Agatha Christie Should Know!

“Most successes are unhappy. That’s why they are successes-they have to reassure themselves about themselves by achieving something that the world will notice…. The happy people are failures because they are on such good terms with themselves that they don’t give a damn.”
― Agatha Christie

“There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you’re writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.”
― Agatha Christie

“You gave too much rein to your imagination. Imagination is a good servant, and a bad master. The simplest explanation is always the most likely.”
― Agatha Christie

“I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow; but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.”
― Agatha Christie

“As life goes on it becomes tiring to keep up the character you invented for yourself, and so you relapse into individuality and become more like yourself everyday.”
― Agatha Christie

“Very few of us are what we seem.”
― Agatha Christie

“At my time of life, one knows that the worst is usually true.”
― Agatha Christie

“She was a lucky woman who had established a happy knack of writing what quite a lot of people wanted to read.”
― Agatha Christie

“Evil never goes unpunished, Monsieur. But the punishment is sometimes secret.”
― Agatha Christie

30 comments

  1. “There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you’re writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.”

    I can relate to that one.

    1. And Dave Butler just said pretty much the same thing in last week’s Writers Dojo.

      Granted he phrased it as “just write that slutty little novel to get on first base” but same thing…

    2. I’ve been trying this, with the “EveMoWriMo” group on MeWe– I still suck, but the reports of folks working to it, even if they suck almost as bad as I do, is awesome help.

  2. Agatha knew what she was talking about.
    Thanks for the wonderful quotes!

    1. Alas, Christie had terrible taste in men, as I’m afraid was the case with a lot of great Golden Age detective writers. OTOH, they _were_ great detective writers, and most women with bad taste in men are not great anything. Margery Allingham did okay, though.

      Now that I think of it, it’s also true on the men’s side. Although GK Chesterton was extremely fortunate in his wife, almost as fortunate as Tolkien was.

      1. I think one of Dorothy Sayers’ unhappy relationships may have inspired her Harriet Vane-Peter Wimsey relationship as some sort of wish fulfillment.

        1. Oooh, ooh, I remember this– she actually dealt with gossip about how Wimsey was her wish fulfillment because she was a dried up old spinster WHILE she was in an affair with a guy who you’d have to hammer hard to make him Wimsey.

          While I think she was wrong…he wasn’t exactly lust fulfillment, but was probably desire of brain fulfillment.

        2. Well she admitted he was wish fulfillment. He got his car when she felt frustrated that she could not travel.

          1. :laughs: Yeah, but folks kept saying he was romantic wish fulfillment, not other stuff.

            Heck, I read them as “I wish I was smart, and cool, and could Do Stuff” wish fulfillment, myself!

        3. Not exactly. Vane’s affair with the murder victim is Strong Poison is supposed to have been inspired by Sayers’s affair with the writer John Cournos, who in turn retaliated two years later with this book, complete with excerpts from his ex’s letters:
          https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27665.The_Devil_Is_an_English_Gentleman

          Sayers then had a brief relationship with a womanizing car salesman (I think the hammer-worthy gentleman mentioned below) who admitted to being married when she told him she was pregnant by him. She then gave the child up to be fostered by a family friend until she adopted him years later, and married an alcoholic WWI veteran with old injuries (and possibly what we would term today PTSD), which ultimately prevented him from earning a living and made him both dependent on his wife and very resentful of the fact. My impression was that she ultimately was less put out by the husband’s belligerence and temper than her friends were, or she put an extraordinarily good face on the situation even by British standards.

            1. When I published Marrying a Monster, I mentioned to a family member that I had first written it around the time of a particular marriage in the family.
              Family Member: “Is it based on their marriage?” (plus snarky comments about the title)
              Me: “Nope, I was just in a romance-y mood around then.” I forget whether I told them that the monster was not actually the love interest, or just asked them to read the book before coming to any conclusions.

