Agatha Christie’s 125th anniversary

Malcolm Batten, Librarian, writes:

Outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare, Agatha Christie (15.9.1890 – 12.1.1976) is the best-selling novelist of all time. She is best known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections, as well as the world’s longest-running play – The Mousetrap.

Death on the Nile, by Agatha ChristieDescribed as the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie was born in Torquay, Devon in September 1890. Educated at home, she taught herself to read and was soon writing poems and short stories.

It was during the First World War that Agatha turned to writing detective stories. Her debut novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles took some time to finish and even longer to find a publisher. She started writing partly in response to a bet from her sister Madge that she couldn’t write a good detective story and partly to relieve the monotony of the dispensing work which she was now doing.

It was not until 1919 that a publisher, John Lane of The Bodley Head (the fourth to have received the manuscript) accepted The Mysterious Affair at Styles for publication and contracted Agatha to produce five more books. She chose a Belgian refugee detective, Hercule Poirot as her sleuth – Belgian refugees were a common feature in England during the war.

Subsequent books introduced new characters – Tommy and Tuppence and Miss Marple who were to feature in many further titles.

Witness for the prosecution, by Agatha ChristieRecommended reading from RBKC library staff:

Susie:

“I choose the play ‘Witness for the prosecution’. I think Sir Wilfred is one of the wittiest characters she has written and I love the ending.”

Kate:

The mirror crack'd from side to side, by Agatha Christie“I like ‘The mirror crack’d from side to side’ – it was the first Agatha Christie I ever read aged 11 or maybe even younger and I was hooked from the start. I then went on to ‘Sparkling cyanide’. I just love her characters, the ‘bad boy’ who must have done it because he is mad, bad and dangerous to know – talking of which, I think perhaps my all time favourite is ‘Taken at the Flood’ a truly wicked plot.”

Maarya:

AC_brownsuit“I discovered Agatha Christie shortly after my twelfth birthday and read every title available in my local library. Hercules Poirot was my favourite detective – of course! Tommy and Tuppence were fun, and Miss Marple had her moments, but Poirot was, and remains, the quintessential eccentric/ genius detective. An honorary mention must go to the glamorous and fun thriller, ‘The Man in the Brown Suit‘ (with a really great female lead!)”

Christie’s first marriage ended in divorce in 1928. She travelled to the archaeological site of Ur where the following year she met Max Mallowan who was to become her second husband. Several books were influenced by their travels in the Middle East such as Death on the Nile and They came to Baghdad.

From 1928 Agatha also wrote non-crime novels under the pen name of Mary Westmacott. She continued writing through the war and post-war period, although now there was much time-consuming work with theatrical productions which limited the time Agatha could devote to writing.

Agatha Christie writing as Mary Westmacott

On 3rd December 1926 Agatha Christie’s life featured a real life mystery when she left her home alone. Her car was found abandoned the next morning several miles away. A nationwide search ensued. The press and public enjoyed various speculations as to what might have happened and why but no one knew for sure. It eventually transpired that Agatha had somehow travelled to Kings Cross station where she took the train to Harrogate and checked into the Harrogate Spa Hotel under the name of Theresa Neale, previously of South Africa. She was eventually recognised by the hotel staff on 14th December, who alerted the police. She did not recognise her husband when he came to meet her. Possibly concussed but certainly suffering from amnesia, Agatha had no recollection of who she was. An intensely private person, made even more so by the hue and cry of the press, Agatha never spoke of this time with friends or family.

Agatha Christie died in January 1976 and is buried in the churchyard of St. Mary’s Cholsey, near Wallingford.

Find Agatha Christie books in your library by checking our new reading list.

Blog Post from Kensington Central Library – December 2012

 

Kensington Central Library in winter
Kensington Central Library

We’re starting to feel Christmassy at Kensington Central Library- hence the picture of the library in the snow!

Christmas Book Display
Christmas Book Display

The decorations are up in the library and we have Christmas books on display in the adult and children’s library. Pop in to take a look- they may help if you’re lacking in inspiration!

Christmas at Kensington Palace
Christmas at Kensington Palace

We’ve also had some Christmas events with the help of the fantastic staff from  Kensington Palace.

