Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Agatha and Anthea

Two books today, totally different from each other, but both enjoyable. Little Grey Cells, sub-titled The Quotable Poirot is a stocking-filler for the Christie fan in your life, a small, nicely presented book which includes not only Poirot's words of wisdom on a range of subjects, but also a couple of short pieces written by Agatha Christie herself about her love/hate relationship with the little Belgian.

I was interested in Christie's admission that "I never do see pictorial things clearly". She had an impression of Poirot when she invented him, rather than a complete picture. It may seem odd for a novelist to possess a limited visual sense, but I have to confess that I'm the same. I don't have a clear image in my mind of Hannah Scarlett or Daniel Kind or Harry Devlin, and even when I set out to evoke the atmosphere of the Lake District or Liverpool, I find I have to work very hard to do so. One of the things that has most pleased me about reviews of the Lake District Mysteries over the years is the fact that my descriptions of the Lakes have found widespread favour, even among those who know the area far better than I do. Achieving this has been the most challenging aspect of the series - much more so than dreaming up those convoluted plots.

Agatha found it even easier, of course, to come up with elaborate whodunit plots, though her note books reveal that, inevitably, this involved a degree of trial and error as she played with ideas. Many of the Poirot novels rank among her finest achievements, and this is due in large measure to the fact that, although Poirot irritated his creator at times, his outlook on life largely reflects hers. If you want to learn more about it, you can glean quite a bit of insight from Little Grey Cells, put together by David Brawn, who is the senior editor at Harper Collins dealing with all things Christie-related. He's also, I should disclose, the chap who acquired the rights to The Golden Age of Murder, so you will appreciate that I regard him as a man of impeccable taste!

I turn now to a crime novelist of today. Anthea Fraser kindly contributed a guest blog recetnly about her latest novel, A Tangled Thread, which has been published by Severn House. Although I've read quite a number of Anthea's books, almost all of them have been in the series featuring David Webb, a shrewd and likeable cop. This novel is different, tracing the possibility of an unexpected link between seemingly unconnected deaths. It's written in the smoothly readable style familiar to Anthea's existing readers, and is a welcome reminder of her talents.


Fiona said...

I'm interested in your comment about authors having a limited visual sense; I think that one is either good with words or has a visual eye which 'sees' in detail. While I have no ability in creative writing and none for small talk, I can hold an audience's attention when telling traditional stories in my own words and am told they can picture exactly what I'm describing. I do visualise each scene but without detail: I know where each character is standing and if I indicate a person in a particular place they won't magically move elsewhere just because I use my other hand, but when it comes to drawing I am the equivalent of tone deaf - put a pencil in my hand and my brain freezes, all the links between hand, eye and brain are broken.

dfordoom said...

"although Poirot irritated his creator at times, his outlook on life largely reflects hers"

It's an outlook on life that I find myself very much in sympathy with. I confess to knowing very little about Christie's own life - that's an omission that I really should rectify.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks very much for these comments. Fiona, you make me feel better about my own deficiencies in this area!