Tag Archives: Agatha Christie

Audible?

For her current commute, Daughter needs audio books. They will keep her sane and entertained during the 25 minutes on the S-Bahn and the 5 to 10 on the bus. Twice a day, five days a week. I understand that’s about the equivalent of The Hunger Games. (Not that I applaud her choice.)

Now, I have to admit here that I have not studied the finer details of having an Audible membership. Daughter has, and while she’s not thrilled with the cost, she hasn’t come up with anything better. There probably isn’t anything better, i.e. cheaper per hour.

When they were still cassette tapes I used to buy a lot. They were expensive, but I felt the benefits outweighed the cost, and there were four of us who would potentially listen, one at a time. Son wore out our copy of Kim, so bought a more hardwearing version of this Kipling story when he got older but still wanted to re-listen. As for Harry Potter, I winced when paying, but knew it was worth it.

I also frequented the mobile library when it stopped down the road, and borrowed a lot of audio cassettes, mostly for Son. That’s how I discovered children weren’t meant to read Terry Pratchett… Or Agatha Christie.

Thinking back to this time, I remembered that I must have contacted the library service at some point, about audio books for Daughter, who at that time really needed them to access literature at all. Somebody very nice provided her with a library card that allowed her free audio books, and I proceeded to request books from the mobile library, and every time they came, they would wave their latest haul at me. It was great.

Until the time we lost the nice and friendly crew and the replacement librarian got fed up with looking out for my requests, and told me so in no uncertain terms.

So that was that. Daughter learned to read for pleasure, mainly thanks to Nick Sharratt. But on her commute she prefers sound to paper. If only it wasn’t so expensive!

I recalled the event in Edinburgh in August where Sally Gardner ‘suggested to someone in the audience that if they can get a certificate from their GP that their child is dyslexic, then they have the right to access audio books for the blind and partially sighted.’ That’s probably similar to what I arranged for Daughter 15 to 20 years ago. I don’t know what would happen today.

Discovered from one author that the seemingly fair free exchange of a book if you don’t like it, can be abused. Readers listen to one book and then return it and read another for the same cost. Not surprisingly that money doesn’t then benefit either the author of the book or the narrator.

We looked at the audio books in the sale over Christmas, but there wasn’t much to her tastes. I went through my library and suggested really good books, that it would be worth paying for. Most of them weren’t available on audio…

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas

Casting around for more Christmassy books, the only one I could find was Hercule Poirot’s Christmas. I’d not read it since prehistoric times, so felt it would do. I believe it was on television not too long ago, but I couldn’t recall who’d dunnit. If television even had the same murderer.

Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot's Christmas

It’s not terribly Christmassy, though, is it? Set during a few days over Christmas, but with the festivities cancelled by the bloody murder of the rich old man whom everyone but his eldest son hated.

I vaguely recalled the how of the crime, and the gist of the who, but that was all. I realised one should concentrate on the kinder/better end of personalities, and to allow for some happiness at the end. Not that most of the characters are nice. On the other hand, the corpse had not been kind when he lived.

But I’m intrigued how much books like Agatha Christie’s change when reading them from ‘the inside’ by which I mean in the country in which they are set. Everything looked so much more exciting when viewed from another country. I’m totally with Pilar who was disappointed in the Christmas she’d been led to expect.

Too late for this year, but I need advice on more Christmas novels. Preferably cosy ones that leave a warm glow.

Memories

After seeing a video snippet on – probably – Facebook the other day, I was gently guided by Daughter to Doctor Who and The Unicorn and the Wasp. What I’d seen was Agatha Christie introducing herself to a group of people, including Donna and the Doctor. And Daughter said it was a particularly good episode and why didn’t we watch it while the potatoes baked?

So we did. I vaguely recognised maybe one per cent of it and the rest was new. I guessed the recognition could be caused by trailers for the next episode. Or something.

I enjoyed it. And then we tried to work out why I hadn’t watched it in May 2008. (Because I obviously remember what I did eleven years ago.)

And, well. I hope I’m not getting demented, but it seems I did watch the episode back then, after all. Daughter went and found a blog post by some witch, which sort of proves it…

How to rewrite books, and other Christmas television

Due to, erm, technical difficulties when trying to access Christmas University Challenge, we were faced with something unpleasant on live television last night. Several times, due to several technical hitches, before Jeremy Paxman was able to tease some more of his volunteer ‘celebrities.’ As he said, some of them really weren’t very good at this.

The unpleasant live snippets happened around a quarter to eight on Boxing Day on BBC One. Without thinking very much about it, I registered I was seeing something I really would not choose to watch. At any time. Then it suddenly dawned on me what I was seeing; the 2018 Christmas David Walliams children’s book dramatisation. In a way I was glad, because it explained why I found it so unpalatable.

On social media I read people’s comments on the new ABC Murders, with the new Poirot. They really didn’t seem to like it. It wasn’t merely a case of the BBC rewriting an Agatha Christie, but a dislike for an un-Poirot-like Poirot, and getting the retro bits wrong, and the cosy murders were too noir. Or so I believe, anyway. I might not bother, but will stick with Paxman.

We watched Carols from King’s on Christmas Eve, followed by the reindeer in Norway, which struck me as a thoroughly Nordic kind of entertainment. Slow. Cold and white. But sort of fascinating. The reindeer herders had to stop traffic on the E6 for them to cross the road. Luckily it’s not as busy in northern Norway as it is in our bit of Sweden, or even near Rome, when the E6 went to Rome. (I’m not sure why and when it stopped. The E6. To Rome.)

