Monday, August 25, 2014

Cadfael maps and other info from Luca Polo. I found the dating of the novels very helpful!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A play manuscript with Christie's revisions. Notice the meticulous changing of dialogue to make a line more specific to that speaker. I love the uniqueness of Christie's characters' surnames: Angkatell! I am reading one story with the "Unkertons".

Source: Lucius Books archive of Christie-ana.

Agatha Christie's writing process

Agatha Christie was interviewed by the BBC in 1955 about her writing process:

Agatha would spend evenings in the company of friends or family, and would sit and knit, with her mind seeming to be elsewhere. And it was - she was thinking about her next storyline, mapping out the plot from start to finish.
By the time she sat down to write the book, it would all be done and dusted inside her head.
Snippets from the interview with Agatha provide an insight into how she went about her work.
Agatha was self-taught, which meant she spent much of her childhood at home - and that's when she began writing.
In the interview, she said: "I found myself making up stories and acting the different parts. There's nothing like boredom to make you write.
Some of Dame Agatha's books in the library
Some of Dame Agatha's books at Greenway
"So by the time I was 16 or 17, I'd written quite a number of short stories and one long, dreary novel. By the time I was 21, I had finished the first book of mine ever to be published, the Mysterious Affair at Styles.
"I'd sent it to one or two publishers who didn't want it and eventually it went to John Lane. About a year later, I heard it had been accepted. Well, that's how it began."
The rest, as they say, is history. Agatha Christie - whose family home at Greenway, Galmpton, has been gifted to the National Trust - became one of the most prolific writers ever.
In another clip from the interview, she gave us further insight into how her stories were transferred from her head onto the page.
"What is your method, they (my friends) want to know. The disappointing truth is I haven't much method. I type my own drafts on an ancient faithful machine I've owned for years.
A commemorative bust in Torquay
A commemorative bust in Torquay
"No, I think the real work is done in thinking out the development of your story and worrying about it until it comes right. That may take quite a while. Then, when you've got all your material together, all that remains is to find time to write the thing."
Dame Agatha churned out books in rapid fashion, as she explained: "Three months seems to me quite a reasonable time to complete a book, if one can get right down to it.
"On the other hand, plays I think are better written quickly. Writing plays is much more fun than writing books. You haven't got to bother about long descriptions of places and people or deciding how to space out your material.
"You must write pretty fast, keep in the mood and to keep the talk flowing naturally. I prefer to write a play as a play, that is rather than to adapt a book.
"The only reason I ever did that was because I didn't care very much for what happened when other people tried to turn my books into plays. So in the end I had to do it myself."

Christie: Psychological insights

Agatha Christie (especially the post-Freudian era between the wars) had a fascination with psychology, not just of murderers, but of the victims and suspects too. Here's a general observation about gender:

"...He went straight home, he says, but evidence was called to show that he did not reach his farm until a quarter to seven, and, as I have mentioned, it is barely a mile away. It would not take a half an hour to get there. He forgot all about his gun, he declares. Not a very likely statement-- and yet--"
"And yet?" queried Mr. Quin.
"Well," said Mr. Satterthwaite slowly, "it's a possible one, isn't it? Counsel ridiculed the supposition, of course, but I think he was wrong. You see, I've known a good many young men, and these emotional scenes upset them very much-- especially the dark nervous type like Martin Wylde. Women, now, can go through a scene like that and feel positively better for it afterward, with all their wits about them. It acts like a safety valve for them, steadies their nerves down and all that. But I can see Martin Wylde going away with his head in a whirl., sick and miserable, and without a thought of the gun he had left leaning up against the wall."

A generalization, certainly, but it accords with my experience. Discharging worry and emotion seems to free women, but has an oppressive effect on men.

BTW, the editing in these cheap old Christie paperbacks is quite good. I suspect that she delivered a very clean copy and didn't like editors fussing much with her prose. And of course, she'd have the power to dictate the level and quality of editing she received! Would that we were all so fortunate.

Agatha Christie paperback discovery

Greenway: Agatha Christie's own house on the River Dart. Just below the house, above the river, is the boathouse, scene of the crime in Dead Man’s Folly.

I'm in Canada, at Stratford, and the house where I'm staying has an extensive collection of old Christie paperbacks (25 cents price!). I just came across a story ("The Shadow on the Glass") which takes place at a house called Greenways. It's in The Mysterious Mr. Quin, a collection of stories. This might be one of those sleuths like Parker Pyne that didn't "catch". There's sort of a co-sleuth, an old society gentleman (one of her sort-of gay characters) Mr. Satterthwaite, whose gift is his ability to recall events in great detail and emotional realism: "a little bent, dried-up man with a peering face oddly elflike, and an intense and inordinate interest in other people's lives. All his life, so to speak, he had sat in the front row of the stalls watching the various dramas of human nature unfold before him. His role had always been that of the onlooker. Only now, wiht old age holding himi in its clutch, he found himself increasingly critical of the drama submitted to him. He demanded now something a little out of the common" (1). 

Mr. Satterthwaite is the narrator of the stories, and his friend Mr. Quin always happens by accidentally when there's a mystery afoot and figures out the significance of what Mr. S narrates.

I'm continually impressed with the ornate ease of Christie's prose. She's so much better a writer than I imagined-- another 20th C woman writing in the genres (actually, she created the genre :) and writing fluently, smoothly, even innovatively. Gee, could it be she's been discounted because she's a woman, and wrote a whole lot, and wrote stuff regular people liked to read?