Today I’m pleased to welcome back Isabella Muir to the blog but this time as Chindi’s Author of the Week. Isabella has agreed to talk about Agatha Christie and the Sixties.
AGATHA CHRISTIE AND THE SIXTIES
With Agatha Christie’s birthday coming up and with my long-held passion for all things sixties, I thought I would combine the two and reflect on what Agatha might have been doing during the 1960s…
Agatha Christie was born on 15th September 1890, making her seventy years old when that iconic era started. She began working on her first detective novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, (where we first meet the wonderful Hercule Poirot) during time spent on Dartmoor in 1916, with it being eventually published in 1920. Forty years on and she had more than fifty published novels to her name, as well as sixteen short story collections. She had created Miss Marple and Tommy and Tuppence and written romance titles under the pen name of Mary Westmacott.
But there was no stopping her …
From 1960 onwards until she died in 1976, there were another fifteen novels and at least four short story collections. She even tried her hand at poetry and wrote her own autobiography, which was published in 1977, after her death.
Agatha was also involved in the many radio, television, film and stage productions of her stories.
By the sixties she had received a CBE and was accredited as a ‘phenomenon’. By 1950 she had sold fifty million books worldwide and the sales just kept rolling in.
Literary critics were fascinated by her approach to storytelling. The author, editor and journalist, Francis Wyndham, said of Christie, ‘Agatha Christie writes animated algebra’. Readers are intrigued by the puzzles and enjoy pitting their wits, alongside Poirot or Marple, until the whole tangled ball of clues is unravelled.
Agatha Christie studied people, which is what made her characters so vibrant on the page and so interesting to portray on the small or large screen. Her observations didn’t just include the people around her, but also the changing times. Think for a moment about the social changes that took place throughout her life, which started in one century and ended in another. She lived through two world wars, six monarchs and some twenty Prime Ministers. When she was born female suffrage had barely been considered, by the time she died the voting rights for the entire adult population were part of everyday life.
So, I was intrigued to re-read Hallowe’en Party, a Poirot novel published in 1969 as there are several instances where she reflects the social changes that have taken place, in her descriptions of characters, setting and plot.
Following a death at the Hallowe’en Party, Poirot is asked to investigate and is told:
‘after all, you read the papers as much as I do – that there have been very many sad fatalities with children all over the countryside. They seem to be getting more and more frequent. Mental instability seems to be on the increase, though I must say that mothers and fathers generally are not looking after their children properly, as they used to do. Children are sent home from school alone, on dark evenings, go alone on dark early mornings. …
‘Someone walked into the house – not a difficult thing to do under the circumstances – someone of highly disturbed mentality, I suppose, the kind of people who are let out of mental homes simply because there is no room for them there, as far as I can see.’
Later in the story we are told by Poirot:
‘Nobody is born to be hanged nowadays. You do not hang people any longer in this country.’
And we also discover:
‘Nowadays nobody cares whether they receive hand-written letters or typewritten ones.’
These snippets and others throughout the novel depict some of the changes that Agatha has noticed in family life, healthcare and legislation, as well as attitudes that have become commonplace and would be so very different to those surrounding her as she grew up in the early part of the 20th century.
It has been fun researching all that happened in the sixties as I developed my Sussex Crime series, which introduces readers to the fictional world of Janie Juke, the young librarian and amateur sleuth who sets out to solve the crimes and mysteries.
It is Agatha’s wonderful detective, Hercule Poirot, that Janie Juke sets out to emulate as she develops her sleuthing talent in the sleepy seaside town of Tamarisk Bay.
This blog post is one of a series, which leads up to Agatha Christie’s birthday and national #cozymysteryday on 15th September, as I enjoy the opportunity to be Chindi’s ‘Author of the week’. Chindi is a network of authors, both traditionally and independently published, based largely in West Sussex. Between us we publish a wide range of books, from historical and crime fiction to romance and children’s books, from humour to self-help.
To find out more about the great Queen of Crime and to help celebrate Agatha Christie’s birthday, then look out for the other blog posts in the series:
Agatha Christie and Isabella Muir click here
Agatha Christie – a child of her time click here
What is a cosy mystery? click here
The good, the bad and the ugly click here
Investigating the past click here
Agatha Christie and Janie Juke click here
And as a present to you, on Agatha’s behalf, I am pleased to announce that the first book in my Sussex Crime series – The Tapestry Bag – will be available on Kindle for just £0.99p for one week only – grab it while you can!
And there’s more! Receive the FREE Sussex Crime novella, Divided we Fall when you sign up to receive Isabella’s newsletter, with cozy mystery news and views, special offers and so much more. Just click here.
Isabella Muir is the author of the Sussex Crime Mystery series:
Thank you Isabella for joining me today and talking about Agatha Christie and the sixties. I found it very informative to read, as I’m sure, will my readers.
If you have any questions for Isabella then leave a question at the end of this blog or contact her on one of her links below.
Isabella Muir is the author of a popular crime series – the Sussex Crime Mysteries. The stories are set in the sixties and seventies and feature a young librarian and amateur sleuth, Janie Juke, who has a passion for Agatha Christie. All that Janie has learned from her hero, Hercule Poirot, she is able to put into action as she sets off to solve a series of crimes and mysteries.
Her latest novel – The Forgotten Children – takes her writing into another genre. Still focusing on events in the 1960s, The Forgotten Children tells the story of the injustices experienced by thousands as a result of the British child migrant policy.
Isabella has been surrounded by books her whole life and – after working for more than twenty years as a technical editor and having successfully completed her MA in Professional Writing – she was inspired to focus on fiction writing.
Aside from books, Isabella has a love of all things caravan-like. She has spent many winters caravanning in Europe and now, together with her husband, she runs a small caravan site in Sussex.
Find out more about the whole range of titles from Isabella Muir:
BOOK 1: THE TAPESTRY BAG
BOOK 2: LOST PROPERTY
BOOK 3: THE INVISIBLE CASE
Her latest novel is: THE FORGOTTEN CHILDREN