The world's foremost mystery writer of all time, Agatha Christie's books have been translated in over 40 languages and sold over two billion copies. Only the Bible and Shakespeare have outsold her. She wrote 78 mystery novels, 19 plays, and over 100 short stories. Christie also wrote six romance novels (under the name of Mary Westmacott), 2 books of poetry, a children's book, and 2 autobiographies. Christie managed to write an average of two novels a year through most of her life. She wrote them longhand at first and later started using a typewriter for her manuscripts. She wrote anywhere: in the bathtub, on a washstand, on the dining room table, or on a makeshift table in the Middle East. From 1958 until her death she served as the co-president of the Detection Club of London, a private club for leading crime writers. She was known to love eating apples, playing golf, and playing the piano.
Agatha May Clarissa Miller was born in 1890 along the Devon coast in the town of Torquay. The third child of a wealthy American, she was educated at home until 1906, at which time she went to a finishing school in Paris. She was a talented piano player and singer when she was young. She married Archibald Christie in 1914. While he was at war, Agatha Christie worked at the local Red Cross hospital as a volunteer, and later transferred to the pharmaceutical dispensary of the hospital. The Christies lived in London after the war, where their only child, Rosalind, was born.
The Mystery Writer
Three years before, being a dare from her sister, Agatha wrote her first mystery novel titled The Mysterious Affair at Styles. It was later published in 1920 by Bodley Head, selling 2,000 copies after six publishers rejected it. True success came in 1926 when she published The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (selling 5,000 copies the first printing), and with it came many opinions and controversy for how she changed the rules of detective fiction. Sorrow came to Agatha, however, when Captain Christie announced he was in love with a younger woman; Archie and Agatha were divorced in 1928.
Agatha the Archaeologist
Later in the fall of 1928, renowned British archaeologist Leonard Woolley invited Agatha to the Middle East where he was in charge of excavations at Ur. Agatha returned to Ur the following year and met Woolley's young assistant, Max Mallowan; she and Max married in 1930. Although she kept her name 'Agatha Christie' in public due to readership recognition, she privately referred to herself as Mrs. Mallowan. She gained an appreciation for ancient civilization while with her husband, joining his expeditions. On archaeological digs she would assist by cleaning and photographing artifacts. She published an account of her experiences in the Middle East in the book Come, Tell Me How You Live. Her daughter, Rosalind, was married in the early years of World War II, and in 1943, gave birth to Agatha's only grandchild, Mathew Prichard, who is now the chairman of Agatha Christie Ltd.
Agatha gained much success with her plays and novels. In 1952, one of her most famous plays, The Mousetrap, began its run and has continued to this day. Many of her novels became successful movies during the 60's and 70's (the two movies that received the greatest praise from Christie were Witness for the Prosecution in 1957 and Murder on the Orient Express in 1974).
In 1971, Agatha Christie became a Dame of the British Empire. The final Poirot story, Curtain, was published in December 1975 (written in the 1940's) and the last book of the detective/spinster Miss Marple (Sleeping Murder) was published in October 1976 (also written during WWII in the 1940's). Sir Max Mallowan outlived Agatha--he passed away in 1978. Dame Agatha Christie Mallowan died January 1976 in Walllingford, England.