Facts and Trivia on Agatha Christie

World Records

Dame Agatha Christie is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the World's Bestselling Author. Her books have sold over 2 billion copies in 44 languages. Royalties are about $4 million per year. Agatha Christie is also one of the world's most prolific writers, or authoress (as she called herself).

Agatha Christie's play The Mousetrap has the longest theatrical run, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. It opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in London on November 25, 1952. It moved next door to the St. Martin's Theatre on March 25, 1974, not missing a single performance. It continues to this day.

Imitating Agatha's Crimes

There is a history of criminals copying crimes from Agatha's books (whether the criminals knew or not). There was a murder very similar to Murder on the Orient Express committed in West Germany in 1981. Two murders (one a series of murders) and an attempted murder copied the manner of murder in the Christie novel The Pale Horse. Life imitated Christie's art again in North Carolina in 1979, when a gruesome murder was discovered, similar to the one in the Miss Marple story Sleeping Murder.

Sales, Investments, Planned Ideas

Agatha Christie Ltd. was set up in 1955 to take care of the royalties on all works, plays, and movies after that date. It was reorganized in 1968 when a firm (Booker McConnell) bought a 51% holding on the company. It later extended its share to 64%, with Christie's daughter Rosalind and grandson Mathew part owners.

Agatha Christie had delegated the author's rights in Curtain to her daughter Rosalind. The rights of Sleeping Murder went to her husband Max Mallowan.

There were plans to turn the Poirot novel Hickory Dickory Dock into a stage musical. It started in the early sixties with a script and some music already written. It was discussed that Peter Sellers would star as Poirot. The first draft was titled Death Beat and it was actually shown to Agatha Christie. Interest and support fell among the originators of the show, and it never evolved into another stage (no pun intended).

Here is a list of milestones in sales of first editions:

  • 2,000--The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920)
  • 5,000--The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926)
  • 10,000--Three-Act Tragedy (1935)
  • 20,000--Five Little Pigs (1943)
  • 30,000--Sparkling Cyanide (1945)
  • 40,000--The Hollow (1946)
  • 50,000--A Murder Is Announced (1950), the 50th Christie mystery book
  • 150,000--Curtain (1975)

Note: 3,000,000 copies of Murder on the Orient Express (published in 1934) were sold in 1974 alone when the Albert Finney film adaptation opened!

Miscellaneous Trivia

At one point in her successful career, Mrs. Christie actually owned eight different houses. Many of these houses were "used" as the houses in several of her novels, for example: Taken at the Flood, Dead Man's Folly, Five Little Pigs, A Pocket Full of Rye, Crooked House, among others. The setting (the house, pool, and paths) for The Hollow, was taken from Francis L. Sullivan's house. Mr. Sullivan was the actor who portrayed Hercule Poirot in both plays Black Coffee and Peril at End House.

The Miss Marple novel At Bertram's Hotel (1965) was subtitled: "Featuring Miss Marple, the original character as created by Agatha Christie." Explanation for this was that there were a series of four movies starring Margaret Rutherford as Jane Marple between 1961 and 1964. The last of these films was Murder Ahoy!, not based on any Christie work. To Agatha's delight, the film was a box office failure. Agatha had been already annoyed at the previous film which depicted Marple dancing the 'Twist' and riding a horse. Christie felt, obviously, that she could write better Agatha Christie plots than others (and certainly not have Marple commandeering a battleship in Murder Ahoy!). Said Christie, "I do, after all, have a little experience with plots, dialogue, and knowing what audiences like, you know."

Charles Dickens was Agatha's favorite author; she remembered her mother reading Dickens' Bleak House to her as a small child. She got together with MGM in writing a screen treatment of Bleak House so it could be made into a movie. A contract was signed, and Agatha completed a treatment of the Dickens novel. It was announced that production was to start on the film in the spring of 1962, but nothing ever came of it, and the project simply disappeared.

There are two stories narrated by Poirot to Hastings, instead of Hastings to the reader. These stories are "The Lost Mine" and "The Chocolate Box," which retells the only failure of Poirot's career, in his days on the Belgian police force. The last case is a reminder to Poirot whenever he becomes too conceited. Both of these short stories appear in Poirot Investigates, and are excellent.

In 1949, a journalist from the Sunday Times in London discovered that Mary Westmacott, then writer of 4 romantic novels, was the one and only Agatha Christie. Despite this revelation to the public, Christie published two more novels with the pseudonym Mary Westmacott. The third Westmacott was a critically acclaimed work and a tour de force. That novel, Absent in the Spring (1944), has an interesting history of having been written in only three days!