Tag Archives: Agatha Christie

Murder on the Caledonian

I mean drinks. Of course I do. There was no murder.

After I arrived at King’s Cross, which was not Euston, I then had to travel home again. After I’d done what I came for. To confuse matters, I travelled home from Euston.

Rather than spend the night in a hotel (I find I’m going off hotels) I suggested to Son we should book ourselves on the Caledonian Sleeper, and travel in style. I’m keener now, since discovering the beds have new mattresses and pillows, as well as duvets and duvet covers. The beds are still narrow, but the rest is fine.

We had an interconnecting door between our ‘rooms.’ Son was awfully excited by this and had to take a photo. (I hasten to add that he is so young and I am so old, that both of us qualify for a third off the fare, which is how you make this affordable. Before you think I’m rich, or something.)

He then invited me for a bedtime drink in the Lounge. It was very civilised and straight out of Agatha Christie. (Until the Americans turned up.)

While Son had something I’m glad mother-of-witch couldn’t see, I had tea. Or it would have been tea had the lovely barman not forgotten the teabag. But that just added to the jollity, and with teabag, the tea tasted like nectar. (Well, it had been a long day.)

There were a few other passengers drinking, chatting politely to strangers across the aisle. Someone ‘old,’ who looked like they came straight from the opera, and a white-shirted beautiful young man who could have starred in any Poirot you care to mention.

So there we were, enjoying our Agatha-ness and the sophistication of sleeper travel. No one was being murdered or anything.

When in walked a party of Americans, maybe ten of them. I love Americans, but these were so very American, somehow. Loud, dissatisfied with what they found, ordering American whisky and not liking there was none. Suggesting there ought to have been soft music in the background. (Wouldn’t have been enough of a sound barrier.) Taking photos of each other and wanting to put them on Facebook, asking if there was wi-fi.

Thank goodness there was no wi-fi.

There could have been murder. (I’m hoping they went to Glasgow. I didn’t see them – or hear them – in the morning.)

The author crack’d

Well, what do you do? You have an event, some distance away from where you live. And you discover you are pretty ill on the day. You have that stomach bug your child got a day or two ago.

Authors are hardworking people for the most part. They don’t want to let people down, so obviously you work out how (if) you can somehow stagger to this – sold out – event tonight and deliver what you have agreed to do. (Even if it ‘kills’ you.)

The thing is, it’s the killing, or seriously affecting, other people you need to think about. Not whether you can stay upright for long enough to get through an event.

Someone on social media recently started a discussion on this very subject and after the first comments of encouragement, the sensible brigade stepped in and told the author on no account was he/she to travel. Reminders were posted on the effects their noble suffering could have on the audience, the organisers, people on the train there, and so on.

(This is the problem with a society that allows for no weakness. Far too many people believe that you should stretch yourself that little bit more; come into work with a sniffle or a temperature. But it’s not just the discomfort or danger for the patient to be considered. It’s everyone else. Is the office really benefitting from X passing on what they are suffering from to most of the others?)

And no amount of disappointment because you didn’t get to see your chosen author that evening can make up for hundreds more people falling ill, potentially seriously, if they are vulnerable.

It made me recall Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side. It’s one thing to innocently go out before you know you’ve caught a virus. Quite another to go out when you know.

The author stayed at home. And the organisers found a – very attractive – replacement. So there was not even the need for them to turn away a venue full of literary fans. They got an event, and if they contracted any vomiting bugs, it wasn’t from our original author.

Sophie Hannah on her second Poirot

Despite Edinburgh’s trams trying really very hard to keep me from Sophie Hannah’s event at Blackwell’s on Thursday evening, they failed. I steamed in just as Ann Landmann was pressuring everyone to move closer, saying there – probably – wasn’t going to be any audience participation to worry about. I was just pleased to be so late but still find someone had kept Bookwitch’s corner on the leather sofa for me. That’s all I cared about.

Ann at Blackwell's

Ann was busy stroking Sophie’s new Poirot novel, Closed Casket, suggesting what a good Christmas present this lovely, shiny book would make, hint, hint. (And it would, were I the kind of person who gives people presents.) The rest of you, pay attention! Buy Closed Casket for everyone.

I have heard the background to how Sophie was given the lovely task of becoming the new Agatha Christie before. I was interested to see how much she’d be able to vary it. It was about half and half; some the same, some new.

She put most of the blame on her crazy agent, who doesn’t do reassurance terribly well, and thinks it’s OK to tell her she is ‘brilliant, etc’ when she needs to be comforted. (As an aside I reckon Adèle Geras [Sophie’s mother] was quite correct in feeling her daughter should have been made head girl at school. Sophie is a very head girl-y kind of person.)

Basically Sophie got the job (Agatha Christie, not head girl) through good timing, and also by having plenty of experience of Dragon’s Den. Whatever that is. And you ‘can’t say no to Agatha Christie’s grandson.’

Sophie Hannah

The idea for Closed Casket, which incidentally is another four-word idea [like Murder on the Orient Express], describing how the novel ends, came when she had an argument with her sister. As Sophie now ‘blames’ her Christie fixation on her father Norm’s cricket book collection, I feel we have much to thank the Geras family for.

