Badger Reads

The Queen of Crime and my reading addiction

Agatha Christie, pictured at her home, Winterbrook House in Wallingford, Berkshire, sitting behind her desk with books piled high, 1950.

This weekend while pottering in the garden (not really that cute, I was clearing up a downed tree from hurricane Fiona) I listened to “You’re dead to me” on BBC Sounds, the discussion that episode was Agatha Christie and I had a moment of revelation that, being precocious brat that I was back then, I first read an Agatha Christie novel when I was 13, some forty years ago.

The format for You’re dead to me, is presenter(name escapes me), scholar (Lucy Worsley) and comedian (Sue Perkins), discussing the topic at hand.
Sue revealed that she had been quite ill in her early teens and had taken refuge in a stack of Agatha Christies for company and had been hooked. I’ve previously felt a sort of affinity for Super kins, she is gay (like me) and is almost exactly one month older than me, so we’re obviously practically twins, and like her I discovered The Duchess of Death in my early teens, in an attic reading room in my junior house at boarding school.

Being the kind of boy who wasn’t boisterous (gay) and liked my own company (gay) and was and old soul (gay and probably a bit autistic) I preferred reading above any activity and while I can’t remember which book it was, I distinctly remember the room, cramped and musty, small brown painted bookcases with old books from the 40’s and 50’s (I also discovered Molesworth up there) and a haven from the other noisy boys.

So, getting back to Soup Erkins and Lucy Worsley and the discussion of the early Queen of Crime, it was fascinating to learn that while her family was sufficiently well off and middle class, she was largely an outsider/observer in and of the class structure of her time, which is demonstrated in her protagonists, Poirot, a refugee, effete and fussy, fat and dismissible. Marple, a nosy spinster old lady, who takes in everything, not at all important. Tuppence, a post great war modern gal and her nice but dim husband Tommy, all not the right kid of people, all successful in their work – just like Agatha herself
It’s small wonder that her work resonates with so many gay people, who like their heroes, don’t quite fit in and spend a good amount of time on the edges looking on.

I’ve just finished the excellent Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Final Architecture trilogy and decided to take a break from my long love of hard SF and revisit some old friends. So The Murder at the Vicarage, it is, to be followed by The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

On a side note, there has been controversy regarding the announcement that Christies work is to be reviewed and reworked to reflect modern language, and to sensitively adjust away the language which is clearly racist, demonstrates colonial disdain and is downright offensive. I look forward to rereading her books with fresh 21st century eyes and seeing how I feel about the language now, until then I offer no opinion.

Dame Margaret Rutherford, the only Jane Marple for me.