Be surprised by Agatha Christie

Outset Memorial

It’s no secret that Agatha Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time, famous for creating world-renowned sleuths Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple and a wealth of other crime stories and plays. But there’s so much more to the Queen of Crime…

Here are a few of our favourite facts about Agatha Christie, whose fascinating life inspired so many of the stories that the world has enjoyed since 1920.

Her father, Frederick Alvah Miller, was American. Her grandfather was a partner in H B Claflin and Company, a major dry goods wholesaler in Manhattan. Her brother Monty was born in New England.

Christie’s writing career began with a bet. Her sister Madge bet that Christie couldn’t write a detective novel in which the reader could correctly guess the murderer. Unable to resist the challenge, at the age of 26 Christie got to work on what was to later become her first published detective novel.

She spent 10 months travelling the world. In 1922 she visited South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and Canada as part of the Grand Tour with her first husband Archie.

She was one of the first British women to surf! Whilst in South Africa and then Hawaii with Archie in 1922, Agatha learnt to surf, making her one of the first recorded Britons to take on the sport. She is credited with being the first Western woman to stand up on a surf board.

Agatha Christie on a surf board
Image supplied by The Christie Archive Trust

Pathologists read her novels to help them solve real life poisoning cases. Christie was a poison expert; a skill she gained whilst volunteering at the dispensary in her local hospital during the First World War.

Not only an expert on poisons and an author, Christie was also an archaeologist. She spent two decades living on excavation sites in the Middle East, writing novels and helping her husband on digs. She aided Max on his archaeological digs by cleaning many of the finds with her own face cream, to prevent them from drying out.

She “collected” houses to renovate. At one point, just before World War II, she owned eight houses. She was addicted to finding broken down houses in need of repair in London and making structural alterations. It was an enjoyable distraction for her.

Greenway in Devon, Christie's most famous residence

She wrote the longest running show of any kind in the world. The Mousetrap opened in 1952 and is still running to this day - that's 70 years. In 1974 it switched from the Ambassadors Theatre to its current home of St. Martin’s Theatre without missing a performance.

She lived amongst Soviet spies in the Isokon Building London. During which time she wrote her spy novel N or M?

Christie undertook a course at the Reinhardt School of Photography. The art trend at this time was “to make everything look as unlike itself as possible”. Max was not happy with this – he wanted Agatha to document the archaeological artefacts in as lifelike a way as possible!

'Don't you think this necklace looks rather dull like that ?' I would say.
'No, I don't,' said Max. 'The way you've got it, it's all blurred and twisted.'
'But it looks so exciting that way!'
'I don't want it to look exciting,' said Max. 'I want it to look like what it is. And you haven't put a scale rod in.'
'It ruins the artistic aspect of a photograph if you have to have a scale rod-. It looks awful.'
'You've got to show what size it is,' said Max. 'It is most important.'
Agatha Christie, The Autobiography

Statue image courtesy of Ben Twiston Davies

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