The end of Poirot is nigh

Cover of CurtainBoth David Suchet and I are mourning the end of the immaculate DVD series of Poirot novels on which he has been working for 25 years. Not that we’re quite there in New Zealand yet– it has just screened in Britain to an audience of 5.2 million, but the DVDs are yet to arrive here.

Suchet’s depiction of Poirot has eclipsed all who came before and the stunning 1930s settings are models of architectural and design excellence. Beautifully directed and superbly acted, the production of this series could probably sell any mystery writer’s output. The fact that it is the writings of the queen of golden age crime is just the icing on the cake.

Its easy to dismiss Agatha Christie now, but despite some dated attitudes and the development of much more sophisticated crime novels in recent times, her work still stands up.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd topped a recent Crime Writers Association poll of crime writers to find the best crime novel of the last 60 years. Like all her books it confuses and bamboozles the reader to the very end, just as a mystery novel is meant to.

The thing that trips me up is the shocking anti-Semitism which frequently crops up in the books, making me realise how widespread and acceptable it was in British society before World War Two. I’m pretty sure you won’t see it rearing its ugly head in the DVDs – which is another thing in their favour.

So keep your eagle eyes open. The last – and possibly the best – if the reviews can be believed, will be arriving just as soon as we can get hold of it.

Well-dressed Fiction

The most sartorially resplendent character in a work of fiction?
Several blogs have recently pondered just this question. It has also forced several library types to stop, think  and scratch their immaculately coiffed heads. C’est très difficile!

One complicating factor is the unholy number of novels which have been subjected to film or television treatment and therefore the meddling attention of a costume department. Was Holly Golightly a bonafide fashion plate? Or is she merely the cinematic creature of Edith Head and Hubert de Givenchy?

The other worrying aspect to fashion and fictional characters is that, generally, well-dressed characters are portrayed as vile and vapid; I’m thinking here of the Land of Plenty’s favourite psycho Patrick Bateman and Runway magazine editor-in-chief  Miranda Priestly in The devil wears Prada.

I shudder to imagine what subtle character traits my own modish (or not) choices would indicate if, heaven forbid, I was dropped into a novel. Would my penchant for corsages and other floral accessories reveal me as a trivial female popinjay, a mere fribble and shallow coxcomb?! But back to the well-dressed…

Some genre contenders might include:

  • Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane -The fashion forward Deco sleuths showed stuffy Oxford dons just how to achieve stylish perfection in Gaudy night.Cover
  • Hercule Poirot– Perhaps fastidious rather than fashionable, Hercule’s clothes like his little grey cells are sharp and immaculate.
  • Lestat-Anne Rice’s vamp is a noted snappy dresser and I am reliably informed that fangs=fashion.

Rather more authoritatively Booker short-listed novelist Linda Grant The clothes on their backs picked three outstanding “Paper dolls”:

  • Dorothea Brooke, the “finely formed” heroine of  george Eliot’s Middlemarch
  • Duchesse de Guermantes from Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu
  • Orlando, not the Bloom boy, but eponymous hero/heroine of Virgina Woolf’s Orlando: A biography

So all you stylistas who’d make it down the catwalk on your best-dressed literary list?

Celebrating Dame Agatha Christie

Good Lord, as Poirot’s chum Arthur Hastings is so very fond of saying, I clean forgot Agatha Christie week. Where are one’s little grey cells when one needs them, what what…

September 13-20th was a week-long celebration of Dame Aggie, her long and extraordinary prolific career; over forty events were scheduled both in London and on the self-styled “English Riviera”, her hometown of Torquay. The best-selling author of all time with two billion books worldwide and over 80 novels and short-story collections published (stick that in your pipe and smoke it Alexander McCall Smith) she is of course best known for her dandified Belgian detective Poirot and the shrewd, perpetually knitting Miss Marple.

Two new Poirot stories and 73 notebooks detailing un-used ideas and alternative story endings have recently been published by John Curran in Agatha Christie’s secret notebooks: Fifty years of mysery in the making. Not everyone agrees these books were exactly “secret” but they do apparently give new insights into the Christie writing process. Curran also acted as consultant to the National Trust  during the restoration of Greenway House, Dame Agatha’s holiday home in Devon, which opened for the first time to the public this year.

Christchurch City Libraries has just purchased several of the Poirot television series featuring the incomparable David Suchet as Poriot and trusty sidekicks Inspector Japp, Hastings and the almost, dare I say, librarian-ish Miss Lemon. The 1930s modernist decor and fashions are divine and a host of well-known British actors pace in out of the stylish sets smoking furiously while pleading their innocence.

Miss Marple tales are also available on DVD featuring both Geraldine McEwan and lovely, fluffy Joan Hickson as the eponymous heroine. The Geraldine McEwan versions play a little fast and loose with the original stories but are all jolly good fun.

However if this all sounds drearily old hat François Rivière’s comic strip adaptations of several Christie stories including Murder on the Orient Express, The Secret of Chimneys, The secret adversary, Murder on the links and Death on the Nile are an interesting take on the classic tales.

As part of the Guardian’s coverage of Agatha week they posed the question “How well do you know Agatha Christie?”
…the answer dear reader is extraordinarily well.. I got 11 out of 11..nah-nah-nah-nah!