Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Secret Notebooks


HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:   Rats. I didn't take a photo. But you should have seen John Curran hold the Malice Domestic audience captive with his stories about our goddess and mentor Agatha Christie. He got exclusive access to ALL her notes and notebooks and letters--stayed at her house, Greenway House, and was the very first person to see it all. Can you imagine? What a cache of treasures! And his stories are mesmerizing!
   So of course we had to invite the world's expert on Agatha to come chat at Jungle Red. (And we're giving away a copy of his first book--and a new one! Just answer one little question--see below!)
 
 
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Okay, John. How did this all happen??
JOHN CURRAN:  I have been reading Christie all my life and although I moved on to read lots of other writers I kept returning to Christie as she was/is the greatest exponent ever of the classical detective novel. For some years I edited an Agatha Christie Newsletter and later wrote an online version of it where I reviewed Christie plays and films and new editions of her books.
In 2004 I visited Calgary in Canada to see Chimneys, a play written by Christie in 1930 and never previously performed. There I met her grandson, Mathew, and he invited me to visit Greenway House, his grandmother’s home since 1938. When I read the Notebooks, which were stored there, I asked his permission to write a book about them and he immediately agreed.
HANK: Yikes. That is—amazing.
JOHN:  Yes!  So now, two books later, I hope I have contributed something to Christie scholarship with a glimpse into how she some of the best detective of all time. Mathew and I are also working to establish an Archive of Agatha Christie’s papers for future generations of scholars.
HANK: I keep envisioning you, discovering those treasures. Tell us more!
JOHN:The biggest surprise was how disorganised they were. I had assumed the plotting would be very ordered (as her books are) but the notes that go to make up any of her titles can be scattered over half-a-dozen Notebooks. And there are very few dates included. And the handwriting was very difficult to decipher.
The other big surprise, considering the number of books she wrote, was the number of plot ideas that she scribbled down but never used. I have included many of these in my two books.
Finding the short stories was an added bonus.  It was an unbelievably exciting event for an aficionado to sit in the author’s own home and read a typescript that no-one had even seen for over 60 years. It was the first ‘new’ Agatha Christie since I read Sleeping Murder in 1976. And finding the notes for them in the Notebooks made it even better. I feel very privileged to have been able to bring them to her legions of fans.
HANK: So this must have been a huge job! Were there any obstacles? Other than the obvious?
JOHN: Without doubt the biggest problem was the handwriting especially for the years between 1930 and the mid-50s.
HANK: Uh, oh. Lucky no one is gonna care about MY notebooks… Really?
JOHN: Yes, it took me about 8 months to decipher those notes and then to transcribe them into legible documents, one file for each Notebook. Of course, it must be remembered that no-one other than Agatha Christie was ever meant to read the Notebooks! When it came to deciding which notes would be included and which left out there were difficult choices to be made. I hope I made the right ones...
HANK: But wait, there’s more?   You’re writing a doctoral thesis on Christie?
JOHN: It will deal with the Golden Age of detective fiction between the Wars when Christie and her contemporaries were at the height of their considerable powers.  Apart from the literature itself it will also look at the social conditions that fostered its growth.
HANK: Let’s go back to the beginning. What was the first Christie book you read? Do you remember?
JOHN: I read my first Christie, Peril at End House, while I was at school and I still consider it one of her best – a very clever, totally fair detective story with a very simple plot device. After that I was hooked! And have remained so ever since. 
HANK: So, what do you think is the secret of Agatha Christie? Why does she continue to attract readers?
JOHN: I think it is a combination of a few factors and this combination has never been matched:
·                    Her writing is straightforward and readable and her books are seldom more than 200 pages.
·                    She tells a story that seems complicated but is quite simple when we get the explanation.
·                    People love a puzzle and she gives us all the clues we need to solve the puzzle but we (nearly!) always fail to spot the vital piece of information that makes everything clear.
·                    She can be enjoyed by grandparents and grandchildren – and there are very few writers of whom you can say that.
·                    And, of course, she now has enormous nostalgia value. Which is why updating her stories is a disastrously bad idea.

