"There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a profssional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write when you don't want to, don't much like what you're writing, and aren't writing particularly well." -Agatha Christie
Friday, December 14, 2012
The Mystery Genre: Then and Now
The Mysterious Affair at Styles
I cut my teeth reading English author Agatha Christie novels, sneaking them into my room after hours from my father’s collection. She became the Grande Dame of the mystery genre in what is called, “The Golden Age of Detective Fiction,” which some claim ran from the 1920’s to 1941. However, the genre is still alive and well into the 21st Century. The success of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, Robert Crais’s Elvis Cole, and Lee Child’s Jack Reacher are only a few examples of the genre's longevity.
Agatha Christie’s first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles was written in 1916, was first published by John Lane in the United States in 1920, and introduced her soon-to-be- famous detective, Hercule Poirot. The setting of this first novel is Styles Court during WWI, and would later be used as the setting for the final Poirot novel Curtain. The story is told in first person by Poirot’s friend, Captain Hastings, and features many of the elements that have become icons of early detective fiction largely due to Agatha Christie’s influence. It is set in a large, isolated country manor. There are a half-dozen suspects, most of whom are hiding facts about themselves. The book includes a map of the house, the murder scene, a particial copy of a will, plus many red herrings and plot twists. Classic Christie.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Agatha Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time. Her Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple novels have sold roughly four billion copies. Her estate claims that her works rank third, after those of William Shakespeare and the Bible, as the world's most widely published books, and her books have been translated into at least 103 languages. And ThenThere Were None is Christie's best-selling novel with 100 million sales to date, making it the world's best-selling mystery ever, and one of the best-selling books of all time. In 1971, she was made a Dame by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.
Noteably one of the most versatile authors ever, her stage play The Mousetrap holds the record for the longest initial run: it opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in London on November 25, 1952 and as of 2012 is still running after more than 25,000 performances.[In 1955, Christie was the first recipient of the Mystery Writers of America's highest honour, the Grand Master Award, and in the same year Witness for the Prosecution was given an Edgar Award by the MWA for Best Play. Many of her books and short stories have been filmed, and many have been adapted for television, radio, video games and comics.