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Although an autobiography and several biographies have been published, Agatha Christie valued her privacy and rarely granted interviews. Even today, an air of mystery lingers over her memory and her life. She felt that writers should be judged by their work, not by who they are. While we as a society certainly praise her for her brilliant work, we can't help but be somewhat curious about the woman behind the pages.
Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller Christie Mallowan was born 15 September 1890 at Ashfield, her family's home in the seaside resort of Torquay, Devon. Her parents home-schooled her until the time she left the coziness of her hometown and attended a finishing school in the vibrant city of Paris. There, she exhibited more talent as a singer and pianist, than as a writer.
In 1913, Agatha met Archibald Christie, a young army officer, and they were married on Christmas Eve in 1914. They were separated for most of the war, and eventually divorced. However, prior to the divorce and the tragic death of her mother, both of which occurred in 1928, Agatha spent her time volunteering as a nurse at local hospitals. This is where her knowledge of poisons, as well as her fascination for them, emerged.
After the war, Archie Christie went into business in London, while Agatha stayed at home with their daughter Rosalind, born in 1919. In 1920, Agatha submitted her first novel, 'The Mysterious Affair at Styles' featuring the eccentric Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, to four publishers. Only one accepted the book, which met with moderate success.
It wasn't however until 1926, upon the publication of “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” that Christie's work first gained major recognition. The publication of this taut mystery novel, with its controversial and wholly unanticipated ending, catapulted Christie into full-fledged literary stardom. She went on to write nearly eighty novels in her career and more than a hundred short stories.
During the early 1950s, Christie's "other" career as a playwright, reached its peak with the production of 'The Mousetrap' and 'Witness for the Prosecution' in London in 1952 and 1953. 'The Mousetrap' has been running continuously in London's West End since opening night in 1952 and has become the world's longest-running play.
After a leg injury in 1971, Christie's health began to fail, and the frequency of her books declined. Her last formal public appearance was in 1974 at the opening of the film 'Murder on the Orient Express', which was attended by Queen Elizabeth and members of the royal family. Agatha Christie died at her home at Wallingford, Berkshire, on January 12, 1976, and was buried in a private ceremony at St. Mary's Churchyard, Cholsey, Berkshire four days later.
Indisputably, the popularity of her books will live on indefinitely. Agatha Christie's books have sold over a billion copies in the English language with another billion in 44 foreign languages. She is the most widely published author of all time in any language, out-sold by only the Bible and Shakespeare. She is the author of 79 crime novels and short story collections, 19 plays, and 6 novels written under the name of Mary Westmacott.