HANK: I almost burst into tears, winning the Agatha. (Didn't you? The...synchronicity?) (Look how surprised Jonathan is!) What do you see as her legacy to detective fiction?
JOHN:  Her influence is enormous; almost every crime writer today owes her some debt of gratitude. Although the type of story she wrote – the classical detective story –  has almost disappeared today, she also experimented throughout her career – the historical crime story (Death Comes as the End 1945), the serial killer (The ABC Murders 1935), murder in retrospect (Five Little Pigs 1943), murder abroad (Death on the Nile 1937), the psychological crime novel (Endless Night 1967). She wrote detective fiction better, for longer and more often than any other writer; and she made it seem so easy. Although many writers criticize her nowadays, nobody would object to having her fame – or her sales!
HANK:  Maybe unfair, but which Christie novel (or novels) is your favorite and why?
JOHN: My overall favourite is Five Little Pigs (Murder in Retrospect) – a brilliantly clever formal detective story as well as a novel with huge emotional impact. And the story-telling technique – five separate accounts of one day – is masterly. But very close to it are And Then There Were None, her most thrilling novel; Murder on the Orient Express with its wonderfully original solution; and Endless Night, a dark and brooding novel unlike anything else she wrote with a stunning surprise ending. 
HANK: Can’t resist. Who is your favorite Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple?
JOHN: Oh, certainly, it’s…
HANK:  Oh wait--we’re out of time! Come back Saturday for John’s answer--and the Reds will include our recommended summer reads!  And today a lucky commenter will win a copy of  Secret Notebooks!
John will try to come chat--he's in a different time zone! But meanwhile--what's your favorite Agatha? Or your best Agatha experience? Do you remember your first? 


 ***********************


John Curran’s Edgar-nominated Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks (2010) won the 2011 Agatha, Anthony and Macavity Awards and his Agatha Christie’s Murder in the Making (2011) was nominated for the 2012 Edgar and the Agatha awards. Both books examined the 73 notebooks used throughout her life by Agatha Christie in the creation of her immortal stories. A life-long crime-fiction enthusiast, he is currently writing a PhD thesis on Christie and The Golden Age of Detection at Trinity College, Dublin where he lives.

85 comments:

Rhys Bowen said...

I'm so jealous. For me the ultimate excitement would be to find a previously unpublished Christie. I think for many of us mystery writers she was the initial inspiration.I have all her books and they are still my comfort reads. My favorites: The Pale Horse, and So Many Steps to Death. Both so suspenseful.

Gram said...

I have read all of Agatha's mystery/detective novels and short stories. I loved Mr. Satterwaite (sp)
Dee

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Hey--did you see John said she'd left plot ideas she'd never used? Hmmm...off to find my copy. I'd love some great plot ideas..and what a thought--working with Agatha!

Okay--my favorite. Well, Roger Ackroyd, I'm pretty sure.

But that may not be my final answer.

Marianne in Maine said...

What a wonderful blog post!

I had seen the movies and PBS series before I ever read an Agatha book. What a mistake! The books are fabulous and so much better than even the best filmed adaptation (as are most books.)

The first book I read was CARDS ON THE TABLE so that's a favorite now. And like Hank said, this is subject to change. So many to love.

William Simon said...

Welcome, Mr. Curran! I won't bother telling you how envious I am; just consider it said...:)

I discovered Dame Agatha when the 1966 version of "Ten Little Indians" was shown on television, and it scared me to death. I'd been reading Doyle thanks to my grandfather, and with the hubris of a ten year old, thought I had TLI all figured out. To say I was wrong would be an understatement....:)

Then to find that the local library had entire shelves of Agatha Christie novels! For a not yet teenaged book nerd, this was indeed Heaven on earth. I plowed through them all and, over too many years to count now, gone back again and again and again.

According to witnesses, when I saw the first volume of "Secret Notebooks", I left a vapor trail snatching it from the shelf. Personally, I don't remember it that way, but.... Volume 2 was another instant/immediate purchase.

In absolutely NO order (mainly because I can't) my Dame Agatha Christies are:

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS
MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD
THE MOUSETRAP (I've never seen it on stage, but I've read and re-read the play until I had to replace the collection it's in.... twice.)

