If any of you are also Goodreads friends of mine, you will have noticed a recent chunk of Agatha Christie mysteries appearing on my books list.
I devoured Agatha Christie books a long time ago – like when I was the age of my oldest son. At the same time as I was also reading everything I could find by Jane Austen. I found both writers provided a great escape. Both writers were wry and funny, and both of their time, while also being critical of their times.
I recently tried reading Louise Penny for the first time, and I like her books – I really do – but they mostly left me wanting more of the original cozy mysteries I fell in love with. So, what better opportunity than a week at the cottage to catch up on my mystery reading?
An added bonus is that my twelve-year-old is an avid reader. He’s read much of the YA that really interests him, and is looking for more to read. Agatha Christie is perfect for him – his reading comprehension allows him to easily understand the stories, and there’s nothing graphic, or gory, to upset him.
So, the six Agatha Christies I was able to grab from my library shelves the day before we left, fed not only my reading needs, but also my son’s, and my husband’s.
Side note: My first thought was to load up my Kindle with Agatha Christie titles, however, a quick shop showed me her publisher wants $12.99 per title. The stories are great, but I can also read them in about two hours – I averaged better than one book a day while at the cottage. At that rate, $13 / book would have bankrupted me. Had they been more reasonably priced, I would have bought them, and then Harper Collins, and the Christie estate, and Amazon would all have made money. As it was, I went to the library. As Hachette fights with Amazon over eBook pricing, this is a concrete example of how high eBook prices hurt EVERYBODY in publishing.*
Back to the books, though. One thing I didn’t remember at all from my younger reads of these books, was how prominently writers figure in these stories. There is often a writer of detective stories as a secondary character, and their treatment is interesting. Ms. Christie sometimes makes fun of them, but also sometimes allows them to be intelligent / helpful. I guess “mocking affection” would be the way I’d describe it.
She also has her characters say / show some really interesting things about the writing life. This is a passage I particularly liked from Cards on the Table:
” … Writing’s not particularly enjoyable. It’s hard work like everything else.”
“It doesn’t seem like work,” said Rhoda.
“Not to you,” said Mrs. Oliver, “because you don’t have to do it!” It feels very like work to me. Some days I can only keep going by repeating over and over to myself the amount of money I might get for my next serial rights. That spurs you on, you know. So does your bankbook when you see how much overdrawn you are.”
“I never imagined you actually typed your books yourself,” said Rhoda. “I thought you’d have a secretary.”
“I did have a secretary, and I used to try and dictate to her, but she was so competent that it used to depress me. I felt she knew so much more about English and grammar and full stops and semi-colons than I did, that it gave me a kind of inferiority complex. Then I tried having a thoroughly incompetent secretary, but, of course, that didn’t answer very well, either.”
“It must be so wonderful to be able to think of things,” said Rhoda.
“I can always think of things,” said Mrs. Oliver happily. “What is so tiring is writing them down …”
There was so much in here I liked, most particularly the idea that a writer really can, and should, be spurred on by actually getting paid! It seems like so many writers, and publishers, these days think we should write for the love, and the craft, and it’s just dirty, or bourgeois, or wrong, to expect to be paid. Obviously Mrs. Oliver didn’t think so.
So, my interest in Agatha Christie is thoroughly re-kindled. I love her pacing, and plotting – I feel like I can learn a lot from her, and I also feel her books are sufficiently different than mine that I can read them while writing myself and not get muddled up.
*Full disclosure on eBook prices – the eBook of Objects in Mirror, to my chagrin, is priced at $12.99. I love that book, and I would love more people to be able to discover it, but my personal belief – even as the loving author – is that price is far too high. If you’d still like to purchase it (and if you have a Kobo – because it’s not available for Kindle) then, great; I appreciate it. However, at that price I won’t, and don’t promote it to my readers. I don’t think it’s right, when Appaloosa Summer is so well-supported at $2.99.