What first grabbed you, knocked your booties off, when you started to read?
This question was inspired by Freedom to Read Week.
For me it was a story by Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller, whom you probably know better as Agatha Christie. It was middle school and the major English project of the year. The homework assignment was to digest the first chapter of And Then There Were None.
The following day class was given quiet time to finish the next chapter.
I must have been doodling, deciphering the graffiti on my desk or just napping cause I hadn’t much sleep the previous evening. Our teacher — his name was Mr. Marchand and he was a nice man — approached and asked me why I wasn’t reading the book.
Well, I read it already.
What do you mean you read it already, when?
You read the whole book last night?
He knelt down so we could talk in whispers, and asked me to explain the story and most importantly, ‘who-dunnit’. When he stood up he shook his head, said ‘Okey-dokey’, and returned to the front of the room.
So began my love affair with Dame Agatha. Fifty years ago she was made Dame, ‘Most Excellent Order of the British Empire,’ for her contributions to literature.
And it is literature.
Not that it sounds particularly sophisticated. Nice little detective stories, yeah? Only, she wrote 67 of them along with 14 short story collections, and also penned romantic novels under a pseudonym.
My gateway — And Then There Were None — is one of the highest-selling books of all time, with more than 100 million copies purchased.
She wrote the world’s longest-running play, Mousetrap, on stage from 1952 to 2020 in London’s West End. Only COVID was able to bring down that curtain.
Guinness Book of World Records cites Christie as the best selling fiction writer in history, with more than two billion books sold. And they keep selling.
Aunt Aggie created two of the world’s most celebrated fictional detectives, Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple. Their adventures continue to be adapted to television and the big screen.
(Side story…about 10 years ago I almost convinced the youngest DeMeer son to dress as Poirot for Halloween. We had the suit, a cane, fake mustache and a monocle. His elder brother intervened. ‘Mom, do you not want him to have ANY friends?’ That year he put a sheet over his head and went out as a ghost. He has friends.)
Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller died Jan. 12, 1976, leaving an immeasurable legacy.
I’ve read her books over and over, marvelling every time at the craftiness of language and her ability to weave misdirection in plain sight.
A good Christie is still my go-to for comfort. The Mysterious Affair at Styles, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Murder at the Vicarage, The ABC Murders, Death On The Nile and on, and on, and on, and on.
Curling up with one of these favorites is like sitting down to a warm bowl of potato soup and a homemade baking powder biscuit.
Sounds like a fine idea right now. It is, after all, Freedom to Read Week.
Andrea DeMeer is the editor of the Similkameen Spotlight in Princeton. For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.