queen of Mystery,” edited by Mathew Prichard. Harper. $30, 376 pages.
This new hardcover volume, edited by Christie’s only grandchild, Mathew Prichard, presents a visual and literary feast for fans of the legendary novelist. It contains never-before-published letters and photographs related to Christie’s travels around the world – or, at least the British Empire – in 1922.
Christie made the extensive journey with her first husband, Archie Christie. The marriage ended after he left her for another woman. (This bad period in the author’s life was when Christie had her famous “disappearance,” an interlude after which she turned up in a hotel registered under a false name. She wrote “The Mystery of the Blue Train” during this time in her life – and always hated the book.)
Christie’s second marriage, to archaeologist Max Mallowan, was happy and successful and lasted until the author’s death in 1976 at age 85.
“The Grand Tour” contains Christie’s letters from her trip, many of which were sent back home to her family. The book also includes Christie’s own photographs, postcards and memorabilia.
“Agatha Christie: An Autobiography,” by Agatha Christie. William Morrow. $19, 542 pages.
Here we have, fresh for this fall, a new paperback edition of the autobiography that Christie was known to have worked on over a 15-year period toward the end of her life.
This book was originally published in the United States in 1977. The new softcover edition includes an introduction by Prichard, Christie’s grandson, and also photographs in both black-and-white and color.
Christie kept mum about many of the details of her personal life – including the break-up of her first marriage – for much of her career. This singular book offers her take on her life, including insights into how she began writing fiction (she was sick in bed one day; her mother handed her a notebook) and how she created some of her more memorable plots and characters.
For instance, she tells us how she got the idea for the ingenious solution to “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd,” which caused great controversy at the time of its publication for the trickiness of its conclusion.
Most enjoyable about this book is the chance to immerse fully in Christie’s trademark literary style: conversational, warm, charming, witty. A delight.
“Agatha Christie: Murder in the Making,” by John Curran. William Morrow. $17, 430 pages.
Here is a treat for aspiring writers and Christie enthusiasts alike.
In this book, new in softcover this fall, noted Christie expert John Curran continues the excavation project he began in his prize-winning previous book, “Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks.”
Curran writes about stumbling onto a trove of 73 of Christie’s old literary notebooks, stored in a cardboard box in her former home in England.
In these notebooks, Curran realized, were vast insights into how Christie produced her voluminous oeuvre of mystery stories. The notebooks reveal how Christie brainstormed ideas, developed characters and plotlines, schemed out solutions, and constantly worked at the craft at which she was considered a master.
Best yet, this book contains some never-before-seen material, including an early short story, and a “missing” chapter from one of Christie’s novels.
“Come, Tell Me How You Live,” by Agatha Christie. William Morrow. $14, 205 pages.
This thoroughly delightful book, written by Christie during her second marriage, is also out this year in a new paperback edition.
Christie spent time with Mallowan, a well-regarded archaeologist who was 14 years younger than she was, on his archaeological digs after their marriage in 1930.
She traveled with him to the Middle East, and during these trips she worked at the tasks of the scientists on the dig, finding and cleaning and sorting specimens, observing the landscape and scenery, and conversing with the locals.
Christie’s tales of her experiences on these 1930s expeditions are fresh and funny and unexpected.
She called this book “small beer,” and maybe in her eyes it was.
To us, it remains a charming story of work, travel and marriage.
On the Web: A terrific and comprehensive website on Agatha Christie and her works can be found at www.agathachristie.com