About Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie was born in Devonshire in 1890. During her career, she wrote 66 detective novels and six romantic novels under the name Mary Westmacott.
Agatha has sold four billion books worldwide and her play, The Mousetrap holds the record as the play with the longest-running initial run. Agatha's best-known characters are Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. Agatha died in 1975, aged 85.
Did you know?
Agatha originally wanted to be a singer rather than a writer, showing great talent at school. Despite her singing prowess, stage fright often got the better of her and her tutor predicted she would never muster the courage to become a professional singer. The yearning never left her though, and she still spoke wistfully of wanting to be an opera singer when she was in her 60s.
Agatha Christie's first novel was inspired by her stint as a nurse during World War One. She worked at a Red Cross hospital set up to treat wounded soldiers transported back from the war on the Continent. She was eventually promoted to the dispensary where she was responsible for mixing drugs and handling toxins – and her resulting knowledge of poisons led her to write her debut book The Mysterious Affair at Styles.
Agatha was a keen amateur archaeologist and travelled the world in search of relics to clean and preserve. Thanks to her marriage to the celebrated archaeologist Max Mallowan, Agatha was able to access some of the most remarkable (and toughest) digs in the world. She had a particular interest in Iraq, where she spent a long period working and sleeping in a tent. She photographed and catalogued many great artefacts, using her own rather expensive face cream to polish and restore the ancient objects.
Miss Marple was actually inspired by a character Agatha developed for a Poirot story called The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. The character in question is a mature but wily spinster named Caroline Sheppard. Explaining why she used Sheppard as the template for Marple, Agatha later said: "She had been my favourite character in the book – a spinster full of curiosity, knowing everything, hearing everything." Incidentally, the village of St Mary Mead, which features so heavily in the Marple tales, was first created for a Poirot story called The Mystery of the Blue Train.
Agatha herself became the centre of a mystery when she went missing for 11 days in 1926. A national furore ensued when the writer disappeared – her car was found abandoned, and many believed she'd been murdered or had committed suicide. Even Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle became engrossed, taking one of Agatha's gloves to a medium in the hope of tracking his fellow crime writer down. Ultimately, Agatha turned up alive and well at a hotel in Harrogate, where she had checked in under the name of the woman her husband had been having an affair with. The question of why exactly she ran away is still argued over today.