Thursday, August 26, 2010

Blowing the Whistle on Agatha Christie

Couple of things to start:

1) I have discovered lately that in spite of Oprah and her minion with the cute glasses trying to get me to declutter my library, I should never, never give away books.  This is because there's about a 15-year statute of brain limitation on anything I read before that.  An old, forgotten (no kidding) book is a brand new book to me.

2) I discovered this because -- as part of my eternal quest to be a better writer in the genres of mystery and detective fiction -- I've started rereading my favorite series. Serieses? This summer, I read all the Sue Grafton, Kinsey Millhones, from A is for Alibi  right up to but not entirely including R is for Ricochet and enjoyed them a bunch.  Had no clue (as they say), no recollection at all, about who done what to whom or why.  Nice surprises all around.  And now I have gone back to the very foundations of the detective story (No. Not all the way to Poe, but close.) and started reading or maybe rereading Agatha Christie's Miss Marple Series.

Here, my darlings, is what I deduced:

Agatha Christie doesn't give a crap about her characters. 

And neither, so much, do I.

The Miss Marples are as follows, in order:

(Thank you, Oh, Wikipedia, God of All The Information You Shouldn't Float Your Doctoral Dissertation On.  You are the most magnificent source of casual FYIs.)

As evidenced by Point #1, above, I don't actually know whether I ever read these novels but I did have a mental picture of how they would have been if I had.  Each little jewel would have been a delectable sojourn in the quaint, atmospherically English village of Saint Mary Mead.  (A misty, marvelous getaway such as I had discovered more than fifteen years ago (Woo Hah!) in the gardens of Brother Cadfael.) There would be the feisty, adorable Miss Marple solving crimes that would have me on the edge of my fluffy couch.  Wringing my hands.  Hoping for the best.

Not in the least.

The Miss Marple series IMHO is about as gutwrenching as a game of Sudoku. Oh, it's entertaining.  But it's not romantic or even engrossing.  Each of these short novels is a puzzle.  And that's pretty much it.  I want to know who done it.  I want to know bad, because certainly the stories are engaging, like any puzzle or game.  There are so many suspects.  And murder is always stalking somebody.  Miss Marple is always looking elderly, fragile and confused and being very tough, sharp and cynical.  And I don't care very much.  If Miss Marple got run over by a lorry, I wouldn't put flowers on her grave, if you know what I mean.

The Sue Graftons turned out to be just the opposite.  I don't really care very much about the crime.  I didn't remember the slightest detail until the fog began to clear slightly in R is for R and I quit rereading.   It's Kinsey I love.  Kinsey I remember everything about, even now, even when her antics are obscured by the mists of Ann Brain Time.   Kinsey and her sweet, cute 84-year-old landlord, her efficient shiplike apartment, fitted out in teak -- with a porthole.  OMG.  I want that.  I love her peanut butter and pickle sandwiches.  I envy her every Big Mac. I'm impressed by the insouciance with which she makes some very poor romantic choices.  When she goes off to do something incredibly stupid, I worry, I fret, I pace (Mental pacing; very good exercise.)  If she died, I'd be personally sad.

So?  So what?  So I've stopped beating myself up so much about my own novels not being incredibly plot driven.  Stopped worrying about not having enough "red herring" characters in the storyline.  I love feisty, scared-but-still-daring, Allie. And Tom, her blind bombshell.  I just do.  I think if I can ever find a &**(^^%$% agent and a %^&;$%^^^ publisher, readers will, too.  And if not?

I'm happy as I am.


  1. Oh, a comment here, because you need some comments -- to know at least there are those out there reading you -- fans and followers, so to speak. Every writer can use those.

    I confess to never -- I mean never-- reading an Agatha Christie mystery -- and no, on S. Grafton as well, (though I believe I have a book club edition of "A is for Alibi" - maybe -- but who am I to say? But just saying, I see an intriguing plot cookin' here on your blog and I applaud.

    Meanwhile, I have been hiding out at the outset of my blog, my own small venture -- editing myself into oblivion, now where was I? Shamefully lost in the "musing" and not writing even the first post. What a wimp out here on my own!

    Labels. Nice touch. Just a question of technicality: How do you add labels?

  2. Hey, Viv! Thanks for stopping by. And yes, I love comments. Especially from you Faithful Reader. I am awaiting your blog with great enthusiasm. Those labels are designed to pull search engines toward your posts. In blogger, there is a place at the bottom of the post format to stick them. What blog/website format are you using?

  3. Taking the easy route for now, and sticking with blogger on google. Hoping to post a little something for a start by the weekend. (There I said it, now I have to do it)

    Have you seen scrapshots . . . hypertext pops up as web page thumbnail. Great for SEO and instant recognition.