Wednesday, September 16, 2015

My Agatha Christie Experience

I was nineteen and newly married. Phil and I were on a vacation in Ocean City, NJ with my parents. We quickly exhausted the books we had brought along. I have the distinct impression that I had just finished THE MAGUS and Phil something like THE MISTRESS AND MARGARITA.

What to read next? We walked up the steps to the boardwalk and a down a few streets to where a bookstore had put boxes of low-priced books with covers missing that they were selling for a quarter each. Many of them were mysteries. Now I had watched my mother read mysteries for years, but once I got past Nancy Drew eschewed them myself. I was into LITERATURE.

But both Phil and I picked one up that day, figuring we could trade when we were done. If we could manage to read a mystery, that is. By the end of the afternoon, we had already traded. I believe the first one I read was THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD. Because I had so little experience with mysteries, I had no notion of how unusual the ending was. By the end of our two weeks at the shore, we had read every Agatha Christie at that shop. We had done little else, in fact.

And we did not stop hunting them down until we had every one of them.

And then tragedy struck. A friend had a ill grandmother and asked me if I would consider loaning her my Agatha's for her long recovery. I obliged and a few months later, when I asked if she was done with them, was told that she had passed them along to a used book sale. "So many of them didn't even have covers," my friend said.

I never had the heart to buy another but I look at them longingly every once in a while.

19 comments:

George said...

My first Agatha Christie was CARD ON THE TABLE. I was 12 or 13 years old and a voracious reader. I'm sure the cover on the paperback had something to do with with my picking up that Christie (I mostly read science fiction until then). I went on a Christie binge and read about 20 of her mysteries. Over the years, I've read about 50 of her books and slowly I'm exhausting the remaining unread titles. Agatha Christie will still be read 100 years from now.

Richard R. said...

Great story, but I'm surprised you haven't picked up used copies over the years, at least of your favorites.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

I had already read And Then There Were None after seeing the crappy 1965 movie version Ten Little Indians. (Who can ever forget Fabian as the first victim, no matter how hard they try?)

When we went on our belated honeymoon to London in April of 1971 one of our first stops was to see The Mousetrap, then playing only 15 or 16 years. We decided to get a couple of Christies, one Poirot and one Marple pretty much at random. Jackie picked the Marple, the excellent The Body in the Library. I, unfortunately, picked the weak late Poirot, The Clocks. By the time we got home we were hooked and started picking up whichever paperbacks were available and reading them without regard to when they were written I remember reading Nemesis before the earlier A Caribbean Mystery.

Jackie is a fan of Tommy and Tuppence and the other "young adventurer" books.

Jeff M

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

I had already read And Then There Were None after seeing the crappy 1965 movie version Ten Little Indians. (Who can ever forget Fabian as the first victim, no matter how hard they try?)

When we went on our belated honeymoon to London in April of 1971 one of our first stops was to see The Mousetrap, then playing only 15 or 16 years. We decided to get a couple of Christies, one Poirot and one Marple pretty much at random. Jackie picked the Marple, the excellent The Body in the Library. I, unfortunately, picked the weak late Poirot, The Clocks. By the time we got home we were hooked and started picking up whichever paperbacks were available and reading them without regard to when they were written I remember reading Nemesis before the earlier A Caribbean Mystery.

Jackie is a fan of Tommy and Tuppence and the other "young adventurer" books.

Jeff M

pattinase (abbott) said...

It is like we are telling our origin stories!

Deb said...

My mother was always a voracious reader and mysteries were her favorite. I remember clearly during the sixties and early seventies there would always be a new "Christie for Christmas." It's weird to think that when most of us started reading Christie she was still alive and still publishing! Anyway, I think the first one I read was probably one of her later ones because I undoubtedly borrowed it from my mom when she was done. Perhaps ELEPHANTS CAN REMEMBER or POSTERN OF FATE. I read her off and on during my twenties (but, like Patti, I was a bit of a literary snob back then--although I snuck in mysteries and bodice- rippers between all the high-toned stuff), but I didn't do a systematic reread of Christie until I finished everything Barbara Pym wrote. She wasn't a mystery writer, but I loved her finely-observed novels of upper-middle-class English life in the early and mid-20th century. I was looking around for more of that and I realized, hey, right here on my bookshelves I had an entire collection that covers that world--with the added bonus of a mystery included. I never looked back!

pattinase (abbott) said...

Loved Barbara Pym!

Mathew Paust said...

Sweet little tragedy, Patti. Darn, I guess I'm finally gonna hafta check out Dame Christie. Seen a couple of the movies, of course, but I never cracked the cover of one of her books.

BTW, I've had no luck finding Todd Mason's email addy to submit a candidate for Friday's Forgotten Books. Would you be so kind as to forward this to him?

http://mdpaust.blogspot.com/2015/09/forgotten-books-sylvia-by-leonard.html

Many thanks ;)

TracyK said...

