Monday, September 7, 2009

New books about two of the Queens of Crime released in the UK this past week

New books about two of the four "Queens of Crime" were released in the UK in the past few days.

The books shed a little more light on (and provide fans with some previously unavailable insights into) Dame Agatha Christie and Dame Ngaio Marsh, two stalwarts of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction whose private lives were as mysterious as their plotlines.

AGATHA CHRISTIE'S SECRET NOTEBOOKS is touted as a "fascinating exploration of the contents of Agatha Christie's 73 recently discovered notebooks, including illustrations, deleted extracts, and two unpublished Poirot stories... Buried in this treasure trove, all in her unmistakable handwriting, are revelations about her famous books that will fascinate anyone who has ever read or watched an Agatha Christie story. What is the 'deleted scene' in her first book, THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES? How did the infamous twist in THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD really come about? Which very famous Poirot novel started life as an adventure for Miss Marple? Which books were designed to have completely different endings, and what were they? Full of details she was too modest to reveal in her own Autobiography, this remarkable new book includes a wealth of extracts and pages reproduced directly from the notebooks and her letters, plus for the first time two newly discovered complete Hercule Poirot short stories never before published."


If that wasn't enough for mystery fiction afficionados, an excellent biography on Christie's contemporary, New Zealander Dame Ngaio Marsh, was also released in the UK in the past few days.

Despite her international fame and her theatrical bent, Marsh was apparently a very private person, and closely guarded her personal life - even to the point of destroying some of her possessions and work later in life. She did write an autobiography, BLACK BEECH AND HONEYDEW (1965), although that didn't shed too much light on her life, even when she added more information in a later revised edition.
Fortunately, last year Dr Joanne Drayton released a superb biography, NGAIO MARSH: HER LIFE IN CRIME (2008, HarperCollins) in New Zealand - a book which provides a lot more information about one of crime writing's giants, and now readers in the United Kingdom can also find out more about this most mysterious of mystery writers.

Christie and Marsh, two British Dames, were (and still remain) giants of detective fiction. They each wrote dozens of detective stories, were massively popular in their own era, and remain in print even today. Marsh and Christie were two of only four writers of any genre of that era, to have 1 million of their books released in print at once (the others being HG Wells and George Bernard Shaw) - to put this in perspective this was at a time when selling 5000 copies of a book would get you on the bestsellers lists. In fact, the 'Marsh Million' was released onto the international market exactly 50 years ago (Collins released 100,000 copies of each of ten of Ngaio Marsh's novels simultaneously in 1949).

You can read more about Ngaio Marsh, and Drayton's excellent biography, in this feature article by Linda Herrick of the NZHerald:

You can also listen to some good Radio New Zealand interviews and reviews of the biography at: and

So what do you think? Are you interested in learning more about these classic crime writers? Do their lives, and what goes on behind their books, intrigue you like their books do?

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed the Joanna Drayton biography, Ngaio Marsh, her life in crime, which I thought was an interesting take and wonderfully readable.

    I'll be lining up for the Agatha Christie.