I recently had the chance to see the documentary travelogue of David Suchet on The Orient Express. That was amazing to see.

I've found myself as of late going back to the classics like Dame Agatha, Ellery Queen, and Sir Arthur; 'murder most genteel' has a special place in the library!

Sara J. Henry said...

Favorite Agatha Christie: THE HOLLOW, 1946. A bit different from her other books - there are lines in this book that still resonate with me.

Maryann said...

I have both Agatha Christie "Notebooks" and find them fasciniating. She has always intrigued me and it is always fun to find out new things about her life and work. Thank you :o)
My favorite Christie of all time is The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. It never fails to hold my attention, even though I know the ending. I also like her stand-a-alones, The Man in the Brown Suit and They Came to Bagdhad. Plucky heroines and frustrated but endearing heroes.

Maryann said...

Oh and William, I've seen The Mousetrap twice...you need to see it :o)
Off to pack for Midwest Writers now. Happy Wednesday all...from hot and muggy (but no rain in sight) Illinois!

Hallie Ephron said...

What fun she must have been to research! I'm going looking for those "leftover" plot ideas, too.

John, is there any indication that she based Poirot or Miss Marple on real people, or that she had actors in mind for playing them?

Lucy Burdette said...

Me, me, me too on the extra plot ideas! Can you imagine having leftovers?? This is a fascinating story--thanks for visiting John.

Sherrie S. said...

I am a huge Agatha fan (so much so, that my dog is named Agatha--she goes by Aggie :-). I love Appointment with Death. But really, there is no way to pick a favorite.

Kaye Barley said...

Hallie asked the question I've wanted to know for ages. Any indication that Poirot or Miss Marple were based, even in part, on real people? I love Miss Marple to pieces, but Poirot - eh, not so much.

Jutta said...

Serendipity! Last night I watched an episode of Dr. Who titled "The Wasp and the Unicorn" in which the younger Agatha Christie is featured. Mrs. Christie meets the Doctor and Donna Noble the day before her famous (& never explained) disappearance for 10 days. At thetime she, had only written 6 mysteries and had not yet created Miss Marple. Naturally, a mystery ensues, with a jewel thief afoot and 2 murders. There is a lot of fun too, along with a possible explanation for time Agatha Christie went missing.

My first read & favorite Agatha Christie is Ten Little Indians, but I really enjoyed The Mirror Crack'd.

Becke Davis said...

I was so excited to meet John (briefly) at Malice Domestic this year. I bought THE SECRET NOTEBOOKS as soon as it came out. What a coup to get access to all Agatha Christie's papers! I would LOVE to browse through her things.

I do prefer Miss Marple to Hercule Poirot, but some of my favorites are Poirot books. The books I reread the most are probably Mrs. McGinty's Dead, The Mirror Crack'd, The Pale Horse, Cards on the Table, Nemesis, N or M?, Easy to Kill and Towards Zero. And I do love Parker Pyne, Detective - I wish she'd written more of those short stories!

Karen in Ohio said...

Oh, gosh, I read my first Agatha Christie in the early 60's. Who can remember which one that was?

The one that captured my imagination the most was Murder on the Orient Express. Such a project, to write so many different characters, and to have the action traveling along on a train. I've always wanted to have that experience of spending such genteel time on that wonderful, luxe form of transportation. Sans murder, of course.

Susan Elizabeth said...

Firstly, there's nothing more exciting than reading a writer's notes & notebooks on a story you love. Different ballpark, but I remember buying the published screenplay of Stranger Than Fiction and discovering Zach Helm's handwritten storynotes in the back - it was like uncovering a hidden treasure.

Secondly, the first Agatha Christie book I read was The Murder of Roger Akroyd. I was 11 yaers old, sitting in the back room of my grandma's house, and completely enthralled. She got me, that Agatha. I think I read it in a day.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Oh, yes,I was blown away by Murder on the Orient Express. What a tour de force!

And what FUN it must have been to have written that..can you imagine, thinking of it? And maybe John knows if she had the solution in mind BEFORE she wrote the book, or if it emerged as she was creating it.