I read a lot of Agatha Christie books when I was younger but don't remember which ones or when. It is a mystery how I can have so little memory of what I read when I was younger. (Except for Rex Stout and Erle Stanley Gardner.)

But now I am very much enjoying reading Christie novels and rediscovering them, with zero memory of how they end, so that is fine.

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

I love you you feminised the Bulgakov - when I read it, it was definitely THE MASTER AND MARGARITA!!!

Margot Kinberg said...

What a story, Patti! I know what you mean about eagerly collecting the books, though. I've had to replace several of my Agatha Christie's because they were so battered from us. But I can't bring myself to get rid of the originals I had...

John said...

My first Christie was Murder on the Orient Express, read at the time the movie came out. Afterwards, my high school friend Paul Marra and I went through the entire Christie canon. He read all of them over a course of two years. I didn't quite make it through all of them getting easily led into the work of other mystery writers. To this day I still have about five or six I've not read. All of them either books too hard to find back in the 1970s/1980s (some titles were not reprinted even after her death in 1976) or the "bad ones" that Paul told me to avoid. Postern of Fate, Passenger to Frankfurt, Ordeal by Innocence were three he hated and three I've still not read.

I am amazed that anyone who was loaned someone else's property would have the temerity to dispose of it, no matter what the reasoning behind it. I never bought any of those books with the covers torn off. "Stripped" copies were supposed to be returned to the publisher and tearing off the cover was supposed to make them "un-sellable." I never understood why anyone would be selling them. I used to find them not only at book sales and thrift shops but in our local Woolworth's all the time. If you found one in a store, then the retailer was selling the book illegally and the publisher and the writer were not getting any money for those sales.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've only read one or two of her books. I enjoyed them OK as I remember but didn't get anything special from them so I moved on to something else. I should try another one or two nowadays

Yvette said...

So sorry you and your hubby lost your paperbacks in that way, Patti. I know I would have been horrified as well. I mean, you lend your books, you expect to get them back. That's why I don't lend my books anymore - well, except to my brother and he's good about returning unless I tell him he can keep the book.

I can't remember my first Agatha Christie book - that's how old I am. But I know I read them all through my teen years and to this day I blame Dame Agatha for turning a young and impressionable Puerto Rican girl from the Alfred E. Smith Projects into a lifelong Anglophile. :)

Most of my Christie paperbacks have disintegrated into dust (my SECRET OF CHIMNEYS paperback was held together by two rubber bands), but I did manage to save a bunch of the covers. I have plans to turn them into some sort of decoupage artwork. Thought I'd make a poster.

The Passing Tramp said...

I've been discussing my Christie experiences on my blog. It's so true you can get so attached to your old paperbacks. I'm pleased one of my first Christie's, Easy to Kill (Murder Is Easy) has survived 41 years now, since my Mom bought it at Sanborns in Mexico City in 1974!

seana graham said...

My mom had a fair number of Agatha Christie books on the shelf, and a larger number of Nero Wolfes. I think maybe because they were her books, I wasn't especially inclined to read them. So I may have gotten into the Christie world more through movies and TV. Quite late in the game I got on a little mini binge for awhile, and I think one way and another I do know most of the stories. Though not The Mousetrap. No, don't tell me about it!

Graham Powell said...

My high school library had a "Five Hercule Poirot Mysteris" omnibus, and I read them all except Orient Express, as I'd seen the movie and knew the plot. The rest included Cards on the Table, Lord Edgeware Dies (as Thirteen At Dinner), The ABC Murders... and I'm blanking on the last one, but they were all good.

neer said...

My first Christie was THE SECRET ADVERSARY and there was no looking back after that. There are only three of hers that I haven't read till date (largely because my sister was very dismissive of them): POSTERN OF FATE; BY THE PRICKING OF MY THUMBS; and PASSENGER TO FRANKFURT. But now I feel, I should have a go at them.

Cap'n Bob said...

When I was 17 I lived in a room over a bar; the bathroom was down the hall. It was called The Beacon Inn but I referred to it as The Dodge House. Nearby was Beacon, New York's, famous inclined railway, allegedly the steepest in the world. It's now in ruins.

During this time I somehow accumulated a stash of books by Mickey Spillane and Agatha Christie. Since there was noting to do when I was in the room I read them all, although titles escape me regarding the Christies. My prominent memory was being disappointed that some of the Spillanes were Tiger Mann instead of Mike Hammer.

In 1979, when I became a serious mystery reader, I delved into more of Aggie's works but soon left the cozies behind for harder fare.

In 1978 I appeared in a community theater presentation of Witness For the Prosecution as the Queen's Council. Our killer and our director sucked so the show was only so-so.