"The queen of crime" Agatha Christie, has renovated the thriller with its leading characters, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.
In this new episode of the Europe 1 Studio podcast "At the heart of History", Jean des Cars tells the story of this inexhaustible talented pioneer.
In 1926, Agatha Christie loses her mother, the same year, her husband asks for a divorce… Lacking inspiration, she nevertheless goes up the slope and creates a central character of her work: the detective Miss Marple. In this new episode of the Europe 1 Studio podcast "At the heart of history", Jean des Cars tells the rest of the British novelist's career.
In 1926, Agatha Christie loses her mother, the same year, her husband asks for a divorce… Lacking inspiration, she nevertheless goes up the slope and creates a central character of her work: the detective Miss Marple.
In this new episode of the Europe 1 Studio podcast "At the heart of history", Jean des Cars tells the rest of the British novelist's career.
In 1975, a year before her death, Agatha Christie told the Daily News in New York: “I got married at 24 and we were very happy for eleven years.
Then my mother died.
A great loss for me and my husband found a younger wife.
You cannot decide your fate.
He's the one catching you. ”
We can not say it better !
But for her, the divorce was painful.
In the hope of recovering, she leaves for the island of Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, with her daughter and Carlo, her nanny-secretary.
The hotel is wonderful, the nature superb, but Agatha has to write her new book “Le Train Bleu”.
She is bad, inspiration flees from her.
Fortunately, in the same hotel is Dr. Lucas, who has healing gifts.
He ran a sanatorium in Norfolk and achieved remarkable success.
As Agatha suffers from a persistent sore throat, he simply asks her what makes her unhappy.
Would she have a marital problem?
She's going to tell him everything.
She is relieving herself of too heavy a burden.
Someone listens to her and understands her!
This someone is going to save her.
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When she returned from the Canaries, Agatha became herself again.
In London, with her daughter and Carlo, she moved to the elegant district of Chelsea.
She resumes her writing.
“Le Train Bleu” is a great success.
In 1928, she invented a young couple of detectives Tony and Tuppence Beresford in “The crime is our business”.
She is now making a good living.
And finally, her divorce was pronounced on September 20 of the same year.
Rosalind will keep a good relationship with her father.
He will finally be able to marry Nancy Neel but his daughter will never see her.
As for Agatha, she will no longer see her ex-husband again but will have the right to continue to bear her name as a novelist.
To celebrate her new status, she leaves for Jamaica.
The day before departure, she dines with friends and her neighbor at the table, a naval officer, praises the charms of Baghdad to her.
She has always dreamed of it, as a great reader of the “Tales of the Thousand and One Nights”.
And when she learns that it is possible to reach Baghdad by train, she gives up Jamaica and embarks in Calais in the luxurious blue cars with gold decorations of the Orient-Express.
Her journey enchants her: after Istanbul, she boarded the Taurus Express to reach Damascus.
And it is by bus that she arrives in Baghdad.
Delighted with her journey, Agatha returns to London with the idea of creating a new character, Miss Marple.
Jane Marple makes her debut in “The Protheroe Affair”.
The novelist found her heroine's name while shopping for chairs at Marple Hall.
She explains that Miss Marple is the kind of old creature she would have seen among the friends of her grandmother in the villages of her childhood.
Agatha finds a second husband
Then, Agatha sets out again on a journey: Rome, Trieste, the boat to Beirut then a return to Baghdad and Mesopotamia where she returns to the archaeological site of Ur, led by a British archaeologist of great reputation, Léonard Wooley and his terrible wife. , the lovely and unbearable Katherine.
The novelist had already passed through Ur on her previous trip, but a new archaeologist has since arrived.
He is 25 years old, he is handsome, he has a thin brown mustache and a romantic look.
His name is Max Mallowan.
He will become the man of his life.
She accompanies him in his excavations and when she leaves, he offers to accompany her for part of the journey.
Finally, he will take the Orient Express with her and they will return to London together.
Very quickly, he asks her to marry him.
She is in love but she is afraid: he is fourteen years younger than her.
She admits, however, “Nothing in the world would seem more delicious to me than being his wife”.
So she accepts.
Rosalind and Carlo totally agree.