Years ago, I couldn't have imagined she didn't know when she started. Now--I absolutely can believe the idea came to her as she was writing. What do you all think?

Becke Davis said...

I read my first Agatha Christie when I was fifteen. I was in Albuquerque visiting my aunt. Desperate for something to read, I picked up a copy of FUNERALS ARE FATAL. I was hooked!The next summer, a woman I babysat for discovered I liked Agatha Christie and gave me a big box of old Christie paperbacks. I still have a lot of those, and I'll never forget Mrs. Murgle for giving them to me! (Doesn't her name sound like a Christie character?)

I'll never forget the first time I spotted the clues in a Christie book and solved the mystery all by myself. The book was A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED - I was so proud of myself!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Becke, that's great--Mrs. Murgle? Perfect. SO great to see you here! Are you having fun at RWA? Any other FOReds there? What's the scoop?

Becke Davis said...

Hank - I couldn't make it to Anaheim this year. I'm getting ready to move back to Chicago, where my first grandbaby is due to arrive in a week or two. Total chaos here right now! I'm hoping to go to National next year - and I want to go to Malice again, too!

Unknown said...
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Wasanaa said...

I don't think I've read all of the Agatha Christie's stories. YET! lol. But her stories started my love for a good mystery book. I love the Miss Marple and Inspector Poirot characters, and I can't decide which I like more. What a wonderful treasure to read all the unfinished plots and wonder how the stories would have unfolded. Now I've got a craving for an Agatha Christie!!

Linda Rodriguez said...

Welcome, John! So glad to see you on Jungle Reds today.

I've read and reread all of Agatha Christie's books. I was so excited when John's first book came out. I've read and reread it. When I'm plotting, I often turn to it for inspiration. Not for the plot ideas that Agatha didn't use, but simply for the reassurance that she didn't have everything all set beforehand, that she often changed things around (or almost completely) as she wrote.

My favorites of her books are, in no particular order, The Pale Horse, Mrs. McGinty's Dead, Five Little Pigs, The Hollow, Crooked House, Ordeal by Innocence, Witness for the Prosecution--well, how can I stop?

Deb said...

Oh, I want John's books!! Haven't read them yet, but I will. John, are you coming to Bouchercon?

No one has mentioned Tommy and Tuppence. I started re-reading The Secret Adversary the other day. I love all the T & T books. And not too long ago I reread They Came to Bagdad, one of her stand-alones, which I adore. Such atmosphere. You can feel her love of the Middle East.

I can't remember the first Christie I read. My grandmother liked them, so we had quite a few. But once started I read every one I could find. Bliss.

Elizabeth said...

I love Dame Christie! The ABC Murders was the first novel that I read, and it is a wonderful one.

I have to say, though, that Murder on the Orient Express has always intrigued me... the setting, the characters (and their not being able to get away), the wonderful ending.

Definitely the Queen of Crime!

Leslie Budewitz said...

John, what a delight to meet you at Malice and hear your tales of one of the greatest tale-spinners ever! Lovely to see you here.

I discovered Agatha Christie in maybe 1968-69 in a drug store in Burlington IA where my family traveled every summer for my dad's business. (The same drug store where I bought a tiara for 2.99.)
Read by the hotel swimming pool and went back for a new book every day until we left.

And I remember fondly the Tommy & Tuppence TV series -- Netflix, here I come!

Karen in Ohio said...

Yes! Tommy & Tuppence, how could I forget that series?

Their cute-dialogue relationship was a template for a lot of mystery couples to follow, wasn't it?

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

LOVE Tommy and Tuppence. So adorable, and so brave. I always wanted to be Tuppence.

There's TV series?

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

What're the duplicate titles? It the ABC Murders the same as..which one? And wasn't Murder on the Orient Express the other name for Murder on The Calais Coach? Or am I confused?

(No snide remarks, reds, about my "confusion.".)

Jets said...

Duplicate titles - "And Then There Were None" = "Ten Little Indians". I think the Play "The Mousetrap" started out as "Three Blind Mice".

My Favorites , so far, "The Murder of Roger Akroyd" and "A Murder is Announced."

Deb said...