She doesn’t know if her book is any good, but she does know that her idea is. It’s the best and simplest idea ever, and she is very fond of this book. It has an Enid Blyton style character in it, and if the first chapter is anything to go by, I can see this will be a fun book to read.

Sophie doesn’t write chronologically, and in this case she was so tired that she began with the easiest chapter. Chapter 23. The house where the murder takes place was found by extensive time spent on Rightmove until she happened upon a house in Ireland that fitted the bill. So no, nothing to do with Irish politics in 1929.

Sophie Hannah

As she doesn’t know how many Poirot books there might be, Sophie is eking out the years between 1928 and 1932, not letting much time pass between her first two mysteries, just in case. Hitherto every generation has discovered the world of Agatha Christie, but not the current one. That’s partly the reason the Christie family needed something new to offer potential readers, and the idea appears to have been successful, with fresh interest in Poirot.

No, writing Poirot is not difficult. It has ‘instantly become the thing she most wants to do.’ Even if she does have to share the profits with the Christie family. Sophie does not want to write any Miss Marple stories, if only to prevent herself from believing she actually is Agatha. She’s already half expecting them to turn over Agatha’s house Greenway to her…

Sophie Hannah

Mirrored

I’m trying not to think the phrase ‘The Mirror Cracked From Side to Side’ but it’s hard. Quick, give me some other mirror quotes that have a more cheerful outcome!

Mirror

While we take some time getting used to facing the mirror image of a wall of books as we enter the living room, I live in hope that the mirror won’t fall down. We got it months ago, but found it was wanting in some respects (does anyone have the kind of mirror clips that this one lacks?), which is why it has only just been hung. Hopefully for a very long time.

The old house also surprised us with a mirror after many years, although not one with books. If you entered the room the right way you’d get the reflection of a lamp in the far corner, which I always liked.

But as I said, here we get books, which is sort of suitable. Who is the fairest Bookwitch of all?

Bookwitch bites #133

I have allowed a certain amount of channel surfing over Christmas. It’s not something I do myself. Much. I’m actually never quite sure how to change television channels, and I tend to stick with a few programmes, and don’t generally have enough time to sit and pick the least bad thing to watch.

When I saw that David Walliams was going to present Britain’s Favourite Children’s Book on Boxing Day, I decided to boycott the programme. Which is why I ended up catching a bit of favourite Disney songs instead. That was nice enough, and I always enjoy the Bare Necessities, even if I’m not allowed to wriggle my behind the way Baloo does.

And when the singalong ended, I inevitably found myself in the company of David Walliams anyway. He did the job competently enough, but I wish a more ‘ordinary’ author could have been given the task. It was fun to see how many former children’s laureates they were able to dig up to come and talk about their popular books.

The selection of books was good. But did they actually say how they had been chosen, or by whom? The children they had on the programme were well read, and amusingly precocious, but they weren’t exactly Winnie the Pooh fans. So what made this bear the best?

Then we moved on to – the planned – watching of And Then There Were None. It’s good. I read the book so long ago, that not all the facts remain as fresh in my memory as they should. But this isn’t going to end well. (Unlike the stage production I saw in 1970 where they decided to go for a happy ending…) And I vaguely recall a creepy film version from maybe forty years ago. I think.

I wonder what Agatha would have said about the bare chests?

The Bloody Scotland programme, and other fun stuff

They had to launch the Bloody Scotland programme without me, but it’s actually quite a good one despite this.

Before the Bloody Scotland weekend even begins you can go to writing classes – if you are young enough – or you could take part in their short story competition. And then, on September 11th (hm, that’s an ominous date…) the Stirling goings-on start.

There are many of the regular Scottish authors we have come to expect, from Lin Anderson to Val McDermid, Ian Rankin and Philip Kerr. Sophie Hannah is returning to talk about what looks like an even scarier book than usual. We have Nordic Noir, and Arne Dahl is coming. Edinburgh also offers some noir, and Alexandra Sokoloff knows about self-publishing. Brighton Rocks, and there’s the poisons of Agatha Christie, and Pitch Perfect (which might not be about a capella singing).

Plus lots more.

And when all the fun in Stirling is over, you could hop on a chartered plane to Shetland to discover the settings Ann Cleeves has used in her crime novels, and you can do it in her company. There will be film locations, too, and you can ask Ann questions. That’s not a bad deal at all.

(I’m going to have to sit down and do some realistic calculations on how much fun I will be able to tolerate.)

Harrogate

Now I dream of Harrogate. Me, who has never even made it to Betty’s Tea Rooms. 27 years in the Northwest and not a single trip to Harrogate…

Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Weekend is not something I have seriously considered going to before, especially as it takes place in mid-July, which is a time fraught with holiday plans and trips to Sweden. And things. Last year I felt dismay when I heard JK Rowling was attending, but quickly dismissed this negative thought.

And now, now there are more people who draw me there and I so want to go. Sara Paretsky will be there, and so early that a day trip is out of the question, and all those Northern Irish boys I’m fond of, including Adrian McKinty back in the Northern hemisphere. James Oswald. Stieg Larsson, except he’s not, of course.

I looked at all the suggested crime hotels for the weekend and they look positively irresistible, straight out of an Agatha Christie novel.

It’s still the middle of July, however. And I know for a fact that when the time comes I will be pleased not to be going to yet one more place, or more events.

But right now I’m at the point where I want to!