      2. My recollection is that once Christie and her husband swapped (she with Max Mallowan, he with the neighbor), the new couples stayed together reasonably well — but I could be wrong.

        1. Max Mallowan was sleeping with his female assistant, in almost exactly the way portrayed in Murder in Mesopotamia. (The wife was pretty different.)

          I was pretty horrified when I reallized that she barely even made an effort to cover this up. The situation was pretty difficult for the other archeologists, because they knew Christie was a frump, but also she was financing everything and working like a dog to learn archeology and help out. But also the assistant was a friend and valued colleague. It was not a great situation.

              1. I agree. We don’t know, none of the supposed participants ever left a record, and it’s way, way, way too easy for outsiders to make up lurid stories.

                It is possible for people to work together, even get along well and be friendly, without committing adultery..

              2. Aside from questions of honor, duty, Twu Wuv and so on, I find it hard to believe that Max Mallowan would embarrass/aggravate his chief financial backer to that extent.

                1. From what I gathered of him, I find it hard to believe he’d NOTICE a woman right under his eyes. His romance with Christie was MIND first, and he strikes me as once committed good, we can dispense with even considering it with anyone else. IOW GEEK.
                  Also as a female writer I’m familiar with the idiocy of people assuming you’re writing about your personal/romantic life. People have assumed I had a prior marriage, because one of my characters did. Or that I want a man who can read my thoughts, because one of my characters has that, or that I want a policeman, because idiot doesn’t recognize trope of cozy romances.
                  I’ve also had people read a short story where someone has a bad marriage and email me asking if everything was okay. I suspect the same happened here.

                  1. Some of it may just be that you write the stuff very well– like how I’m still startled that “Gibbs” on NCIS isn’t prior service at all, much less a Marine.

  3. Reblogged this on Head Noises and commented:
    “I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow; but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.”
    ― Agatha Christie

  4. As a slight counterpoint to the “amateur versus professional” thing…

    Many times they say: He’s an amateur! And I reply:
    Thank you very much! Because that means I love cinema. It’s
    the real meaning of the word.

    — Jess Franco, maker of nearly 200 feature films.

  5. Something I found interesting in my recent rereads was that Hastings isn’t the modest, put-upon dogsbody he portrays himself as being, but instead just about as national-chauvinist and vain as Poirot, just in different directions. So you have Hastings as this guy who’s constantly griping about how vain Poirot is about his mustaches and then goes into a snit because Inspector Japp teases him (Hastings) about going bald. The POV characters in Poirot-minus-Hastings mysteries books seem less put off by his quirks and ego, and in them Poirot seems much more like the Suchet interpretation: pleased with himself, yes, but too genteel and good-humored to be all that pushy about it.

    Christie was IMO about the best at psychology of that generation of mystery writers, though she didn’t let it get in the way of a good twist ending. (My reaction to Body in the Library, not my favorite Miss Marple: “Okay, fine, but anyone stupid enough to think that rigmarole is a good way to establish an alibi would be too stupid to handle all the logistics of said rigmarole.”) Sayers was more erudite, maybe a better stylist at the sentence level (matter of taste), and to my mind better at making you want to hang out with the good guys, but not quite as good at pacing or psychology. I kind of sympathize with her decision to turn away from mysteries because she’d taken Wimsey as far as she could, and her other detective, traveling wine salesman guy, was a snore. Allingham was better at architecture, atmosphere, and just plain inventing weird stuff. You can see her influence on J. K. Rowling in both good and bad ways. She was also knowledgeable in sometimes disturbing directions: late in the Crime at Black Dudley she references something similar to the Epstein/Maxwell racket…in 1929.

    All that to say though, if Christie had kept writing boring psychological women’s fiction instead of increasingly complicated mysteries, the world of books would have been a poorer place, and she and her descendants would have been much poorer people. It may be the strongest argument for writing what sells, rather than writing what you like or what you think you’re good at.

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