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Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks: Fifty Years of Mysteries in the Making - Includes Two Unpublished Poirot Stories [Hardcover]

John Curran
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 Sep 2009

A fascinating exploration of the contents of Agatha Christie’s 73 recently discovered notebooks, including illustrations, deleted extracts, and two unpublished Poirot stories.

When Agatha Christie died in 1976, aged 85, she had become the world's most popular author. With sales of more than two billion copies worldwide in more than 100 countries, she had achieved the impossible - more than one book every year since the 1920s, every one a bestseller.

So prolific was Agatha Christie's output - 66 crime novels, 20 plays, 6 romance books under a pseudonym and over 150 short stories - it was often claimed that she had a photographic memory. Was this true? Or did she resort over those 55 years to more mundane methods of working out her ingenious crimes?

Following the death of Agatha's daughter, Rosalind, at the end of 2004, a remarkable secret was revealed. Unearthed among her affairs at the family home of Greenway were Agatha Christie's private notebooks, 73 handwritten volumes of notes, lists and drafts outlining all her plans for her many books, plays and stories. Buried in this treasure trove, all in her unmistakable handwriting, are revelations and details that will fascinate anyone who has ever read or watched an Agatha Christie story.

This remarkable new book includes a wealth of extracts and pages reproduced directly from the notebooks, plus for the first time two newly discovered complete Hercule Poirot short stories never before published: The Incident of the Dog’s Ball and the thirteenth Labour of Hercules!

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Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks: Fifty Years of Mysteries in the Making - Includes Two Unpublished Poirot Stories + Agatha Christie's Murder in the Making: Stories and Secrets from Her Archive - includes an unseen Miss Marple story
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 492 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; First Edition edition (3 Sep 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007310560
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007310562
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 471,229 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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'Many of Curran's discoveries will shape how Christie is read in future… This book is fascinating.' INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY

‘Agatha Christie’s notebooks have had to wait for the meticulous attention, dedication and prodigious knowledge of John Curran to achieve publication.’ THE TIMES

‘A meticulously detailed study that is packed with shrewd perceptions about Christie's fiction… Curran has produced an enthralling miscellany of a book, in which her fans will rummage to their heart's content.' SUNDAY TIMES

'Curran has organized his material as efficiently as an Agatha Christie mystery… His enthusiasm for his subject carries us along.' IRISH TIMES

‘Something unimaginably unique: an unknown Poirot story, one that had lain silently between its covers for over 60 years.’ THE SCOTSMAN

About the Author

John Curran is the long-time literary advisor to her Agatha Christie's estate, often giving talks and appearing on documentaries about her life. He has spent the last few years unpicking the notebooks and deciphering Agatha Christie's handwriting for this, his first book.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
By Nick
For Agatha Christie fans (like me) the book is a must read. In many respects it is a fascinating dissection of her notebooks, containing jottings of her methods, characters and plots, interspersed with day to day items about shopping and friends. It does provide us with a new angle on how she developed her plots but I found it quite hard to understand clearly as the notes are jumbled and not easy to follow. In places I got completely confused and had to re-read pages again to pick up the thread (a bit like her books I suppose!). The notes don't make a lot of sense without the author's commentary and I think, at times, he was sidetracked by his own enthusiasm into making the text more difficult to understand than it needed to have been. I did enjoy reading it and found it absorbing, but it isn't as straightforward a read as you might expect and is therefore a bit disappointing.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
By Simon Savidge Reads TOP 1000 REVIEWER
I heard about Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks on one of the many book podcasts that I download each week. These notebooks were a recent discovery when Christie's family allowed Greenway, Christie's holiday home, to be taken over by the National Trust. They had never been on display, they were a mix up of several plots, daily to do's, shopping lists, character ideas, lists of books (made me love Agatha even more) she wanted and other thoughts with no chronological order. That is where John Curran, an Agatha expert and friend of Christie's grandson, came in and this book is the results of four years work trying to decipher some of Christie's handwriting "often like short hand" and working out what notes related to what books and when.

