Did you know she once disappeared?

By Southern Living
March 18, 2020
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You know her books, now learn a little about her life. During the 20th century, Agatha Christie became one of the most prolific writers of detective stories, and those stories continue to be made and re-made into popular movies and television shows for modern audiences. Many of her works, including And Then There Were None and Murder on the Orient Express, have had robust re-printings and continue to be read around the world. Christie also wrote short stories and a (very) long-running play. Read on for a few more facts you might not already know about your favorite detective story writer—including the mystery of her own disappearance!

1. She was born in Devon and spent time there throughout her life.

Christie was born in Torquay in the English region of Devon in 1890. She lived there first with her family—her mother, Clara, and her siblings—then with her first husband, Archibald Christie, whom she married in 1914. Beginning in 1938, she spent her time at Greenway, a Queen Anne-style home on the River Dart in Devon, which she shared as a holiday home with her second husband, the archaeologist Max Mallowan. She and Mallowan had their main residence in Oxfordshire.

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2. She worked in a hospital during World War I.

During World War I, Christie worked in a hospital in Devon as a nurse and an apothecaries’ assistant. Years later, during World War II, she contributed to the war effort by working as a pharmacy assistant at University College Hospital in London.

3. Christie used to rewrite her stories.

At the beginning of her career, when she was trying to sell stories to magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post, Christie would rewrite her stories if the magazines requested it. Later, when she became more established, she refused rewrites.

4. Christie was prolific.

She went on to write 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections. In the ensuing decades, her name has become synonymous with her mystery novels and the detectives who inhabit them. She was also named a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for her services to literature.

5. She once disappeared.

After her first husband, Archibald, asked for a divorce, Christie disappeared for 10 days. The mysterious disappearance of the mystery writer was on the front page of every newspaper and prompted an extensive manhunt that included thousands of police officers and volunteers. She was finally discovered at a hotel in Harrogate. It’s unclear whether Christie experienced memory loss or whether the disappearance was a purposeful stunt.

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6. Christie invented two beloved detectives.

Both Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple are creations of Christie’s imagination. The detectives appear in multiple books and have been portrayed on screen by many different actors including Charles Laughton, David Suchet, Peter Ustinov, and Kenneth Branagh as Poirot, and Joan Hickson, Angela Lansbury, and Helen Hayes as Marple.

7. She’s responsible for the world’s longest-running play.

Christie’s play The Mousetrap opened in 1952 and is still running on London’s West End. 2019 saw the show’s 27,000 performance, continuing the run and the world record. The original 1952 cast starred Christie’s friends Sheila and Richard Attenborough.

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8. Christie’s books are perennial bestsellers.

According to some counts, Christie is the most widely published author in the world, second only to Shakespeare and the Bible.

9. She also wrote romances.

In addition to her prolific production of mystery stories, Christie wrote six romance novels. These novels were published using the pen name Mary Westmacott.

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10. Her stories have afterlives.

Agatha Christie’s mystery stories have been made into countless film and television adaptations, including the recent film adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express and the television miniseries The Pale Horse, And Then There Were None, and The ABC Murders. Today, at least 30 films have been made from her stories.

Is Agatha Christie your favorite mystery writer? What are you favorite Christie stories?