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Agatha Christie




United Kingdom

Agatha Christie (1890-1976), English novelist and playwright. Christie is famed for her detective stories, many of which feature the egotistical Belgian detective Hercule Poirot or the English village spinster-sleuth Jane Marple. Her approximately 100 published works include some 60 full-length detective novels, 19 collections of short mystery stories, and 14 detective-story plays. She also wrote nonfiction, poetry, and (under the name Mary Westmacott) six romantic novels. Many of her books were widely translated; others were adapted for plays or films.

Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born in Torquay, Devon, England, on Sept. 15, 1890. She studied voice in Paris but turned instead to writing. In 1914 she was married to Col. Archibald Christie, whom she divorced in 1928. Two years later she was married to archaeologist Max (later Sir Max) Mallowan. Christie's first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, which introduced Hercule Poirot, appeared in 1920. She did not achieve fame until the 1926 publication of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Jane Marple was introduced in Murder at the Vicarage (1930). The most successful of Christie's books include The Mousetrap (1952), one of the longest-running plays in London theater history; Witness for the Prosecution (1953); Murder on the Orient Express (1934; released as a film in 1974); and the 1939 novel Ten Little Niggers (the casual racism and anti-Semitism characteristic of Christie's day are not absent from her writings), which appeared in the United States as And Then There Were None (1940) and as a play (Ten Little Indians, 1943) and several motion pictures. Christie was named a dame commander of the Order of the British Empire, in 1971. She died in Wallingford, England, on Jan. 12, 1976.

This biography was written for The Encyclopedia Americana. For more information on this online reference, visit Grolier Online.

Susan Cheyney

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