Yes! Tommy and Tuppence on Netflix! And the episodes are available streaming! That's my treat when I finish revisions today....

And then the rowing movie with Matt Smith on BBCA.

Nancy said...

Although I've never met a Christie book I didn't like, Witness for the Prosecution is my favorite.

Anonymous said...

Delighted to read such a great reaction to my 'Notebooks' interview. (Of course, it's all down to the interviewer!)And delighted to hear from so many friends of Dame Agatha.

I notice a few queries about the genesis of Miss Marple and Poirot. The character of Miss M is supposedly based on Christie's grandmother who always believed the worst of everyone - and was usually proved correct! Poirot was complete invention but his nationality based on the Belgian WWI refugees staying in Torquay at the time she was writing her first book.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

ANONYMOUS is, of course, John Curran!

Hurray, and wonderful to see you here!

John said...

Thanks, Hank - don't know how I managed to do that!

Readers may be interested to hear that last week I met David Suchet after a one-off performance of Black Coffee - the only Poirot that he won't be filming for TV. He is getting ready to start filming the last 5 titles beginning in September with Curtain. He admitted that it will be a very emotional time for him as he has 'lived' with Poirot for 25 years! They won't be on our screens until 2014

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

John, you have me swooning with envy!

Tell us more..? How fascinating, to be "selected" to become a fictional person who we think we all know...and then to become so accepted as the "real" Poirot!

DO you envision him when you think
about the character?i

John said...

I am very intrigued to see the wide range of Christie 'favourites' - and not all of them titles I would expect. During Christie Week in September I am appearing on a panel with Christie's grandson, Mathew, and my editor at Harper in London to discuss 'The Best Christie'. We hope to get audience reaction so I suspect there will be a similar spread of 'favourites' there also.

John said...

I think everyone - and it is shown the world over - that David Suchet will be forever associated with Poirot. And although I don't approve of every adaptation - Appointment with Death was particularly bad - I cannot ever imagine a better Poirot. The only regret is that Agatha Christie never saw him. I am sure she would have approved.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

May I ask..did you tell him that?

John said...

You're going to love this...I told him that the last time we met - on the set in Morocco! You did ask!

Readers of Murder in the Making will know that he wrote a very generous Introduction to the book. I presented him with a copy and we spoke briefly about the last series.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Sigh. Swoonier and swoonier.

Can you believe your life turned out this way?

Deb said...

John, do you have a favorite of the many actresses who have played Miss M?

Nora McFarland said...

I already have both wonderful books, but I can't keep my mouth shut about Christie and have to comment. Towards Zero is a favorite because it's Agatha doing what she does best--presenting a set of characters in one light, then at the end showing them to you in a completely new way. None of the facts have changed, but our interpretation of them has.

John said...

I think that Joan Hickson was born to play the part of Miss Marple, Deb. When she walked down the street in St Mary Mead she wasn't just playing the part of Miss Marple. She was Miss Marple. And those BBC adaptations were also the best. I shudder when I see some of the newer ones.

Joan Emerson said...

Wow, what a marvelous opportunity, John! How exciting it must be to be able to look through Dame Christie’s notes, letters, and notebooks! I cannot imagine any writer not wishing to be able to do that . . . .

Favorites? You mean, pick one? Okay . . . “And Then There Were None” . . . . no, wait . . .”The Murder At The Vicarage” . . . but there’s “Murder On The Orient Express” . . . and “The Thumb Mark Of Saint Peter” . . . okay, forget it --- there is absolutely no way to pick just one --- love them all!

John said...

Nice to 'meet' you again Nora!
Yes Towards Zero is a favourite of mine also. A darker than usual Christie. And, in complete contradiction of my last post, that was very well done recently in the Geraldine McEwan series. Because they stuck to what Agatha Christie wrote and didn't try ot 'improve' on it. As if they could...

Hallie Ephron said...

Towards Zero? I think I missed that one. How COULD I have missed one...

Best Miss Marple? NOT Margaret Rutherford. She always reminded me of a vigorous boyscout leader. NOT Miss M.

Angela Lansbury ... meh. And I'm a huge A.L. fan.

