Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Agatha Again

Image result for hercule poirot greenshore

In my young days, I had a recurrent dream. It was a dream in which I discovered an Agatha Christie novel I'd never read. Yes, I'm afraid that I was so hooked, and so frustrated when I'd read her complete works (up to that point) in the genre that I yearned to find a new one. And to this day, when new Christie mysteries come to light, I'm very pleased.

I've just caught up with Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly, a novella written in 1954, but not published until 2014. Christie turned the story into the novel Dead Man's Folly, a mystery for which I've always had a soft spot, even though many Christie purists assure me it's not one of her best. This edition has wonderful jacket artwork by Tom Adams, who was responsible for so many of the covers of Fontana paperback editions of Christie that I devoured in my youth. He also contributes a foreword, and in addition there are pieces by Mathew Pritchard and John Curran.

The novella is a truncated version of the novel, but I was pleased to read it. And it's a lovely production, with illustrated endpapers and a colour reproduction of Adams' artwork for Dead Man's Folly. Incidentally, if you fancy buying the original typed ms of the novella, you can pick it up on Abebooks for a mere £10,000. But if that's a bit too much of a stretch even for a completist, I can definitely recommend the Harper Collins edition!

An early and rare Christie short story is the highlight of another Harper Collins publication, this time dating from last summer. Bodies from the Library is an anthology edited by that leading researcher Tony Medawar. It comes as something of a shock to me to recall that Tony and I first met almost thirty years ago, when we both took part in a Mastermind quiz at the 1990 London Bouchercon. Since then, he's made many discoveries, often reporting them in CADS (whose editor Geoff Bradley kept score in the same quiz.) One of the most interesting is a lost Christie treasure hunt story, set on the Isle of Man and called "Manx Gold." It can be found in While the Light Lasts.

The Christie story in the book is "The Wife of the Kenite", which dates back to about 1922, and first appeared in an Australian magazine. The plot twist is one she used subsequently, not least in a splendid radio play, but this apprentice effort shows already the slickness of her storytelling. The anthology as a whole takes its title from the Bodies from the Library conference, which has become a highly enjoyable event based in the British Library over the last few years, and which will return in June.

The anthology doesn't have a connecting theme, and the stories are a random assortment from some notable names. I was pleased to see two long-time favourite stories of mine making an appearance - Cyril Hare's "The Euthanasia of Hilary's Aunt" and A.A. Milne's "Bread upon the Waters". Both are very well-crafted stories (Milne's makes me wish that he'd written more extensively in the genre), and the same is true of a Roy Vickers story I hadn't read, "The Starting-Handle Murder". This one dates from 1934, and forms part of Vickers' long-running and celebrated series of short stories about the Department of Dead Ends.


Clothes In Books said...

I really enjoyed the Bodies From the Library collection - some really great out-of-the-way stories.

And the Greenshore folly I read when it was produced in 2014 - like you I have a soft spot for Dead Man's Folly and all its connections!

Raymond West said...

Dear Martin, I've already read "The Greenshore Folly". I love it, although it's shorter than the novel that inspired, pheraps because I feel a particular affection for "Dead Man's Folly".
"Bodies in the Library", instead, is one of my forthcoming purchase.