The dog Peter too!
Only his sister Madge is horrified by the age difference.
Seven months after their meeting, Agatha and Max say yes to each other in Edinburgh at the church of Saint-Colomba.
To make this union less shocking, the young groom is aged five years and Agatha is rejuvenated by three: seven years of difference, it is always more acceptable than fourteen!
Their honeymoon takes them to Venice, to the Dalmatian Coast by the Simplon-Orient-Express, of course, then by boat along the Adriatic to Athens.
Agatha then said to her husband: “My darling, you have lifted such a weight from my shoulders.
I never imagined how heavy it was.
I can feel all my wounds closing.
You love me exactly the way I always wanted to be loved.
It seems like a miracle to me… It's wonderful to start a new life with you. ”
The double life of Agatha: novelist and wife of archaeologist
Agatha also has a few of her books adapted for the theater, with fairly average success.
At the end of 1930, she wrote for the “Black Coffee” scene which features Poirot and Hastings.
It is a success.
Then she publishes “5:25”, a horrific story of murders and turntables on the snow-capped moor of Dartmoor.
She dedicates this plot to her husband and then leaves to join him in Iraq.
He also introduced him to Iran.
It's like a second honeymoon.
Max decides not to work again in Ur but to participate in a new site on the site of Nineveh, the ancient capital of Assyria.
She joined him there in October 1931 and there, she was both his assistant in her fascinating works and the novelist very inspired by the places where she found herself.
She then wrote some of her best books: in 1933 “Le crime de l'Orient-Express”, “Mort sur le Nile” in 1934, then “Murder in Mesopotamia”.
A bit like Rudyard Kipling with India, Agatha Christie allows her countless readers to ride with her in the mythical Orient-Express, to embark on the Nile to discover Upper Egypt and to discover the strange life of archaeologists at midst of sandstorms in Mesopotamia.
For the couple, happiness is total if not the absence of children.
In 1934, Agatha had a miscarriage.
The ordeal brought her closer to her husband.
She then decided that in the absence of a family, she would share her exhilarating career with Max.
War separates the Mallowan couple
For Agatha Christie, the year 1939 started very well.
The Daily Express paid a huge sum to publish their new serialized book.
The newspaper explains that if it has paid so much it is:
because the author thinks it's his best detective novel,
because his literary agent thinks so too,
the Daily Express agrees.
This is one of his most famous books: “Ten little niggers”.
Since 2020, his title has changed to “They were ten”…
But the euphoria did not last long since war broke out.
Max engages in a patrol of volunteers watching the coast night and day.
Carlo Fisher, the secretary, works in a munitions factory and Agatha returns to work as a nurse at the regional hospital.
Her daughter Rosalind, who is now 20, enlists in the Women's Auxiliary.
All the Mallowans and their entourage participate in the British national effort.
Despite her immense success, Agatha Christie faces great financial difficulties because in the United States, where 4 / 5ths of her income comes from, all her earnings have been blocked for a month.
Until now, a writer, considered a non-resident foreign author, has paid no taxes.
Now, American Justice is demanding taxes on everything Agatha touched.
London fell prey to the blitz.
The Mallowans reside at Sheffield Terrace.
Three neighboring houses are blown away.
But Agatha refuses to obey the instructions and get off in the metro.
She explains: “I have always had the fear of being stuck underground.
I normally slept in my bed wherever I was.
I ended up getting used to the air warnings over London, to the point of not even waking up completely.
I was only saying to myself in a half-sleep hearing the sirens and the nearest bombs: “Come on, there they are again!”. ”
It was during this dreadful time that the UK most wanted to fall asleep while reading Agatha Christie.
In 1941, she published two books “Les vacances d'Hercle Poirot”, entertaining and recalling a happy time when we still took vacations but especially “N or M” where we find the Beresford couple who track down the Nazi spies. .
This is the first time that Agatha Christie has written a totally anti-Nazi book.
An American magazine will refuse to publish it as a serial.
It must be said that the USA did not yet go to war at that time ...
Since the beginning of 1941, Max has worked in the Intelligence Service of the Royal Air Force.
He is not happy because he feels that it is not used enough.
