Category Archives: Short Stories

Agatha Christie — Writer, Traveler, Playwright, Wife, Mother, Surfer

AgathaChristie1925                                       Agatha_ChristiePhoto

This weekend (specifically Saturday, September 15, 2018) was the birthday of the British writer, Agatha Christie.  Born in 1890 in Torquay, Devon in southwestern England, Ms. Christie is best known for her detective mystery novels and short stories.  The youngest of three children in an upper middle class family (her father was American and her mother British), Ms. Christie was educated at home by her mother and later studied, also, in Paris.

It is believed Ms. Christie began writing detective stories during World War I when she worked as a nurse volunteer.  Her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, was published in 1920.  In this story readers are introduced to one of Ms. Christie’s best known fictional characters, the eccentric Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot.  Along with Poirot, the other well known, albeit, “amateur,” detective fictional character that eventually also became familiar to readers is the elderly spinster woman, Miss Jane Marple, who began appearing in Ms. Christie’s novels and stories in 1927.

While Ms. Christie’s crime stories brought her much professional success, her private life was not without heartbreak.  Her father died when she was 11 years old and her mother in 1927.  In the late 1920s, her 1914 marriage to Archibald Christie, with whom they share a daughter, ended badly.

In 1930 Ms. Christie fell in love and married the archaeologist, Max Mallowan.  This pairing proved to be happy, and Ms. Christie often accompanied her second husband on his archaeology digs in the Middle East as well as spent time traveling with him in Europe and Asia.  Ms. Christie began to feature the places they visited and spent time in as locations in her some of her novels including Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express.

agatha_and_max                   Agatha&MaxinSyria

A prolific writer, Ms. Christie is now recognized as one of the most widely read authors in the world.  In 1971, several years before she died at the age of 85 in 1976, Ms. Christie had been given the title “dame” by the British Empire.  Along with being credited with writing 66 crime novels, 16 plays and numerous short stories, Ms. Christie also wrote 6 psychological romance novels under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott — this is something the public did not know until it was revealed in 1949 that Ms. Westmacott was actually Agatha Christie.

There have been many films made of Agatha Christie novels and short stories (just recently, for example. a 2017 movie adaptation of the novel “Murder on the Orient Express” was released).  One of the most memorable movie adaptations of an Agatha Christie story, made while Ms. Christie was still alive, is the 1957 movie “Witness for the Prosecution” starring actors Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Laughton and Elsa Lancaster and directed by filmmaker, Billy Wilder – this film still captivates movie goers today!

MurderOntheOrientExpress                            WitnessFortheProsecution

 

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Short Stories

Recently, having made a decision to read some books of short stories rather than novels, I stumbled upon, at a local public library, a book listed as “new” entitled Everything Begins & Ends at the Kentucky Club. From this book’s blurb I saw that the setting for the stories is the border between the U.S. and Mexico at the cities of El Paso and Juarez. The Kentucky Club is a bar just over the border in Juarez, Mexico. The author is someone named Benjamin Alire Saenz, a name that I didn’t recognize.

I just finished the book and its stories. While at some points I did cry, the stories aren’t overly sad. Each story’s main character is male and many of them gay. This is not to say the women in these stories are ignored; some of the women portrayed are perhaps more memorable than the men. Family relationships are strongly depicted as are love relationships. While homosexual relationships are an overarching theme, the stories are in no way sensational or lurid. Instead it is the love that the characters are seeking or running from or unable to acknowledge that predominates.

While looking for other books by this author, Benjamin Alire Saenz, it turns out that he won a major literary honor (the PEN/Faulkner award for fiction) this year for this book of stories. For some reason I thought the person writing these stories was a young new writer, and it turns out Mr. Saenz is middle-aged and heads up a creative writing department at the University of Texas at El Paso. Kudos to him for this award and for this moving book of short stories!

http://www.elpasotimes.com/news/ci_22823132/el-paso-author-benjamin-alire-saenz-honored-his-border-stories

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