When the actor David Suchet began his role as Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective Hercule Poirot in the 1980s, he wanted to take a different approach to how the character had been portrayed. Poirot had been seen in many cinematic adaptations of the novels by the woman known as the Queen of Crime, but the appearances at the movies were comical.
For Suchet, it wouldn’t do, and after reading the mysteries of Poirot set by novel, there was more to the detective than the accent.
“I only knew the character from seeing Albert Finney and Peter Ustinov play him,” Suchet said in an interview last year with The New York Times, just before the final Poirot programmes would air on the stations of America’s Public Broadcasting Service. “So when they offered me the role, those were my only reference points for Poirot. I rang my brother to ask his opinion, and he thought that the character seemed a bit thin. I thought it might be done as light comedy, very two-dimensional. It was only when I started reading the novels that I discovered what Agatha Christie had written was not what I had been seeing.”
The unique take on the Poirot mysteries, tinged with humour yet filled with intrigue on ITV, which still left one guessing long after the credits rolled, had become appointment viewing around the world, and Suchet has become to many, the definitive Poirot, and these programmes re-established Christie’s reputation as the Queen of Crime. The programmes began in 1989, thirteen years after Christie’s death, which saw an obituary for Poirot appear in the Times, the only occasion where a major newspaper printed an obituary for a fictional character.
As the 125th anniversary of the birth of Christie is set to be observed, a collection of fan letters Christie received (as well as her replies) are set to be released in a new book. An event is to be held in September with activities on the social networking site Twitter.
— Agatha Christie (@QueenOfCrime) February 22, 2015
Redefining the genre
Authors of the fan letters include the author PG Wodehouse and a 14 year old boy from Bristol who had organised a book club to raise money to buy more of her work, according to a report from The Guardian.
Her grandson, Matthew Pritchard, called on fans to share their memories of Christie’s writing.
“Knowing what receiving these letters meant to my grandmother, I’m sure she would be moved to see these personal stories shared publicly for the first time,” Pritchard said as quoted by The Guardian. “As we call to her fans across the globe to share their stories and experiences of Christie, I look forward to discovering how her work continues to inspire today.”
For Christie, the Queen of Crime is a title that is well deserved. The novels of her two best known characters, Poirot and Miss Jane Marple, are mysteries that are well thought and leaves the reader guessing all the way to what a fictitious Oxford English literature student called in an episode of the mystery Lewis, the “Agatha moment,” with hints of humour mixed in. Christie redefined the genre of mystery, and her work is now left to enjoy for a new generation, be in a book or on the telly.
Agatha Christie made the genre her own, and as readers celebrate her 125th birthday, two things are guaranteed—Suchet is the one and only Hercule Poirot, and Christie truly is the Queen of Crime.
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