Gotta be Joan Hickson, yes John? I remember reading once that Christie pictured her in the role.

Deb said...

I was hoping you'd say Joan Hickson, John. My favorite by far. And I love those BBC adaptations.

Wouldn't it be fun if they re-did Tommy and Tuppence, with the popularity of post WWI period pieces. Who would you cast?

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Could the actor who plays Hathaway in Lewis play Tommy? Kind of a...not as handsome or suave as I always imagined, but more contemporary?

Or--how about the actor who played Endeavour for Tommy?

Or would that completely confuse everyone?

Darlene Ryan said...

No one has mentioned Mr. Parker Pyne. I think Mr. Parker Pyne, Detective has to be my favorite Christie book since it was the first I read.

John do you have any idea why there was never a series of novels featuring Parker Pyne?

John said...

Because I am sworn to secrecy I cannot tell you who is considering taking the role of Tommy in a possible future TV series. But as a famous film once said 'Be afraid, be very afraid...'!

On a more positive note a cinema adaptation of Crooked House is already scripted. Filming is due to begin later this year. The scriptwriter is Julian 'Downton Abbey' Fellowes. Which is a good start. He also write Gosford Park.

Deb said...

Christie is often talked about as a social historian. After the success of Downton Abbey, and reading Rhys's Georgie books as well as Charles Todd's Rutledge's and Bess Crawford's and Jaqueleine Winspear's Maisie Dobb's, so very interesting to re-read the T & T books set just after the Great War.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

We're ALL thinking: TOM CRUISE?

John said...

Darlene, Parker Pyne appeared in two episodes of The Agatha Christie Hour about 30 years ago. They are available on DVD and are hugely enjoyable even though they are not all crime stories.

lil Gluckstern said...

What a fascinating post. I remember liking Ten Little Indians, The Mirror Crack'd, and Nemesis. I think Joan Hickson, and David Suchet were wonderful casting choices and made the books come alive-again and again.

Vickie R said...

I walked into a small local bookstore in Topeka Ks one day about 35 years ago. I asked the owner to recommend a book, she did. It was The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and my addiction to mysteries started. I read every Poirot and Miss Marple book, then branched out to many, many other authors of mysteries. I intend to read the Tommy and Tuppence books. I have since retired and live in Montana. I have a large front porch with a mountain view, what better place to sit and read !!

Marianne in Maine said...

Oh, Hank! Tom Cruise??? Please, no! And, by the way, he's not the real Jack Reacher either.

Although I'm living with Duncan and Gemma right now as I reread the series, I must get some of these suggested Agatha books. It's been a long time.

I always learn SOOO much from this blog.

Jan Brogan said...

Welcome John!

I find it very encourating that Agatha Christie was disorganized!


Marianne - I'm with you on Tom Cruise! (no Jack Reacher)

Marcia Talley said...

Hi, John! Great photo of you, BTW.

I'm fond of the Tommy and Tuppence books which pretty much span Christie's long career. Partners in Crime was among the first, and Postern of Fate (extremely flawed -- where was the editor for that one? -- but I digress) was the last. Unlike Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, who never age, Tommy and Tuppence grow old in real time, roughly right along with Christie herself. And if you've read Christie's autobiography and the T&T books you sometimes find yourself wondering, did you read it in the novel or in the autobiography.

Julia said...

You can tell from the enthusiasm that Christie truly is timeless! I recently picked up a copy of the 1945 movie "And Then There Were None." My children, who turn up their noses at "Ugh, boring old black and white movies" got watching it with me and were captivated. They were guessing out loud who the killer might be. That's staying power for you.

P.S. Has anyone else been collecting the Black Dog & Leventhal hardcover reissues They're beautiful. I'm replacing all my tatty old paperbacks as the various titles are released.

Lora in Florida said...

OOO so jealous! Can't even imagine finding a long-lost Christie story.

Agatha Christie is one of my all time favorite authors. I would have to say "4:50 from Paddington", or "Murder, She said". It was the very first one I read, when I was 10 or 11 and it scared the pants off me. The idea of someone being strangled on a train and no one knowing.