He is fluent in Arabic and feels it would be more useful in the Middle East.
At the end of 1942, he was finally given a mission.
He leaves for Cairo.
This is the couple's first separation in ten years.
They have the right to correspond by using codes.
Even Clementine Churchill is forced to do the same.
When Winston was on a mission overseas, she wrote to “Mr.
Bullfinch ”, meaning“ Mr.
Bouvreuil. ”For Max, Agatha chooses“ Mr. Tupper ”(little dog!).
On the advice of Edward Carter, the discoverer of Tutankhamun's tomb, Agatha writes “Death is not an end”, which takes place in Egypt, at the time of the pharaohs.
His daughter Rosalind, married a year earlier, gave birth in September 1943 to a baby Mathew.
Agatha is a grandmother!
She is also going to write a new novel called “Away from you this spring”.
It is signed Mary Westmacott.
It is a pseudonym that she had already used several times since 1930, to write novels that are not detective but generally inspired by her own life.
But this time it's not.
It's purely romantic!
June 1944, the Landing.
The Allied tanks advance towards Paris but the war is not over.
Rosalind learns that her missing husband died near Falaise.
A real tragedy.
The young woman is destroyed, her mother supports her but trembles for Max.
In the spring of 1945, she learned that he was alive, that he had returned from Libya.
They finally meet and burst out laughing: they have changed a little, each of them has gained at least twelve kilos!
After all the tragedies of the war and the fiscal difficulties, the post-war period will be a prosperous period for the novelist.
Lady Mallowan's triumph
The theater will occupy him a lot, but none of his stage adaptations is a real success.
On the other hand, from a small script taken from a nursery rhyme, she wrote a play “The Mousetrap” (“the mousetrap”).
The premiere took place on October 6, 1952 at the Royal Theater in Nottingham and would be performed in several provincial towns before arriving in London a month later.
The two main characters are played by famous actors, Richard Attenborough and his wife Sheila Sim.
It is a real triumph.
The play beats all the longevity records on the bill, of course with changes of actors.
In November 1962, for the tenth anniversary of the creation, Agatha Christie once again faced “the hell of the Savoy”, that is to say a big dinner in this mythical hotel to celebrate the endless “mouse trap”. ”.
A huge cake, weighing half a ton, is covered in sugar mice!
Agatha will have this unforgettable sentence: “Don't let anyone say that nothing exciting happens when you are old, because it is wrong.
Tonight I'm having a wonderful evening. ”
Today, the play is still being performed in London!
In 1961, UNESCO announced that Agatha Christie, translated in 200 countries, was the best-selling English-language author in the world.
Churchill declares that she “is the woman to whom the crime has most been reported since Lucretia Borgia!”.
In 1971, Queen Elizabeth II elevated Agatha Christie to the title of Lady of the British Empire.
She made her last public appearance three years later for the first film adaptation of the “crime on the Orient Express”, whose prestigious cast includes Ingrid Bergman, Lauren Bacall, Jacqueline Bisset, Anthony Perkins and Sean Connery!
As for Hercule Poirot, he is played by Albert Finney whom the novelist adored in this role!
The following year, in October 1975, a heart attack struck her down.
She died on January 12, 1976. She was buried in the small cemetery in the village of Cholesey.
On her white tombstone, decorated with foliage and cherubs, these verses by Edmond Sencer, a 16th century poet, are engraved as she wanted: “Sleep after hard work, the port after rough seas , calm after fighting, death after life is a source of happiness ”.
Nineteen months later, Max comes to join her.
And a mistake has slipped on his grave: “archaeologist” has become “archaeologist”!
Agatha must have laughed, where she is, she who was bad at spelling!
Jean des Cars, Portrait in L'Éventail, Brussels (November 1976)
Béatrix de l'Aulnoit, The Thousand Lives of Agatha Christie (Tallandier, 2020)
Marie-Hélène Baylac, Agatha Christie, the mysteries of a life (Perrin, 2019)
“At the heart of History” is a Europe 1 Studio podcast
Author and presentation: Jean des Cars
Production: Timothée Magot
Director: Jean-François Bussière
Distribution and editing: Salomé Journo
Graphic design: Karelle Villais