"New" Agatha Christie Novel Discovered – Mail.com

Posted: August 20, 2009 in Uncategorized

Forgotten Agatha Christie novel discovered 30 years after her death… in the attic of her holiday home

By Paul Harris

 Last updated at 8:46 AM on 20th August 2009

 Agatha Christie left behind her an intriguing glimpse into her everyday life – and an unpublished novel They had lain undiscovered for decades, gathering dust in a battered cardboard box.

There were shopping lists and jottings, hastily scribbled notes, and page after page of virtually indecipherable handwriting in blue-lined notebooks.

 Had this been a clear-out of some anonymous old woman’s attic, the musty papers would surely have been sent to the dump.

 But these particular papers belonged to Dame Agatha Christie. And somewhere in the 70 years of ideas and inspiration that they chronicled lay a priceless literary jewel.

For when the notebooks were analysed, the draft of an unknown and unpublished Hercule Poirot story emerged.

 Now – in a piece of detective work worthy of the moustachioed detective himself – it has been extracted to produce the first new Poirot tale since 1975 from the so-called queen of crime, who died in 1976.

Author and dedicated Christie enthusiast John Curran has painstakingly threaded together the secret notes and handwritten ingredients of an unseen story that eventually became a typed script.

 The jottings were scattered with other notes throughout some of the 73 exercise copybooks found 30 years after her death among possessions in her seaside home.

 Mr Curran’s four-year labour of love means that from beyond the grave, one of the nation’s best-loved authors has effectively rekindled the wily Belgian sleuth’s career.

 In true Christie style, it also means that readers have had to wait until this final chapter in her remarkable life to discover the denouement.

 Or rather they would have – if the Daily Mail had not secured the right to publish the work for its Poirot-loving readers, beginning this Saturday.

It would be churlish to reveal now precisely what happens in “The Capture Of Cerberus,” the original version of a completely different short story which borrowed that title in 1947.

But even the legendary Poirot – played so successfully by David Suchet in the longrunning TV adaptations – would need a few clues. And naturally, he’d want to establish their provenance.

 That is founded in the 1930s, when Christie began to commit her thoughts to paper before making a typescript.

 The very first line places our hero in Geneva. But the story revolves around a Nazi dictator in the run-up to war – and, unusually for the author, has an overtly political tone.

 The fact that Christie presented the manuscript for publication in 1939 is probably the reason it was never published.

Her dictator bore a thinly disguised resemblance to Adolf Hitler, and the work might have been considered too sensitive to release as part of a collection of short stories that appeared in 1940.

John Curran came across it one Friday in November 2005, after being invited to examine Dame Agatha’s papers at Greenway, her holiday retreat in Devon.

 Like a literary Aladdin’s cave, two locked rooms at the top of some stairs contained such treasures as a complete run of signed first editions . . . manuscripts and typescripts . . . personal correspondence . . . posters, contracts and diaries.

 The old cardboard box on a bottom shelf must have looked terribly ordinary in contrast.

 But John Curran knew how important it was the instant he lifted the lid. ‘The first words that I read were “The Body In The Library – People – Mavis Carr – Laurette King”.’

 Those notes told him that here lay the outline for some of her most celebrated works.

Death On The Nile, he found, was originally planned as a story for Marple, not Poirot.

 Ten Little Niggers had more than ten characters in its early stages. And Christie had clearly toyed with various solutions for Crooked House.

 The box also revealed an unpublished version of a story – The Incident Of The Dog’s Ball – which was virtually the same as a published one but contained a major and fascinating difference.

 Finding so much detail about his literary heroine, Mr Curran said, was ‘like dying and going to heaven’.

 It was “The Capture Of Cerberus,” however, that emerged as the prize. In his book he says: ‘I realised I was looking at something unimaginably unique – an unknown Poirot short story, one that had lain silently between its covers for over 60 years.’

Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks – Fifty Years Of Mysteries In The Making is published on September 3 by Harper Collins, £20.


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