And then of course, "10 Little Indians". Can't even imagine selecting more favorites. Loved Tommy and Tuppence, just plain loved them all.

Sandy said...

..favorite Christie: her autobiography; in her words, her wisdom, her humor...

Rosemary Harris said...

Julia,
Thank you thank you for mentioning the beautiful Black Dog & Leventhal books - my pal is the publisher. Here's Evil Under the Sun..just to show cover..
http://www.amazon.com/Evil-Under-Sun-Hercule-Mysteries/dp/1579126286

I've been dragging my feet re posting today. I am not the student of AC that the rest of you are - and I don't want to embarass myself - but John may have turned me into a fan!

Di Eats the Elephant said...

Ah, I feel like I'm among friends. I'm a huge Agatha Christie fan, although I haven't reread any now for over ten years. I own all her mysters in those black hard covers put out by someone once upon a time. My first mysteries were Nancy Drew, but I read Elephants Can Remember and And Then There Were None and the first one hooked me til I read all I could find in the Army Post Library overseas in Japan. I kept reading as I could find them, rereading when I couldn't find new ones. I love both Poirot and his little grey cells and Miss Marple. I feel like the Jessica Fletcher character was totally based on Miss Marple. I will admit that I can't bear to watch these being enacted. Perhaps it's the real british accent or belgian accent throwing me off, but I prefer them in my head. Favorites (along with those above) are Murder on the Orient Express, and any of those quaint seaside hotels in the middle east she used to use. She did seem to love the middle east. I am also thrilled to hear that her notes are as uneasy to read and scattered into different notebooks as mine are. I try to type them up early because sometimes I don't even know what I wrote. The different notebooks worry me, and I'm still working on my first novel. How thrilling to get to read her notes and see the unused plots!

Karen in Ohio said...

Too bad Hugh Laurie is too old to play Tommy. Wouldn't he be delicious in that role?

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

HI, DI--happy to see you! (Where'd that name come from? :-) ) And I agree--the idea of opening the notes for the first time...whoa.

Karen..hmm.. I always thought of him as--Cary Grant. I know, I know. But how about Hugh Jackman?

AlohaJan said...

I am learning so much from this post! I believe my first Agatha Christie book I read was a Miss Marple, but it was so long ago I don't remember the title! Joan Hickson & David Suchet rule!

Mar (aka mar annabelle jacob) said...

Wow, what an honor for John Curren!!!

I think I would have been afraid to pick up any of Agatha's notes for fear of leaving oily fingerprints or dropping a notebook.

How exciting it must have been to meet her Grandson, then to walk in to her home and have access to her notes

Did you feel her presence in her home? I have ghosts that follow me from home to home and sometimes can "feel" someone around me.....yes I'm "one of those" who believe in spirits/ghosts

Hank, wonderful interview and I'm envious, how fun it would be to meet someone who had been in Agatha's home and held her papers, I'd probably still be yattering away asking John questions a week later

I started reading Agatha when I was around 4th grade; I got my first library card when I was about 3 yrs old and every Saturday we went to the library and I got to get 2 or 3 books from the children's section....wonderful memories, our library was in and old house and the children's section was a nook.

I don't recall which Agatha I read first, I just remember picking up one that one of my parent's had in the "read pile" and I was hooked. I had been reading Nancy drew and Hardy boys mysteries and loved them, so reaching for a mystery in the "read pile" was a natural when I finished my books before Saturday.

I don't know that I could list a favorite book of Agatha's, gosh so many and very few that I didn't re-read.

Miss Marple are definitely my Favorite Agatha books of all her writing.

Congratulations to John on being chosen by Agatha's grandson to see her notes and then to be able to write about them and to have your book published - wondeful for you.

I cannot wait to read your book John, I'm thrilled that JRW chose to inteview you.

Mar

Jenni L. said...

I think I'd read every Agatha Christie novel available by the time I left the 5th grade. I've been a huge fan forever, and can't wait to read about the notebooks. Thanks for this interview!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Mar, John is an absolute treasure. Hmmm...wonder who'll get to go through HIS notebooks. (And yes, you can see I'm STILL asking questions--and there'll be more this Saturday, so come back!)

