The Gentle Art of Murder: The Detective Fiction of Agatha Christie

By Earl F. Bargainnier | Go to book overview

Chapter VII

The Achievement of Agatha Christie

I had formed a habit of writing stories by this time. It took the place, shall we say, ofembroidering cushion covers or pictures taken from Dresden china flower-painting.

Agatha Christie

... she domesticated murder, made an etiquette out of it, which isn't quite the same thing as making a banality out of it, a 20th-century specialty.

John Leonard

... the champion deceiver of our time.

Julian Symons

Agatha Christie received twenty-five pounds for The Mysterious Affair at Styles, a tiny sum for the writer who was to become the subject of an oft-repeated cliche: she made more money by crime than any woman since Lucrezia Borgia. The popularity of her 184 works of mystery and detective fiction, as well as 13 mystery plays (the night she died, The Mousetrap had its 9,612th performance) and 5 other plays and 20 films based upon her works, made her rich and famous. Some of the facts of that popularity are staggering. By the time of her death, she was, according to a UNESCO report, the most widely read British author of all time, translated into 103 languages—14 more than William. Shakespeare. Her total readership was estimated then at 2,000,000,000 and her total earnings at $20,000,000, which is probably too low (her will left an estate of less than $250,000—another mystery). Her agent Edmund Cork stated in 1975: "Her sales go up every year. A million and a half paperbacks a year in Britain alone. She is unquestionably the bestselling author of all time. Every estimate of her sales I have seen is a gross under-estimate." 1 The following year at her death, Curtain was on the bestseller list in England, the United States, and Japan, and a few months later the American paperback rights to Sleeping Murder were bought for $1,000,000.

Other facts less financial are just as telling: a musical version of And Then There Were None called Something's Afoot, Christie's statue in Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, the veneration of a

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