Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Happy 120th, Dame Agatha!

On this day 120 years ago, a little English girl named Agatha was born. Little did her parents suspect that their innocent gurgling baby harbored one of the most devious imaginations the world has ever seen and she would one day be celebrated as the Queen of Crime. Long after her death in 1976, her books continue to sell, British TV regularly produces new adaptations of her intricately plotted stories, and her civilized sleuths, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, are known to mystery fans around the globe. In many ways Dame Agatha (she received her title in recognition of her contribution to literature and popular culture) shaped the modern mystery genre.

Today Poe's Deadly Daughters raise their glasses in celebration of this unforgettable writer's 120th birthday.

Sharon Wildwind

Even more than Nancy Drew, Dame Agatha was the first and bestest mystery author I read as a child. She left me with a life-long craving for British mysteries. Happy Birthday, dear Agatha.

Lonnie Cruse

I was a serious science fiction fan until I discovered Agatha Christie. I've read all of her books, a few of them more than once. I love the television shows and movies based on her books. The love of mystery her books fostered in me gave me the courage to write mysteries as well, and find a publisher, but mine certainly can't touch hers. Happy Birthday, Queen of Mystery, Dame Agatha!

Julia Buckley

When I was in junior high, my mom was a volunteer librarian at my school. She would sort through books that she thought I liked and then suggest them to me when I, a voracious reader, would seek something new. One day she handed me a book by Agatha Christie and said she thought I'd like it. I sat down with They Came to Baghdad and was immediately sucked into the danger and intrigue surrounding a young woman traveling in Iraq. It was exciting, romantic, fun, even funny. I loved it, and of course I ended up reading every book by AC that I could get my hands on.

Imagine my joy when I found out just how many books she'd written--it was a smorgasbord of mystery, and a stepping stone to my love of many kinds of mysteries. I've been fascinated with Agatha--her life, her legend, and her books--ever since.

Sheila Connolly

When my husband and I were first married, a few decades ago, we started collecting mysteries. Since we were both starving students, that meant haunting used bookstores. Remember, this was before the heady days of Amazon et al., where you can get almost anything, anytime, without leaving your chair.

This quest provided us with much low-cost entertainment, and we were scrupulous about hunting down all the works of various authors. And, yes, I read them all (although I can't swear that my husband did).

We have shipped this collection back and forth across the country, and when we moved into this house we built a wall of bookshelves for them. Agatha occupies an entire shelf. I did a quick inventory this week, and I have all but four of her books--which means I do have over fifty. Happy birthday, Dame Agatha!

Elizabeth Zelvin

My father was the Agatha Christie reader in my family. Those well thumbed paperbacks were a lot more fun than most of the many books my parents had on their shelves. I remember reading them over and over. I loved reading the casts of characters and the blurbs on the back cover and on the flyleaf. I read or reread all Christie's books systematically at the age of twenty-two, when I first had an apartment of my own in New York City and could do whatever I wanted. I think it's important to remember that she invented the unreliable narrator, the least likely suspect, and other plot devices that mystery readers nowadays take for granted or even think overdone. And I loved some of her memorable one-book-only women characters, like Henrietta Savernake in The Hollow and Lucy Eylesbarrow in 4:50 from Paddington.

Sandra Parshall

Like many people, I first became familiar with Agatha Christie's work through movies and television productions, and my visions of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple were formed by the actors who played them. When I began reading the books, I joined the legend of mystery fans who feel dissatisfied by the failure of all actors except the wonderful David Suchet to capture the essence of Christie's creations. Although my taste in crime fiction led me to darker stories by the likes of Ruth Rendell, I have to credit Christie with awakening my interest in mysteries and making me wonder whether I, too, could write crime fiction that others might want to read. Thank you, Dame Agatha, for bringing me into this wonderful genre.


Vicki Lane said...

I discovered Agatha Christie when my husband's grandmother died and we were the lucky recipients of a vast number of well-worn Christie paperbacks -- to which I've added over the years. These are comfort reads for me and I turn to them again and again. Miss Marple is my favorite with Tommy and Tuppence second. NEMESIS is my favorite book.

Patg said...

I read my first Agatha when I was twenty-two. I had to pass a library on my way to and from work. I worked shifts, so I need books for the subway, the long, lonely dinner hours on the 3 to 12M shift, and to relax when I got home at 1A. I considered myself lucky after loving the first one because there were (what seemed like) hundreds more. Would I ever read them all? Well, I did, some several times, and I have a collection I still add too because I'm always looking for the oldest editions, especially English editions, of those books.
Love Madam Agatha as much as I love Ms. Jane.

Sandra Parshall said...

I was 31 before I actually read a Christie novel, but I'd seen TV and movie adaptations. It took me quite a while to believe I could write a mystery too, but Christie -- followed by Ruth Rendell and others -- certainly gave me the mystery bug.

Marni said...

I found Dame Agatha at age 12 when I'd exhausted Nancy Drew; the Floral Park Library carried her older books. Once I read one I went back to the beginning and read them in order and as they occurred in her writing. She was a huge ifluence on my wanting to be a mystery writer, and on the Brit authors I still read (James, Rendall, Fyfield and many others). At one time in the late 70's I had an Old English sheepdog named Agatha!
My fave was NEMESIS, too, and mom loves Hercule Poirot. Happy Birthday Agatha!

Anonymous said...

I saw a movie version of "And Then There Were None" when I was a little girl and it gave me nightmares for decades. Talk about making an impression!

G.M. Malliet said...

I have too many favorites to list, but Murder on the Orient Express is one of them. And Then There Were None is another.

Sandra Parshall said...

Murder on the Orient Express is my favorite too.

Kaye George said...

As one of the few mystery writers who never read more than a couple Nancy Drew books, I came to Agatha fairly early. I can't say when, though. Probably as soon as I finished all the horse books in the children's section of the library and moved to the adult section.

I always loved Miss Marple, but Hercule grew on me over the years. As a bonus, she has a fascinating life story, with the mysterious disappearance and all.

Barbara E. said...

I loved Christie's autobiography, which is as wild as any mystery plot, and I especially loved Death Comes As the End, which was the first historical mystery I read.