Wednesday, 11 November 2009

John Curran


I’ve been reading the recently published Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks (‘Fifty Years of Mysteries in the Making’) by John Curran. It’s an extraordinarily interesting book, and I will post a variety of thoughts about some of the material it contains in the coming days and weeks.

But first I want to express my admiration for the work of John Curran in ensuring that this material has seen the light of day. I don’t know John Curran personally, but I do know of him as someone with a great love of the work of Christie, and that enthusiasm is apparent in every page of this book.

Curran got to know Mathew Prichard, Christie’s grandson, and became a regular visitor to Christie’s old home, Greenway, in Devon. There he became immersed in the handwritten notes that Christie had crammed, over many years, into no fewer than 73 cheap exercise books. He deciphered her handwriting with painstaking care – a task that could only be accomplished efficiently by someone who knew the novels and stories intimately and could thus understand the many obscure references. According to Prichard’s foreword, ‘had to be prised out for meals, sometimes spending 12 hours a day immersed in the history of Agatha Christie’s work.’

This truly has been a labour of love. To uncover and interpret such a treasure trove of material – which I am sure must, in its scope and range, be unique in the history of crime fiction, given Christie’s fame, productivity, and mastery of plot – is an extraordinary achievement. Curran must have felt like a child put in charge of sweet shop. A wonderful experience, and he is a lucky chap to have had it. But he deserves that luck, and the gratitude of all Christie fans, for he has done a magnificent job. I have found his book absolutely enthralling – not only as a lifelong admirer of Christie myself, but as a crime writer fascinated by plot and puzzle. I can heartily recommend Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks to anyone who loves traditional mysteries and would like to learn more about the creative process.

4 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - Thanks for this post. I am so eager to get and read my copy of Curran's book. Like you, I've been a Christie fan all of my life, so I'm especially grateful to Curran for all of his hard work and dedication. How fortunate for us that he put the time and effort into this project. I look forward to reading your thoughts about the actual material.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

You've made me really excited about this release, Martin. This is the top one on my list right now. It sounds like John was a wonderful candidate for the job.

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Anonymous said...

I agree, Martin. An extraordinary achievement. Doug

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for these comments. I think anyone who likes Christie, or is interested in the technique of plotting a mystery, will find this book fascinating. To my mind, it's unique.