Jenni L, I think that's when I first read them,too. So interesting, as John says, that they're enjoyed by all ages.

Rosemary--those covers are Fabulous. Irresistible. And I did NOT resist.

Anonymous said...

mY FAVORite Christie is MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS followed by The BODY IN THE LIBRARY.

Pamela James

Carole Price said...

I am so envious. I continue to reread my Agatha Christie books.

Deb Romano said...

Today's blog post is so exciting!

I have the first Secret Notebook, John. Although it is tempting to rush through it, I am making myself go through it slowly. With a stay-cation coming up in a couple of weeks, I may have the perfect excuse to do nothing but read that book AND to read it slowly! I definitely want to get the second book,too.

I don't remember which of Christie's books I read first. Seems like I have ALWAYS known about her! I remember how sad I was when I realized that I had read all her books. Then I discovered some I had never heard of and was really excited - until I realized that I had read them under different titles!

No way I can pick a favorite! Among my many favorites and in no particular order are The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Murder on the Orient Express, all the Tommy and Tuppence stories,and I just do not have time to continue listing more of my favorites! I went through a phase where I would alternate a Poirot book with a Marple book.

A few years ago when I was running out of bookshelf space I donated most of my Christie books to a book sale. In the past year or so I've been thinking of building up my collection again. No idea where I will put them!

YES to Joan Hickson and David Suchet!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

I'm still wondering who it is that John knows wants to play Tommy. Shall we guess? But we know he'll never tell.

Deb, I feel just the same way. And Jonathan just bought me a whole leather bound set of Agathas, from Bantam from 1985--with gorgeous covers and beautiful endpapers.

But did you see those terrific Black DOg & Leventhal editions ? fabulous.

Deb Romano said...

I must make it a point to look for those editions, Hank.

After the second or third time I read today's blog and all the responses, I remembered that I read Christie's autobiography many years ago. I had forgotten all about that!

I should be getting ready for bed, but John's first Notebooks book is on the couch with me and...

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Thank you, everyone! What a terrific day..and we realy got he scoop, huh?

Tomorrow...another amazing author--
Clues? A Brit. Best-selling. Terrific writer. Multiple series.

And we're having a giveaway!

See you tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

I, too, read my first Christie at about 10 or 11 years old. I have no idea where I got it. I do know that it was MINE! It was THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD. I was already hooked on kid mysteries and this just "doomed" me for the rest of my life! :)
I thought I knew what my fave would be...then, I read the comments. Yes! That one...oooh, I almost forgot that one. THE MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS made me want to ride it, and then I saw the PBS show with David Suchet and want to even more!! THE BODY IN THE LIBRARY was such a cliche title, but such an original book. I loved Tommy and Tuppence too.
Once I was re-reading my Christie's (actually, I always think of them as Agatha's) in no particular order. I decided to read a Poirot, Marple, T & T. After I read one particular sequence (and I don't remember which ones they were), I had a writer's epiphany. Something about the three of them and their plots clicked with me. It was quite a moment for me.
I could go on and on, but I won't as it is so late.
I can't wait until I get the chance to read John Curran's books.
Pen Mettert
pmettert @ yahoo

PK the Bookeemonster said...

My first Agatha Christie was her last: CURTAIN. Wow.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

And the winner of John Curran's book is: SUSAN ELIZABETH!

Email me at h ryan at a whdh dot com with your address! Hurray!

And don't forget--he'll be back here Saturday..with new scoop and info!

(And PK,we can ask him about CURTAIN!)

susan b said...

I love, love, love Agatha Christie. I have to say, I've never understood why the classic mystery story isn't published more today - no one outsells Christie! Of course, she did it sooooo much better than most...

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Absolutely, Susan B! And so concisely, and so surprisingly!

See you here Saturday?

Patg said...

Great interview. I have a nice collection of Agathas that I like to reread, and it is the less famous ones that offer some great insight.
Patg

Susan Elizabeth said...

I meant to reply this yesterday:

"Awesome! Thanks so much Hank, Reds, and John!"

But it appears I sent it to noreply@blogger - Doh!

Thanks again Reds!

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