First published in Great Britain in 2009, this interesting, incisive, and entertaining journey through Agatha Christie's creative process is now available in a trade paperback edition.
Author John Curran is the long-time advisor to the Agatha Christie literary estate and consulted on the restoration of her home in Devon, Greenway House. It was on a visit there that he gained access to the notebooks courtesy of her grandson, Matthew Prichard. This was a magical moment for Curran, best reflected in the "Preface." Here he imagines Christie sitting outside watching the river and her grandson. Her mind wanders and she creates a scenario for a possible story. She imagines how the buildings and grounds of Greenway will fit into the story, a scene she recreates many times over in the course of her career. Her reverie is interrupted by the appearance of her grandson and she turns quickly from working writer to doting grandmother.
Christie's short stories, novels, and plays (The list of her published stories encompasses 6 pages from 1920's "The Mysterious Affair at Styles" to her last (?) short stories in 2009.) typically proceed in a linear fashion, from A to B to conclusion. Not so with her thought process. An idea springs forth here or there, prompted by a word or person. It germinates for a few days, months, or even years until it bears fruit in one genre or another. Ideas are interspersed with lists of potential Christmas presents, notes from a telephone call, plans for a holiday, or a shopping list.
Notes about a particular piece may comprise a few words or 100 pages. Those pages may be separated by other thoughts and even in separate notebooks. Some notebooks are nearly empty; some have notes carried over from another. Drawing on these scattered, often cryptic notes, Agatha Christie created an astounding volume and quality of work.
The capstone of this work is the inclusion of two new Hercule Poirot stories, "The Capture of Cerberus" and "The Incident of the Dog's Ball." As with many of Christie's stories, there is much in the stories, especially the former, which is autobiographical in nature. Curran adroitly points out many of these moments as he traces her thought and writing process. Christie uses her home as setting and the names of her friends as characters.