On Saturday 10 December there was a Christmas event for our readers at Kensington Palace in Queen Victoria’s bedroom! Everyone had an excellent time listening to some classic Christmas poems and readings whilst munching on mince pies and Christmas cake.

On Monday 10 December the palace came to our children’s library to make Victorian Christmas cards and decorations. 25 children came along and had a fantastic time with ribbons, lace and Victorian pictures!

Victorian Christmas Crafts
Victorian Christmas Crafts
A Happy Young Reader With Her Victorian Christmas Crafts!
A Happy Young Reader With Her Victorian Christmas Crafts!

We thought for this month’s blog post we’d introduce you to some more of the staff at Kensington Central Library and what they do. Before I hand over to them let me wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from everyone at Kensington Central Library!

Jodie Green, Lending Librarian
Jodie Green

Jodie Green, Lending Librarian

All Change at Kensington Central Library

The recent re-opening of our children’s  library now means that our customers, young and old, are now able to fully utilise the lending library once more.

Kensington Central Children's Library- ready for business!
Kensington Central Children’s Library- ready for business!

Self service equipment has been installed across all service areas bringing us into line with all other Kensington and Chelsea libraries and it has proved a hit with the public, even self-confessed technophobes are being won round to the convenience of being able to issue and return books themselves.

The layout of the library is the most striking difference when you consider the ‘then’ and ‘now’ of the work that has gone into the refurbishment. Gone is the monolithic issue and return counter and the confusing maze of entrance and exit gates, instead Self service kiosks and a book sorter for returns are directly accessible as soon as you enter the library, flanked by attractive shelving for our new book stock as well as current displays.

Further in you can see the result of the restoration of the listed wooden shelving and pillars which literally gleam as a result of a bit much needed bit of TLC. Newer shelving snake along the middle of the library floor replacing the older, taller, metal stands used previously for our CD’s and DVD’s.

And, arguably, our pièce de résistance is the new Children’s and Young Persons space which looks so impressive! It truly is a more welcoming and brighter space for young kids and teens to enjoy.

Kensington Central Children's Library- new under 5s area
Kensington Central Children’s Library- new under 5s area

So please pass it on, we are well and truly open for business.

Mike Green
Mike Green

Mike Green, Senior Customer Services Assistant

Our Young Readers Recommend….

We have some keen young readers returning a much enjoyed book, are invited to share their choice with others by filling in a short review. The book is then displayed with their review recommending it. These recommened reads are very popular-  they fly off the display!

Recommended Reads for Teens
Recommended Reads for Teens

If you’re a teen and you’ve read a fantastic book (or you know a teen who has) then pop in and complete a card!

Penny Girling displaying new books for teens
Penny Girling displaying new books for teens

Penny Girling, Customer Services Assistant

The Biography Collection

As we’ve written about in a previous post, we’ve got an amazing collection of biography books at Kensington Central Library. One of our Customer Services Assistant, Lynn Terrell tells us why she enjoys working with these books:

I love working in the biography collection.  There are such a lot of books, and such a variety.  My own favourites are the books written by ordinary people – not politicians or celebrities, but stories about what it was like to grow up in a village during the Great War, or how it felt to have a grandmother who didn’t believe in self-indulgence (Grandma Called it Carnal by Bertha Damon). 

Part of my job includes creating displays of books from the collection, so that the public have a chance to see some of what we’ve got.  Sometimes I tie this in with other things that are going on, for example, in October, we had Black History Month, and at the moment we’ve got American Presidents, following the recent election.  I try to change the display about once a month, and Childhood Reminiscences will be coming up in March. (Hollywood stars in January, and great lovers and love letters in February.)  It will be interesting to see if others share my enthusiasm for these slightly more obscure but fascinating books.

Because a lot of the books are quite old, and difficult to replace, I have to try to make sure that they are kept in good condition, and sometimes that includes minor repairs. (Photographs in particular have a tendency to fall out, and need to be stuck back in.)  Also, it’s very important that they are all labelled correctly, or they’d end up in the wrong place, and nobody would be able to find them.  Everything that gets put in the biography collection has to be relabelled first, and that’s my job too.

Lynn Terrell
Lynn Terrell

Lynn Terrell, Customer Services Assistant