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Posts Tagged ‘Agatha Christie

“I did not deceive you, mon ami. At most, I permitted you to deceive yourself.”*…

Agatha Christie was in her mid-20s when, in 1916, she took up what seemed the improbable endeavor of penning her first detective novel. It was so unlikely, in fact, that her elder sister, Madge, with whom she had always competed, dared Agatha to accomplish the feat, certain of her sibling’s eventual failure.

At the time, Christie was married to an officer in Britain’s Royal Flying Corps and working at a hospital in Torquay, England, first as a nurse and subsequently in the dispensary, preparing and providing medicines. It was in the latter job that she developed a fascination with poisons that would endure over the next six decades, supplying murderous means in many of her best-known books, including that very first one, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, which was published 100 years ago this month.

Styles was an early and influential contribution to what’s now called the Golden Age of detective fiction, a period that stretched arguably from the 1920s through the 1940s…

Christie’s debut novel was famously rejected by a host of publishers. Many, many editions later, it’s an iconic mystery: “The Agatha Christie Centennial- 100 years of The Mysterious Affair at Styles.”

* Hercule Poirot, The Mysterious Affair at Styles

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As we muse on mysteries, we might send powerfully-composed birthday greetings to another prolific author, Abbott Joseph “A. J.” Liebling; he was born on this date in 1904. A journalist and essayist, he is considered a patron saint of New Journalism for his World War II coverage and work like the essays in The Sweet Science (named by Sports Illustrated, in 2002, the best sports book of all time).

His longest association (from 1935 until his death in 1963) was with the New Yorker. Current editor David Remnick writes:

Joy, pure and immediate, is a rare literary experience. Liebling provides it. And, from everything we know, joy is what he felt in the creating. No matter what else he may have been facing in his life—misery in marriage, persistent debt, the obesity and sickness that were the price of his appetites—he revelled in his work. Liebling so enjoyed himself at the offices of The New Yorker, where he worked for twenty-eight years, that he could be heard humming and snorting with laughter as he pulled the sheets from his typewriter and read them over. He knocked himself out, if he did say so himself. Reticence was not his way. Like Trollope polishing off several thousand words before leaving for his day job as surveyor general of Waltham Cross, Liebling wrote at a blinding rate, publishing hundreds of pieces, of all lengths, colors, and moods. He was occasionally seen in the magazine’s bathroom stripped to the waist, washing up after a night’s exertion at his Remington.

Reporting It All

Oh, and it was Liebling who coined the epithet “Second City” for Chicago.

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“The covers of this book are too far apart”*…

 

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You can judge a book by its cover, it just depends on the talents of the artist and their understanding of the book they are illustrating.

Tom Adams (March 29, 1926 – December 9, 2019) was such an artist. His covers to novels by Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, John Fowles, Kingsley Amis, among others added greatly to the book and made them stand out on shop shelves making them all highly desirable. Indeed many of Adams’ covers are great artworks in their own right.

Adams career started with a bet. He was working as an illustrator for Jonathan Cape in 1961, when design director Tony Colwell made a wager with Adams that he couldn’t come up with a trompe-l’oeil design for the first novel by John Fowles. Adams design for The Collector exceeded Colwell’s expectations and helped make Fowles’ dark tale of kidnapping a best-seller. Fowles described Adams design as: “the best jacket of the year, if not the entire decade”…

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Understandably, Adams’ design attracted considerable interest from other publishers. Patsy Cohen, the design director at Collins was greatly impressed by Adams work and commissioned him on spec to design a cover for Agatha Christie‘s novel A Murder is Announced

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Adams used a variety clues from Christie’s tale. He avoided the traditional tropes of the detective (or in this case Miss Marple), a dead body, or the shadow of some menacing murderer. His style owed more to the symbolists and to the surrealists, which became particularly notable on book covers for Christie’s Destination Unknown and A Caribbean Mystery. Adams said symbolism leant itself to surrealism. It opened up a whole new way of illustrating crime fiction…

His covers for Christie’s novels also impressed Lou Reed, who commissioned Adams to come up with the design for eponymous debut album in 1972…

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More about Adams– and more examples of his exquisite work– at “Murder by the Book: Tom Adams’ Brilliant Agatha Christie Covers.”

* Ambrose Bierce

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As we inspect imaginative invitations, we might send pulpy birthday greetings to Frederick Schiller Faust; he was born in this date in 1892.  Much better known by his pen name, Max Brand (though he had 17 others), he was an extraordinarily prolific author– he published over 15 million words of prose.  Among his more famous creations were Destry Rides Again (probably the best know of his many Westerns) and the character of young medical intern Dr. James Kildare, who featured in a series of pulp fiction stories and then over several decades in other media, including a series of American theatrical movies by Paramount Pictures and MGM), a radio series, two television series, and comics.

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The Walking Dead…

 

From the 1990s, web sites long past relevance– but still “live”…

Click down memory lane at “17 Ancient Abandoned Websites That Still Work.”

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As we unpack the undead, we might recall that it was on this date in 1952 that that Agatha Christie’s mystery play The Mousetrap opened in London’s West End– where it has shown, without interruption, since.  At over 25,000 performances (and counting), it is the longest running show (of any type) in the modern era.

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Written by LW

November 25, 2013 at 1:01 am

The Edge of Light…

A complement to yesterday’s missive on urbanization:  photographer Adam Ryder‘s series, “The Edge of Light“…

More of this series– and other mesmerizing work– on Adam’s site.

As we meditate on moving boundaries, we might recall that it was on this date in 1954 that Agatha Christie was reported in London newspapers to have said “An archaeologist is the best husband any woman can have: the older she gets, the more interested he is in her.”  (In fact, the remark was attributed to her by her second husband, the archeologist Sir Max Mallowan.  Christie later insisted that she was she was quoting “a witty wife.”)

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Written by LW

March 9, 2012 at 1:01 am

(Not) all roads lead to Rome…

 

click here for larger, interactive version

In about 300 CE, Imperial cartographers created a road map of the Roman Empire; hundreds of years later, medieval artisans copied it, creating the Tabula Peutingeriana

Now, René Voorburg and a team of like-minded enthusiasts have re-copied the Tabula.  Using a set of techniques described here, they have mashed it up with Google Maps to create Omnes Viae: Tabula Peutingeriana— replete with Iter Vestrum (“Your Trip”), a handy route-planning tool…

As readers will see, while during the time of the Roman Republic, all roads did lead to Rome, imperial expansion– which began with the Empire in 44 BCE– rendered that kind of “hub and spoke” transit architecture impractical.  The Tabula dates from relatively early in the Empire.  Soon after, Constantine became Caesar and created Constantinople as an Eastern capital; in another 50 years, the Empire was divided…  and the roads became even more decentralized.   The Western Empire collapsed in 473, and the roads pictured in the section of the Tabula pictured above became past of a larger network of European roads.  The Eastern Empire lasted until 1453, when it fell to the Ottoman Turks; and its roads became part of that burgeoning empire’s network.

 

As we feel an inexplicable craving for polenta, we might wish a mysterious Happy Birthday to Agatha Christie; she was born on this date in 1890.  Dame Agatha published 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections  (featuring creations like Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple), along with a number of  successful plays.  According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time– her novels have sold over four billion copies– and, with William Shakespeare, the best-selling author of any type. And according to Index Translationum, she is the most translated individual author (at least 103 languages), with only the collective corporate works of Walt Disney Productions surpassing her.  Her play The Mousetrap opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in London on November 25, 1952 and is still running– at more than 24,000 performances, the longest-ever initial run of a stage play.

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