BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

24 September 2014

BBC Homepage

Local BBC Sites

Neighbouring Sites

Related BBC Sites

Contact Us

History features

You are in: Devon > History > History features > Agatha Christie - in her own words

Agatha Christie in 1937

Agatha Christie pictured in 1937

Agatha Christie - in her own words

In 1955, Torquay's Queen of Crime, Dame Agatha Christie, was interviewed about her career on a BBC radio programme. The interview gave a unique insight into how the world's best known crime-writer went about her work.

More than 50 years ago, Dame Agatha Christie took part in a BBC radio programme which 'investigated' how her story ideas evolved into best-selling whodunnits.

In the interview, the Torquay-born crime-writer - who was then just Agatha Christie without the Dame title - revealed the secrets behind her success. You can listen to five short clips from the programme, using the audio links on this page.

Even today, more than three decades after her death in 1976 - Dame Agatha remains one of the most widely read writers in the world. She was dubbed The Queen of Crime, and one critic also labeled her The Duchess of Death.

Queen of Crime - Agatha Christie

Queen of Crime - Agatha Christie

She created two of the most famous literary characters of all time - Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, and her works include The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Why Didn't They Ask Evans, Witness for the Prosecution, Death on the Nile, Murder on the Orient Express, and The Mousetrap.

Agatha would spend evenings in the company of friends or family, and would sit and knit, with her mind seeming to be elsewhere. And it was - she was thinking about her next storyline, mapping out the plot from start to finish.

By the time she sat down to write the book, it would all be done and dusted inside her head.

Snippets from the interview with Agatha provide an insight into how she went about her work.

Agatha was self-taught, which meant she spent much of her childhood at home - and that's when she began writing.

In the interview, she said: "I found myself making up stories and acting the different parts. There's nothing like boredom to make you write.

Some of Dame Agatha's books in the library

Some of Dame Agatha's books at Greenway

"So by the time I was 16 or 17, I'd written quite a number of short stories and one long, dreary novel. By the time I was 21, I had finished the first book of mine ever to be published, the Mysterious Affair at Styles.

"I'd sent it to one or two publishers who didn't want it and eventually it went to John Lane. About a year later, I heard it had been accepted. Well, that's how it began."

The rest, as they say, is history. Agatha Christie - whose family home at Greenway, Galmpton, has been gifted to the National Trust - became one of the most prolific writers ever.

In another clip from the interview, she gave us further insight into how her stories were transferred from her head onto the page.

"What is your method, they (my friends) want to know. The disappointing truth is I haven't much method. I type my own drafts on an ancient faithful machine I've owned for years.

A commemorative bust in Torquay

A commemorative bust in Torquay

"No, I think the real work is done in thinking out the development of your story and worrying about it until it comes right. That may take quite a while. Then, when you've got all your material together, all that remains is to find time to write the thing."

Dame Agatha churned out books in rapid fashion, as she explained: "Three months seems to me quite a reasonable time to complete a book, if one can get right down to it.

"On the other hand, plays I think are better written quickly. Writing plays is much more fun than writing books. You haven't got to bother about long descriptions of places and people or deciding how to space out your material.

"You must write pretty fast, keep in the mood and to keep the talk flowing naturally. I prefer to write a play as a play, that is rather than to adapt a book.

"The only reason I ever did that was because I didn't care very much for what happened when other people tried to turn my books into plays. So in the end I had to do it myself."

To listen to sections of the 1955 interview, click onto the audio links on this page.

last updated: 18/02/2008 at 17:05
created: 15/02/2007

You are in: Devon > History > History features > Agatha Christie - in her own words

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy