The Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Carnival (and other Agatha-related items)

September 26, 2010 at 6:29 pm (books, Mystery fiction)

The Agatha Christie Blog Carnival is home to a group of monthly postings about Agatha Christie. Reviews, criticism and commentary, media coverage – all these and more appear on the Agatha Christie Blog Carnival. Kerrie Smith of Mysteries in Paradise is the chief host and organizer. This month marks the 120th anniversary of the birth of “the Queen of Crime,” and in her honor, a blog tour was organized on the Carnival site. I am delighted to have contributed  a review of The Labors of Hercules to this effort.

The August issue of the Reading Challenge, to which I have linked above, is divided into the following categories: Featured Blog, General, Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple,  Short Stories, Updates, and Discoveries. One of the great pleasures of this site is the chance to connect with other passionate readers of classic crime fiction.

Whether the reviews make you want to read the book (in this case, The Mirror Crack’d) or not (viz. Death Comes As the End), you’ll appreciate these bloggers’ insights as well as their incisive writing. Other posts raise interesting questions concerning Christie’s oeuvre in general. Patti, who blogs as Pattinase, asks some provocative questions of Christie readers:

What strengths do you find in her work? Were her contemporaries any less subject to the prejudices of the time (Tey, Sayers, Marsh, Allingham)? Did they give their characters a firmer underpinning? Did they view the world with less prejudice? Did they play more fair with clues.

(In the main, these queries were prompted by an article in the August 16 & 23 issue of The New Yorker Magazine. “Queen of Crime” by Joan Acocella  raised some eyebrows due to the marked ambivalence of its tone.)

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This article in an August issue of Country Life probes the reason for the perennial appeal of Christie’s fiction. On that intriguing subject, author Matthew Dennison has this to say:

Eighty years after Agatha created Miss Marple, her novels continue to attract new readers not only on account of their unguessable plots, but their evocation of a vanished world of country life that strikes deep chords in the British psyche and reminds readers across the world that at heart this remains a green and pleasant land-albeit one in which, as in Miss Marple’s village, very painful and distressing things can happen.

ABE Books recently treated us to a gallery of original book covers:  

My favorite actors in Christie films are, and always will be, Joan Hickson as Miss Marple and David Suchet as Hercule Poirot.

See my post on The Labors of Hercules for the film clip in which these two venerable performers meet for the first time in Torquay, Agatha Christie’s birthplace.

(Torquay is a lovely town on the south coast of Devon, in Southwestern England. We were there  in 2006; it was the first stop on a Smithsonian tour called Classic Mystery Lover’s England. While we were visiting a church in Torbay, where Christie and her family had often attended services, we met an elderly gent who claimed to have been Agatha Christie’s gardener while she was living in her nearby country home, Greenway. Here he is, with our superb Blue Badge Guide, Rosalind Hutchinson .)

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Alan McKee of The Museum of Broadcast Communications offers an an interesting take on the Miss Marple films with Joan Hickson. He designates them “heritage” productions:

…the BBC’s Miss Marple is a good example of a “heritage” production, with all the pleasures that implies. The term “heritage television” sums up a certain attitude towards the past which developed in Britain during the 1980s, when a mixture of a new Victorianism in moral standards and an increasingly frenetic late-capitalistic commodification led to two tendencies. The first was an attraction to a particularly sanitised version of England’s past. The second capitalized on the first with various moves towards rendering that past easily consumable–in television programs, films, bed sheets, jams and preserves, and so on. The BBC’s Miss Marple stories are prime examples of “heritage” production. They are mostly set in a rural past. English architecture is featured, and country mansion houses proliferate. As is typical for BBC programs, the “production values” are impeccable and the programs look beautiful–costumes, houses and decor, cars, hairstyles and make-up could all be described as “sumptuous”.

McKee shrewdly sums up the special appeal of Hickson’s performance:

…Joan Hickson’s performance is another of the particularly attractive aspects of the series. Her frail physical appearance contrasts with her intensely blue eyes, and the way she dominates the scenes in which she appears. Her apparent scattiness, staring absent-mindedly over people’s shoulders as they talk to her, is delightful. It is believable both that people would ignore her, thinking her to be just “a little old lady”, and, simultaneously, that she is very much in control of the situation

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Keep in mind: The Agatha Christie Blog Carnival is the place to go for All Things Agatha!

Agatha Christie............1890-1976

This post on the Golden Age Crime Writers might also be of interest.

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7 Comments

  1. Kelly K said,

    wow.. nice post! and wow.. the 120th anniversary :o

  2. Kerrie said,

    Thanks for this post Roberta. I love those “original” covers.

    • Roberta Rood said,

      And thank you too, Kerrie!

  3. Margot Kinberg said,

    Roberta – Thanks for this terrific post! What a great summing up of these resources.

    • Roberta Rood said,

      Thanks, Margot!

  4. Ladytink_534 said,

    What a fantastic post! I haven’t read many Agatha Christie books but I’ve enjoyed all of the ones that I have.

    • Roberta Rood said,

      Thanks! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post.

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