The discoveries are really very interesting. It seems that Curran's (and probably most readers of her work) image of Agatha sat endlessly typing murder after murder, book after book with the killer planned at the start isn't quite so. In fact as you get to read her notes, which John has painstakingly transcribed, you find she would often chop and change the killer as she went. The idea for a book might ruminate for years and start from a simple observation as `a stamp' the notes then look at how such an everyday item could cause someone to commit murder. Who knew that a certain famous Poirot scene was originally meant for Miss Marple? Which books didn't have the endings you and I might have read? Which short stories then with new characters and a subtle plot twist or motive change became a play or a novel? You can find all these things out and much, much more. I loved this book and found it very, very difficult to put down.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly too much geekery for my liking 16 Aug 2011
I think the author betrays his complete Christie geekery with this book. While the premise of exploring Christie's notebooks is an extremely interesting one (avid fans will gain a lot of insight into her working methods and how many of her plots developed and changed during the writing process), the book does tip over into "trainspotter" mode quite a lot, becoming unnecessarily detailed and complex. By about half way through, I was beginning to tire and found myself skimming the text quite a lot. There is far too much detail for anyone but the complete Christie anorak here and it all gets very tiresome towards the end.

Curran doesnt feel it necessary to do any pruning for the general reader, assuming everyone will need or want to know Absolutely Everything, which is not the case. The level of detail really does border on the obsessional. And the ending is very odd - no summary, no closing thoughts by the author, no "rounding up" - you come to the end very suddenly - in fact, at the end of a fairly straightforward paragraph, you turn the page to find...... nothing. Thats the end.

The claim of 2 "unpublished" Poirot stories is a bit spurious, to say the least - both were actually published but in slightly altered form to how they appear in this book.

There are no illustrations to leaven what is a very heavy mix. Certainly one for the devoted Christie scholar, but there is far too much information to process and the intrusion into the text of "text boxes" dealing with tangentially related topics to those already in the process of discussion is tiresome.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A detailed insight. 4 Dec 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Agatha Christie is herself a mystery. Her legend has grown since her death in 1976. But she was in life, a very private person.
These notebooks therefore are a real find and make fascinating reading for those of us who have wondered about the background influences to her novels.
It appears that Christie was a disorganised and chaotic person in private and left ideas here,there and everywhere. This book helps us to understand her structure and her plotting. She certainly did not 'story board' her books and often left it to late in her draft before she herself chose the killer.
Her output over 55 years was amazing and she never seemed short of ideas.
This very interesting book by John Curran has helped me to appreciate her work more and to understand the techniques that she used that has often kept me guessing to the end.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disapointing 27 Jan 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
As an avid Christie fan, I was extremely excited about this book.However, what became apparant was that this book doesn't really contain anything new.The notebooks weren't "secret",just no one had properly gone through them before.What did become very clear was the authors gratitude that he was allowed the opportunity to look through these excercise books and other documents.Unfortunately I found his style of writing rather dull and felt as if I had wasted my money.Other people seemed to like it though so don't let me put you off.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
keeping it back, surprise for the wife.
Published 20 days ago by Tony B.
2.0 out of 5 stars Agatha Christie
Unfortunately despite being an avid enthusiast for all things connected with Agatha Christie was a little disappointed with this book.
Published 4 months ago by Fingers
4.0 out of 5 stars A Mystery!
An insight into the thoughts of Agatha Christie. Living in Devon and surrounded by Agatha history this book was a good read and told us how she put together her many stories. Read more
Published 4 months ago by jkbish
3.0 out of 5 stars Nothing new.
I was disappointed in this book and have already passed it on... unusual for me, as I like to re-read all my books over and over! Read more
Published 5 months ago by A. R. Hughes
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
I bought this as a request from my Girlfriend, I haven't read it yet but she has and says it's very good. So I'll definitely pick it up as well. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Romeu Rosa
5.0 out of 5 stars Tough going
I thought this was a bit fragmented, quite tough to keep up the will to carry on reading. Maybe I will try again.
Published 20 months ago by Mrs. Sheree Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Secrets, Notes and ?
I have purchased this item as a gift for my partner this Christmas so as much as I would like to write a review, I can't but, I will ask my partner to after he has opened the book.
Published on 19 Nov 2010 by P. Nicholls
2.0 out of 5 stars re-hash
Brought for Wife. She is an avid fan of christie. I asked her what the unpublished stories were like. Read more
Published on 3 Sep 2010 by P. Bailey
4.0 out of 5 stars Secret Notebooks
A great book for real Agatha Christie fans, lots of insight and background info. Beware spoilers though, if you haven't already read all the great lady's works! Read more
Published on 24 Aug 2010 by Sarah
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent for aspiring writers
With over two billion copies of her books in print, writers would do well to study what made Agatha Christie one of the most successful writers in human history. Read more
Published on 28 July 2010 by Michael W. Perry
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