Monday, 20 November 2017

Agatha Christie's Very Secret Notebook

Agatha Christie's secret notebooks - the private journals in which she jotted down her ideas for stories, shot to fame some years ago, when Harper Collins published John Curran's fascinating book about them. What nobody seems to have realised at the time was that there was another notebook out there which was in private hands. It was sold at auction many years ago to an American collector for the princely sum of £240 plus commission. It's now come to light again, having been acquired by James Hallgate of Lucius Books in York,

There are some very delightful book dealers around, both here and in the US, and in recent years I've had the pleasure of getting to know quite a few of them. I have to be careful, because naturally they are inclined to lure me into making fresh purchases for my collection! But I find their company very enjoyable, and not only because they supply me with books, information, and background material for my portrayal of Marc Amos and his second hand bookshop in the Lake District Mysteries (though Marc definitely isn't based on anyone in real life!)

James Hallgate very kindly gave me the opportunity, some time ago, to look at the Christie journal shortly after he'd acquired it, and before he put it on the market. I must say it was a great thrill as well as a great privilege to pore over this fascinating item. Christie jotted her thoughts down casually and, seemingly, carelessly, but if one reads her (not very easy to decipher) handwriting, it's possible to discern her thought processes as she develops her storylines. This journal focuses on one of her finest post-war novels, A Murder is Announced, and it features one of her most cunning clues. There are also extensive notes about the play Spider's Web and other Christie works of the period.

I'm really grateful to James for giving me this memorable experience, and I readily agreed not to write about it until he was ready to market the journal. That time has now come, and I'm also appreciative of the photos that he's supplied to adorn this post. If you want to start saving up for a very special present for that Christie fan in your life, I'm afraid you will have to dig very deep indeed. The price of the journal, housed in a bespoke case, is a mere £45,000. Bargain! Alas, I won't be in the market on this occasion, but others definitely will be,and let's face it, it's a snip compared to a Leonardo. I hope very much the notebook finds a suitable home and that it doesn't altogether disappear from public view for years to come. Like the other Christie journals,it provides a wonderful insight into the workings of the mind of one of the genre's most innovative superstars.


Unknown said...

Hi Martin,

A very interesting post. Do you know if the dealer has any plans to allow the notebook to be included in an updated version of the Complete Secret Notebooks before it's auctioned and disappears into private hands? It might be worth putting the idea to John Curran.

Also, do the British Library have any plans to publish The Cast Of Death and Driven Death both by Nigel Orde-Powlett?

Keep up the good work. Love the site and thanks for all your hard work.


Martin Edwards said...

Hello Jamie. I believe John has studied the notebook and I would expect that he will update his books to reflect the new info. I must confess I don't know those two books - do tell me about them!

Unknown said...

Hi Martin,

Thanks for replying. It's good to know that John has seen the notebook and that it might be included in an update at some point in the future. If you hear anything please let us know.

I've not read The Cast Of Death or Driven Death but in her review of 6 August 1933 from "Taking Detective Stories Seriously", on page 67 Sayers says:

". . . The other author, Nigel Orde-Powlett, is a newcomer. His first book, The Cast Of Death, was one of last year's good things and has a special appeal to trout-fishers(technical details audited and found correct). His new one, Driven Death, is also good and deals with grouse shooting."

So they might be worth a dekko for inclusion in the Classic Crime series.

By the way, another crime writer I've not read is the late agony aunt Claire Raynor's George Barnabas series of five books, do you know anything about them?

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Jamie. I'd completely forgotten the DLS reviews! You make a very good point. As for Claire Raynor, I never read her books though I believe they were moderately successful.

Kevin Killian said...

I'd love to find out the alternate plot of "The Pale Horse"! And anything about "Miss Perry."

"Manuscript notebook, written entirely in the hand of Agatha Christie containing 175 pages of notes relating in depth to the Miss Marple novel "A Murder Is Announced" (here with the working title "A Murder Has Been Arranged") and the play "Spider's Web". With further notes relating to the novel "They Do It With Mirrors", a page regarding the play "Miss Perry", an alternative plot for "A Pale Horse", notes for a Mary Westmacott novel, jottings of autobiography, a room sketch to illustrate the layout for a murder and much more."