When we arrived at Son’s and Dodo’s on Christmas Day, we discovered the elder Dodos were watching Carols from King’s. That was swiftly followed by the full Reindeer walking through Norway, again. They crossed the E6 again. Again, it was quite restful as entertainment goes. And much pleasanter than the DW misogyny the following day.

Bodies in libraries

What was I thinking?

My mind works fast – occasionally – when coming up with ideas. And then it forgets again. I took this picture waiting for my train recently, to remind me what I was thinking. That worked well, didn’t it?

The Body in the Library bag

I believe I mused a little on my long ago reading of Agatha Christie. Because nearly all of it happened forty to fifty years ago, and I’ve not re-read much. I decided I couldn’t remember who dunnit in the library. Or who died, for that matter. The body will not be the same as the one in the vicarage, where there was also a murder.

Decided I could look it up, and then decided against. Just in case I happen to read the book again, any time soon. Or, for that matter, if it turns up on television, like that Ordeal by Innocence the other week. I gather one way of dealing with well known novels being adapted for the screen is to change the plot and the ending. In which case there is only annoyance for anyone with a good memory, or a recent encounter with Wikipedia.

So, looking on the bright side, I could have a brand new reading experience by reading The Body in the Library again, purely through poor memory and the passing of a lot of time. Or, I could have that anyway, by watching the BBC do their stuff. As long as it’s retro, who cares?

My apologies to the lady with the bag. I just liked the look of such a well-used bag, illustrating such a well-known crime novel.

Which Orient Express is yours?

You can choose your Poirot – and mine is David Suchet – and you can choose your Orient Express, if you have one. Unfortunately, for me the two didn’t coincide.

But never mind.

Actually, I don’t remember the David Suchet Orient Express some Christmases ago terribly well. I only recall quite how weird he was. Not David so much, perhaps, as the way he had to portray Poirot in that film.

If we’re talking films, the 1974 express is mine, Albert Finney notwithstanding. And say what you will, but his moustache was far better. Kenneth Branagh’s took over the whole film, especially considering that on a cinema screen you get pretty close up to such growth. But, the man’s entitled to have whatever he wants in the middle of his face.

The question is, do I prefer the old film, because it was better (I’d like to think it was), or because it was my first? As with the Branagh express, the film is full of stars, but I suppose I feel the 1974 stars were starrier, as well as more my kind of star. In this new version all I could think of was who someone had been played by in the older film. Judi Dench vs Wendy Hiller; Michelle Pfeiffer vs Lauren Bacall?

Murder on the Orient Express, 1974

It’s mainly a matter of personal taste. And if this new film was your first, you are likelier to prefer it, even if you try the older one later.

Apart from the ghastly moustache, I mainly objected to the [unnecessary] changes Kenneth Branagh had made. I got the impression from an interview I read somewhere, that he was jolly pleased with his ‘originality.’ Whereas it seemed to me as if he borrowed the worst from the Suchet version, and then changed how the murder was committed. Those sleeper compartments are small, even on a fancy train. Just saying.

I had read the book before seeing the 1974 film. Today it appears many cinema goers might not have, but have bought the book since, judging by increasing sales. This is good. I hope that even a mediocre film can grow fresh fans for Agatha Christie. And crime. And train travel.

Series – to abandon or not to abandon

That is the question.

As has become clear over the Bloody Scotland weekend, there are series everywhere. Not only do the long – and medium – established writers have series. The debut authors are also planning several books. Even the unpublished ones pitching their first novel, spoke of series.

If you are free to read whatever you like, whenever you can, with no blog commitments, you can probably keep up with lots of series.

I no longer know what to do. I tend to wait and see what happens. Because I can’t actually make the decision. It has to be made for me. I will – temporarily – abandon a series of books I love, if there is something else, equally loveable out there. Maybe something that is noisier when looking for attention.

And that first abandoning was never intentional. It just happened. It’s not you; it’s me.

In the last maybe fifteen years I have read and thoroughly enjoyed the crime novels by Kate Ellis and Stephen Booth. I read every one up to a certain point. I read about Mma Ramotswe. I read these usually in the right order, moving backwards to catch the odd earlier book, and then waited in real time for the next one to be published. It seemed like a long wait, until it wasn’t so bad, and then until the next two books were here and I didn’t know how to fit them in.

I discovered Sara Paretsky, whose books I still read when a new one comes along, and slowly reading the older ones.

Among my new people, as you know, are James Oswald and Vaseem Khan. I don’t know how long I can keep going. I want to. But I wanted to with the others as well.

With Sophie Hannah I grew too scared to continue, so that was an easier decison to make. And thankfully we have the new Poirots.

Or there is Harry Potter, but we knew how many books to expect. Knew there would be an end. As we did with Skulduggery Pleasant, at least until Derek Landy decided to keep going a bit longer. With Lockwood you might not have known for certain, but unless something changed, the characters would eventually be unable to do what they did because of their [lack of] years.

Which books do you keep? Will I ever reread the abandoned series? Will I restart one day? Which ones will I regret once I have ditched my copies? When we moved, we parted with about half our Dorothy Sayers. That seemed OK. Many of Agatha Christie’s books I’ve never owned as I borrowed them from the library.

And then I looked at my shelves for inspiration, and considered Margery Allingham and Ngaio Marsh. Those books I read slowly over a long time, and I don’t claim to have read all. But the thought that I might get rid of the books made me want to cry. They are staying. Campion is like a crazy older brother, and Alleyn some benevolent uncle. Yes, I know I have now bypassed them in age, as far as most of the stories are concerned.

So what to do about those just starting out? Not read at all, just in case? Read one and be hooked? Have nervous breakdown?