Today is Agatha Christie's 120th birthday. If you have been reading this blog, you'll know that I had my own "summer of Christie," spurred on by the excellent Masterpiece Mystery Poirots that were televised recently. Murder on the Orient Express was an especially lavish production, with David Suchet deepening his long-term portrayal of my favorite detective, M. Poirot.
I had a ton of books to chose from, as Christie's entire oeuvre (in paperback) seemed to be in the house. As I tried to decide which books to pick I noticed that many were English printings. Probably foreign airport vacation purchases. In fact, I know that one book I decided to read towards the end of my marathon, Hallowe'en Party, was purchased at either the hotel bookstore, or more likely Schiphol after a trip to Egypt—and I read it cover-to-cover on the plane ride home.
I decided to stick with Papa Poirot, and read The Big Four, The Clocks, The Hollow , Funerals are Fatal/After the Funeral, the aforementioned Hallowe'en Party, and The Labours of Hercules. Whew! It was interesting. In The Clocks Poirot hardly makes an appearance, or only shows up at the end—presumably this was when Christie was tired of her master detective, but of course, the critics and the readers never were, and still aren't. Funerals are Fatal was the American title for After the Funeral. I'm sure marketing is a consideration, but I've never understood the seemingly random re-naming of books for an Amrican audence (Sorcerer's Stone, anyone?) Is it a dumbing-down, or just an attempt to make an English product more acceptable or understandable to an American audience? Is Funerals are Fatal more "American" then After the Funeral?
Other British/American renamings include:
The Sittaford Mystery/Murder at Hazelmoor
Lord Edgware Dies/Thirteen at Dinner
Murder on the Orient Express/Murder in the Calais Coach
1934 Why Didn't They Ask Evans?/Boomerang Clue
Three Act Tragedy/Murder in Three Acts
Death in the Clouds/Death in the Air
The A.B.C. Murders/The Alphabet Murders
Dumb Witness/Poirot Loses a Client
Hercule Poirot's Christmas/Murder for Christmas
also A Holiday for Murder
Murder is Easy/Easy to Kill
Ten Little Niggers/And Then There Were None/Ten Little Indians
One, Two, Buckle My Shoe/An Overdose of Death/The Patriotic Murders
Five Little Pigs/Murder in Retrospect
Sparkling Cyanide/Remembered Death
The Hollow/Murder After Hours
Taken at the Flood/There is a Tide...
They Do It with Mirrors/Murder with Mirrors
Destination Unknown/So Many Steps to Death
4.50 from Paddington/What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw!
Nine times out of ten the British title seems better to me. The majority renamed seem to be Poirots, too, although there are quite a few Marples and others included.
Of the books I read this summer, The Labours of Hercules was perhaps the most unusual. Aside from the overlay of Hercule Poirot taking on twelve "final" cases before his retiring to perfect the cultivation of "vegetable marrows," the book also saw him traveling the globe and fighting, on more than one occasion, drug (cocaine) dealers in London. Probably my favorite short story from this collection would be "The Capture of Cerberus," where Poirot gets to indulge in a clinch with the Countess Vera Rossakoff, the only woman that we know of that he has ever cared for—his Irene Adler.
I'm taking a break from Poirot and Dame Agatha for a while, as there are plenty of other books I have been neglecting, but this has been a highly enjoyable diversion. And I am looking forward to Suchet filming the rest of the Poirot catalog. He and Christie never seem to go out of style.