Known as the ‘Queen of Mystery’ Agatha Christie’s iconic murder mysteries have haunted readers for decades, with over 2 billion books sold worldwide. Responsible for creating some of the most iconic characters and stories, including mystery detective Hercule Poirot, the legacy of this British novelist is unparalleled.
The best-selling novelist of all-time has defined the mystery genre through her mysterious, bizarre, and shocking storylines. Her memorable characters are only rivaled by the Christie’s own unforgettable backstory. Here are fourteen facts about Agatha Christie that are downright shocking, bizarre, utterly entertaining.
1. Her first novel was inspired by a dare.
As a teenager Agatha Christie experimented with poetry and short stories. However it wasn’t until her sister challenged her to attempt a longer written work that she wrote her first novel. Her novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920), introduced detective Hercule Poirot, who would later become a popular literary icon.
2. She mysteriously disappeared for 11 days…leading to alien abduction conspiracies.
In 1926, Christie’s life suddenly became a mystery novel in itself when, grieving the devastating death of her mother, and going through a divorce from her husband Colonel Archibald Christie, Christie abruptly disappeared. Her family, police, and the public were left bewildered. She vanished without a trace, leaving behind her daughter (in the care of household staff), wedding ring, and abandoned car, which led to a manhunt that ultimately turned up nothing. Eleven days later she was finally sighted… at a spa hotel in which she had been staying the entire time, under the name of her husband’s mistress. Christie claimed to have had amnesia, and her bizarre disappearance was never fully explained.
Throughout the sensationalized ordeal there were countless theories surrounding Christie’s disappearance. Some people theorized that the whole ordeal was a publicity stunt to increase book sales. Others believed Christie’s amnesia was real, perhaps as a result of an accident. Others believed Christie was attempting to setup her husband and characterize him as a suspect Gone Girl style. Those theories are not nearly as interesting as one put forth by Gareth Roberts, one of the writers for BBC’s Doctor Who. In an episode titled, “The Unicorn and the Wasp”, the writer theorized that Christie indeed suffered amnesia after a traumatic encounter with an alien wasp. Could it be true? Guess we’ll never know for sure.
3. She pursued smoking… but failed.
Though nowadays millions of people try desperately to give up smoking, Christie tried desperately to take up the habit. World War I had popularized tobacco, so smoking was seen as lavish and didn’t have the reputation that it does now. Wanting to fit in, Christie experimented, however she just couldn’t get in to it.
4. She had a taste for poison.
During World War I, Christie worked as an apothecaries assistant and handled a variety of toxins, leading her to developing an advanced knowledge of poisons. Her interest in poison translated on paper, as it was her preferred method of murder in many of her works. Her preference stemmed in part from her aversion to graphic violence. It may help too that it makes the murder suspect all the more mysterious.
5. Her mother was psychic.
Christie’s mother, Clarissa Boehmer, was a self-proclaimed clairvoyant who reportedly convinced her children that she could see the future. Her esoteric beliefs reportedly led her to refrain from teaching Christie how to read at a young age (though the author taught herself) and homeschooling her.
6. She once held the Guinness World Record for the world’s thickest book.
In 2009 HarperCollins published a collection of Christie’s Miss Marple stories – comprising of twelve novels and twenty short stories. The collection featured a mere sixty-eight crimes committed, sixty-eight secrets and lies, twenty-two false accusations, twenty-one romances, and 143 cups of tea consumed, delivering a whopping 4,032 pages, weighing more than fifteen pounds, and priced at $1,500 dollars. The record was surpassed in 2013 when a 89,471 page book titled Verdens Største Ordbog (The world’s largest dictionary) was published in Denmark.
Image Via Mental Floss
7. She had a passion for archaeology.
Christie’s second husband, Max Mallowan, was an archeologist and frequently invited her along on his expeditions to the Middle East. These expeditions greatly influenced her writing. Christie and her husband often traveled on The Orient Express, which later inspired her successful murder mystery, Murder on the Orient Express (1934). Influences of her time spent in the Middle East can be seen in many of her works including, Murder in Mesopotamia (1936), Death on the Nile (1937), Appointment with Death (1938), and They Came to Baghdad (1951).
8. She holds another record as the first woman to surf standing up.
Though many famed writers, including J.D. Salinger, were recluses who shut themselves away with their work, Christie wasn’t one of them. She loved spending time outdoors and had a particular passion for surfing. Her interest arose during a stay in Hawaii and she is believed to be the first British woman who surfed while standing up.
9. Her fear of poverty inspired her portrayal of money as a motive.
Though she was born to a middle-class family, Christie was conscious of the power and limitations of money throughout the childhood after her father experienced financial setbacks. After her father passed away when she was eleven, the author was reportedly haunted by a constant worry of her family’s financial situation. Tracing the author’s life, career, and legacy in her 2007 biography, Agatha Christie: An English Mystery, Laura Thompson wrote, “Agatha had a fear of poverty, deriving from her memory of the sudden downward swoop of the Miller fortunes. Money is central to Agatha’s writings. As both Poirot and Miss Marple [Christie’s two most famous characters] are aware, it constitutes the prime motive for crime.”
10. She was a self-proclaimed “sausage machine.”
Though the exact number of works written by Christie varies between sources, everyone agrees that she wrote a freaking lot. The “queen of mystery” is known not only for her compelling reads, but the sheer volume of written works. At the height of her career, Christie referred to herself as a “sausage machine,” in reference to her ability to churn out a lot of material rapidly.
11. Her pseudonym Mary Westmacott remained a secret for nearly two decades.
Though the name Agatha Christie is known by many, the famed author also wrote six novels under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott around 1930. Unlike the murder mysteries associated with her name, the author created a new reputation by diving into the romance genre releasing titles like Giant’s Bread (1930). Her pseudonym went undisclosed for nearly 20 years.
12. Her number of sold works outnumbers the populations of China and America (combined).
Christie has sold more than 2 billion copies of her written work, cementing her status as the best-selling novelist of all time.
13. She detested marmalade pudding.
Christie disliked marmalade pudding, so much so in fact that she used it as a murder accessory in her novel A Pocket Full of Rye (1953). Perhaps she wanted to warn off readers from consuming the treat. Guess we’ll never know.
14. Her protagonist Hercule Poirot was adored by many people… except for Christie herself.
One of the most prolific literary characters is Christie’s murder mystery detective Hercule Poirot, who made around 100 appearances in Christie’s works. Though beloved by many, the author repeatedly voiced her dislike of Poirot, once referring to him as an “detestable, bombastic, tiresome, ego-centric little creep.” In an interview with BBC, Christie’s grandson Matthew Prichard revealed that the Poirot’s popularity with readers led Christie’s publishers to push the writer to continuously “churn out” Poirot mysteries. So if you think his frequent appearances was a result of Christie’s love of him, think again.
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