Dame Agatha Christie, DBE (15 September 1890- 12 January 1976), was an English crime writer of novels, short stories and plays. She also wrote romances under the name Mary Westmacott, but is best remembered for her 80 detective novels and her successful West End theatre plays. Her works, particularly those featuring detectives Poirot and Miss Jane Marple, have given her the title the 'Queen of Crime' and made her one of the most important and innovative writers in the development of the genre. (Above picture shows Agatha Christie at home in Devon in 1946).
Christie has been referred to by the Guinness Book of World Records as the best-selling writer of books of all time and the best-selling writer of any kind, along with William Shakespeare. Only the Bible is known to have outsold her collected sales of roughly four billion copies of novels. Christies books have been translated into (at least) 56 languages. Her stage play The Mousetrap holds the record for the longest initial run in the world, opening at the Ambassadors Theatre in London on 25 November 1952, and as of 2009 is still running after more than 23,000 performances.
Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born in Torquay, Devon, England. Her mother, Clarissa Margaret Bochmer, was the daughter of a British army captain, but had been sent as a child, to live with her own mother's sister, who was the second wife of a wealthy American. Eventually, Margaret married her stepfather's son from his first marriage, Fredric Alvah Miller, an American stockbroker. Despite her father's nationality as a 'New Yorker'
and her aunt's relation to the Pierpont Morgans, Agatha never claimed United States citizenship or connection. Agatha had an elder sister and brother, Margaret Fray Miller, called Madge, and Louis Montant Miller, called Monty.
During the First World War she worked at a hospital as a nurse. She later worked at a pharmacy, a job that influenced her work, as many of the murders in her books are carried out with poison.
Despite turbulent courtship, on Christmas Eve 1914 Agatha married Archibald Christie, an aviator in the Royal Flying Corps. The couple had one daughter, Rosalind. They divorced in 1928, two years after Christie discovered her husband was having an affair. It was during this marriage she published her first novel in 1920, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, which introduced perhaps her best known character HerculePoirot who appeared in 33 novels and 54 short stories.
In 1924, she published a collection of ghost stories entitled The Golden Ball. In late 1926 Archie asked Agatha for a divorce. On 3 December he left to spend the weekend with his mistress, Nancy Neele. That same evening Agatha disappeared, leaving behind a letter informing her secretary she was going to Yorkshire. Eleven days later she was identified as a guest at the Swan Hydropathic Hotel in Harrogate, Yorkshire.
In 1927 Christie introduced Miss Marple in a short story The Tuesday Night Club, it was based on characters like her grandmother and her 'cronies'.
In 1930 Christie married archaeologist Max Mallowan after joining him in an archaeological dig. The marriage ended with Christie's death in 1976. Christies travels with Mallowan contributed background to several of her novels. Other novels were set in and around Torquay, Devon where she was born. Christie's 1934 novel, Murder on the Orient Express was written in the Hotel Pera Palace in Istanbul, Turkey, the southern terminus of the railway. In 1938 the Christie's acquired The Greenway Estate in Devon as a summer residence, it is now in the care of The National Trust.
From 1971 to 1974, Christie's health began to fail and may have begun to suffer from Alzheimer's or other dementia. Agatha Christie died on 12 January 1976.