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DAME AGATHA CHRISTIE’S SHORT STORIES – UNTANGLING THE THREADS.
30th May 1947 – 30th May 2009, celebrating 62 years of Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mousetrap’
When, on 6th October 1952, ‘The Mousetrap’, a play written by Agatha Christie, opened at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham, England, it had already undergone transformation from a radio play to a short story and then into the stage play. The play, ‘The Mousetrap’, was based on the short story, ‘Three Blind Mice’, written by Agatha Christie in a collection of her stories entitled ‘Three Blind Mice and other Stories’, which was published only in the United States of America in 1950, but the short story had previously been published in England in a women’s magazine in serial form. ‘Three Blind Mice’, a thirty minute radio play, was written in response to Queen Mary’s request for a play by Agatha Christie to celebrate her 80th birthday and was transmitted by the BBC on 30th May, 1947.
On 25th November, 1952, ‘The Mousetrap’, the stage play, opened in the West End of London in the Ambassadors Theatre, and ran there until 23rd March 1974, when it was moved to the larger St Martin’s Theatre, next door, opening on 25th March 1974, keeping its ‘initial run’ status, where it still plays. It is the longest running play in history, and as requested by Dame Agatha Christie, the short story has never been published in England in any short story collection. Film adaptation, under the contract conditions of the play, will not be considered until the play has stopped running for a period of six months.
Such is the acclaim for Agatha Christie, often dubbed ‘The Queen of Crime’, and her works, in 1962, UNESCO claimed she was the ‘most widely read British writer in the world’, beating William Shakespeare for the first position. With her deft writing skills, Christie taunted her readers, laying red herrings to confuse them, and tacitly challenging them to unravel the mystery within her works. Her characters were believable and her writing style was fluid and compact. Author of numerous novels, radio plays, television plays and other works, Christie wrote 160 short stories.
Her novels beguile us, but her collections of short stories may have exactly the same effect for a different reason. While some collections of Christie’s short stories share the same title in the UK and in the USA, most do not. Many of Christie’s books were published firstly in England then later in America. To appeal to the American market, the titles were sometimes changed and another cover picture was created, more appropriate to the American life-style. ‘Poirot’s Early Cases’ (UK) was changed to ‘Hercule Poirot’s Early Cases’ for the American market, presumably because Hercule Poirot at that time was not as well known in America as he was in England. ‘Double Sin and Other Stories’ (US) contains eight short stories, which cannot be found together as a collection published in the UK, but can be found as parts of four other collections in England (‘Poirot’s Early Cases’, ‘The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding and Other Entrees’, ‘Miss Marple’s Final Cases and Two Other Stories’ and ‘The Hound of Death and Other Stories’). Many of her short story collections suffered the same fate.
Whether it was because of cultural differences or for financial reasons, that Agatha Christie’s and/or her publishers chose to separate and publish her short stories in different collections, we may never know. To get a definitive collection of Agatha Christie’s short stories has, perhaps, become as much a challenge to unravel as anything Christie herself wrote.
To the ‘Queen of Crime’, long may she reign…..
Dame Agatha Christie: 15 September 1890 – 12 January 1976.
1.‘The Mousetrap and Agatha Christie’ by Sir Peter Saunders, in ‘50th Year Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap’, Souvenir Brochure.
2. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
© Valerie Ann Lettau 20th May 2009.
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