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Agatha Christie (September 15, 1890 – January 12, 1976), the renowned British author, borrowed from her observations of the world and people surrounding her to become the Queen of Crime. Born Agatha Miller in Torquay, U.K, a fashionable seaside resort, she was the youngest of three children. Her childhood was a conventional and happy one, and she was educated at home.
Her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920), was written as a dare from her sister. Though it took a few years to go to press, Christie was the clear winner of the bet. This was the book that introduced the iconic detective character, Hercule Poirot. She has remained one of the world’s best-selling author of all time, and remains an icon in the world of mystery, thriller, and crime novels.
A stormy marriage & mysterious disappearance
Agatha met Archie Christie in 1912, and their stormy two-year engagement should have been a warning of things to come. They married in 1914 and lived in London. Their daughter and only child, Rosalind, was born in Agatha’s childhood home in Torquay in 1919.
Already a well-known author, Agatha went missing for eleven days starting in early December of 1926, sparking a nationwide search. Some time before the disappearance incident, Archie had met Nancy Neele, and the two embarked on an affair. When he confessed the liaison to Agatha, the couple quarreled, and in a pique, Agatha took off in her car. Read more about this episode and its outcome here.
Forays into archeology
Agatha took some time to rebuild her life after her divorce from Archie, which shook her confidence and sense of security. Her writing was her refuge, and her retreat resulted in the copious flow of the mysteries that generations of readers have loved. From her prolific pen came books under her own name as well as pseudonyms. She also wrote romance novels under the pen name of Mary Westmacott.
Agatha’s misery was short-lived, as two years later, in 1930, she married Sir Max Mallowan, a noted archaeologist. With him, she found the happiness that eluded her in her marriage, and the years she spent with her second husband were also among her most productive.
Agatha had a longstanding interest in archaeology, so it’s fitting that she met her second husband while on a trip to Ur, an excavation site, in 1930. Once they married, she and Mallowan went to archeological sites at which they could work together. She happily went with him on numerous trips, not only as an observer (the details sometimes made their way into her novels and stories, including Death on the Nile and Murder in Mesopotamia), but did tasks like labeling, restoring, cleaning, photographing, and taking field notes. She not only paid her own way on their trips, which she could well afford, but often funded the explorations as an anonymous sponsor.
The phenomenal success of a private person
Despite her worldwide renown, Agatha strove to live a quiet life. She felt that the public had no need to know of her private affairs, and that her books spoke for themselves. The blandly titled An Autobiography wasn’t published until nearly two years after her death. The first authorized biography, Agatha Christie by Janet Morgan, came out in 1980. It offers one of the fullest explorations of the author’s 1926 disappearance, and muses on how the author who led such a gentle and genteel life could produce such a large body of work with themes of violence, death, and terror.
Agatha saw incredible success during her lifetime. At the time of her death, her books had sold hundreds of millions of copies worldwide, and the number has only grown since then. Both before and after her death, a number of her books have been made into feature films.
Her life of education, travel, archeological digs, and volunteer nursing all helped shape her as a writer. She earned many honors in her lifetime, including President of the Detection Club and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Agatha Christie’s An Autobiography on Amazon
More about Agatha Christie on this site
- Influential Quotes by Agatha Christie
- Dear Literary Ladies: Why Am I imitating authors I admire?
- The Writing Habits of Agatha Christie by Tony Riches
- 10 Quotes by Agatha Christie on Writing
- The 1926 Disappearance of Agatha Christie
- Agatha Christie Postage Stamps
- 4 Noted Women Authors as World War I Nurses and Relief Workers
Dame Agatha was incredibly prolific; this represents a tiny fraction of her output.
- The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920)
- And Then There Were None
- The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
- Death on the Nile
- Murder on the Orient Express
- The A.B.C Murders
- Curtain (1975)
Biographies about Agatha Christie
- Duchess of Death: The Unauthorized Biography of Agatha Christie by Richard Hack
- Agatha Christie: A Biography by Janet Morgan
- Agatha Christie and The Eleven Missing Days by Jared Cade
- Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks by John Curran
Selected film adaptations of Agatha Christie’s works
- Marple: The Classic Mysteries Collection (1930-1989)
- And Then There Were None (1945)
- Endless Night (1972)
- Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
- Death on the Nile (1978)
- Seven Dials Mystery (1982)
- The Mirror Crack’d (1980)
- Evil Under the Sun (1982)
- Miss Marple (1984-85)
- Poirot: The Definitive Collection (1989)
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