Tuesday 16 September 2008

The Christie Tapes

I was woken this morning, as usual, by the 'Today' programme on Radio 4, but, less usually, by the sound of Agatha Christie's voice. I was listening to a trailer for an interview later in the programme (still available on the BBC website at the time of writing this post) discussing the discovery of a box of audio tapes dictated by Christie towards the end of her life.

The interview featured Christie's grandson, Matthew Pritchard, whom I've met a couple of times, and her latest biographer, Laura Thompson, and they did a good job of trying to explain the enduring appeal of this remarkable writer.

I felt Thompson was right to emphasise Christie's simplicity of style - this is one of the elements that gives her work continuing global appeal. But of course there is more to it than that. Christie had a first class understanding of human nature, and this was brilliantly presented via Jane Marple, who has (at least, until late in her life) hardly travelled outside her little village, yet who has a very good understanding of what makes people behave in the way they do.

As for the plots of the books, Christie usually eschewed gimmicks. Yet most of the puzzles are far from easy to guess. She had a rare gift for disguising clues with los of irrelevant information, and her technique is worth studying by any writer of today who wants to write a fairly-clued whodunit.


Anonymous said...

Hi Martin

First time I've visited your blog for a while - very glad to read you'd heard these: I did too and immediately thought of you, and hoped you'd be listening.
No wonder the writing's coming on slow with all this radio, TV and film you're paying attention to! Glad to see the Dr Crippen book is out shortly tho.
On a different subject, I was a great Arthur Ransome fan as a kid too. Favourite was possibly Missee Lee, but then nothing ever quite matched the debut Swallows and Amazons...forever!
Cheers, Dea

Martin Edwards said...

Hi, Dea. I never knew you were a Ransome fan! Hope your own writing is going well, and that you're being more productive than me.