Today would have been legendary author Agatha Christie’s birthday (1890 – 1976). So to celebrate this, here are my 5 favourite Agatha Christie facts that prove her real life was every bit as fascinating as her novels…
5 Brilliant Agatha Christie Facts
1. She mysteriously disappeared for 11 days.
In December 1926, Agatha Christie went missing for 11 days. Yes, like a plot from one of her stories, she just vanished. Only to be found at a hotel in Harrogate. She claims to remember nothing and gave no reason for what happened. Interestingly, there is a theory that she essentially acted out a plot, as though in a story, to get her husband’s attention or as a reaction to him asking her for a divorce.
There were over 1,000 police out looking for her, Arthur Conan Doyle even joined the search, and she made the front pages of the papers. (Read more on the full case here.) I mean, she can obviously conjure up a great story, so why not apply a little of that thinking to her life when it suits her? She literally became a character in one of her own novels. Speaking of…
2. She made herself a character in her books.
Well, not herself but through the character of crime writer Ariadne Oliver, Agatha has the opportunity to give a very self-deprecating take on events. In The Body in the Library (1942) Agatha actually does refer to herself by name, when a character is discussing crime writers they like.
To take The Body in the Library link EVEN further: In her 1936 novel, Cards on the Table, Ariadne Oliver makes an appearance and the title of one of Ariadne’s books is mentioned… yes, it’s called The Body in the Library. Agatha obviously loved the title so much she took it for herself six years later.
3. World War I shaped her writing.
During World War I, Agatha did her bit by working as a volunteer nurse and was trained in pharmaceuticals, where she gained a strong knowledge of poisons. Something she would put to very good use in her literary career.
The war also saw a lot of Belgian refugees go to Torquay, where Agatha grew up and it’s reported that she met a Belgian policeman called Jacques Hornais who may or may not have been the inspiration for Hercule Poirot. Agatha has herself said that the Belgian refugees did play a part in her decision to make Poirot from that part of the world.
4. She worked on archaeological digs.
Agatha married her second husband, Sir Max Mallowan in 1930 (and technically became a Lady – Lady Mallowan) and he was a renowned archaeologist. She accompanied and assisted him on digs by cleaning and documenting the artefacts he found and, alongside this, she wrote.
Most famously, Murder on the Orient Express was written while she was on a dig and inspired by her trips on the train. You’ll also see her archaeological knowledge pop up in other books such as Murder in Mesopotamia and Death on the Nile.
5. She wrote under a secret pseudonym for 20 years.
You might not associate Agatha Christie with romance, but, from 1930, she did turn her hand to six love and relationship themed stories – written under the pseudonym of Mary Westmacott. She wanted to explore this genre with anonymity and remove the expectation of what people assumed she would be writing. This she did as it was nearly 20 years before her pseudonym was revealed.
The name is not just plucked out of the air – Mary is her middle name and Westmacott a distant family name. I am yet to read any of these books, but really want to as they are said to be quite autobiographical, yet bittersweet and give an insight into her own relationships. Also, I am very intrigued to see if her voice still comes through in them.
You see? I told you she was fascinating! There are so many other great facts about her I could have included here – she was truly a remarkable woman.
Do you have a favourite Agatha Christie fact?