Wednesday, June 15, 2022

More On That Hot "New" Writer


by Sybil Johnson

I read the recent Wall Street Journal article Thomas mentioned in his post on Monday, the one about younger readers discovering Agatha Christie. I admit that I was surprised that she wasn’t already well known to the younger set. This ranks up there to when I first met someone who didn’t know who the Beatles were.

Dame Agatha was still alive and writing when I first checked a book of hers out of the library in junior high. I still remember how sad I felt when I saw the newspaper headline announcing her death in 1976.

She’s often labeled a writer of cozies, but people forget how many different kinds of crime stories she wrote over the course of her career. The only ones I would label as cozies are her Miss Marple books. Poirot I would classify under traditional mystery. She also wrote spy stories, romances under Mary Westmacott, and even some stories with supernatural elements. My favorite of her books, “And Then There Were None”, I would even label as noir. (Only the book version, not the play version that has a different ending.)

I’ve read all of her mysteries, some of them numerous times. They are my go to read when I need some comfort. It seems strange to say a murder mystery brings you comfort, but Agatha’s books always do that for me.

I’ve also enjoyed a lot of the film adaptations done over the years. My absolute favorite is the Helen Hayes version of “A Caribbean Mystery”. That’s also a go-to for me when I’m needing some comfort and I don’t feel like reading.

I’m glad people are rediscovering her books, but I haven’t much enjoyed the newer film adaptations that seem to have sparked that interest. Kenneth Branagh’s Poirot is too athletic for my taste, though his version of “Murder on the Orient Express” was beautifully shot and decent. I really disliked his version of “Death on the Nile”, though. The David Suchet and Peter Ustinov versions are far superior. The 2020 version of “The Pale Horse” was also not to my liking. I honestly found the ending very confusing and very un-Agatha.

A lot of the newer films and TV shows add sex scenes and back stories for characters that I really don’t see any need for. The only time I didn’t mind the addition of a backstory was the series with Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple. They moved the stories into the fifties and gave Miss Marple a bit of a backstory that was interesting but not intrusive.

All in all, though, I’m glad Agatha continues to find new readers.

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