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AGATHA CHRISTIE

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Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller Christie (September 15, 1890 - January 12, 1976), was a British crime fiction writer.

Agatha Christie is the world's best-known mystery writer and all-time best selling author of any genre other than William Shakespeare. Her books have sold over a billion copies in the English language and another billion in over 45 foreign languages (as of 2003). As an example of her broad appeal, she is the all-time best-selling author in France, with over 40 million copies sold in French (as of 2003) versus 22 million for Emile Zola, the nearest contender. Christie published over eighty books and stageplays, mainly whodunnits and Locked room mysteries. She is a major figure in detective fiction for both her commercial success and her innovations in the genre. Although she delighted in twisting the established form, she was scrupulous in "playing fair" with the reader by making sure all necessary information for solving the puzzle was given. One of her early books, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, is renowned for its surprise denouement.

Most of her books and short stories have been filmed, some many times over (Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, 4.50 from Paddington). The BBC has produced television and radio versions of most of the Poirot and Marple stories. A later series of Poirot dramatizations starring David Suchet was made by Granada Television.

Her first marriage, an unhappy one, was in 1914 to Colonel Archibald Christie, an aviator in the Royal Flying Corps. The couple had one daughter, Rosalind, and divorced in 1928.

During World War I she worked as a pharmacist, a job that also influenced her work: many of the murders in her books are carried out with poison.

In December 1926 she disappeared for eleven days and caused quite a storm in the press. Opinions are still divided as to whether this was a publicity stunt or an emotional breakdown.

She also used the pen name Mary Westmacott for romantic novels. In 1930, she married to Sir Max Mallowan, a British archaeologist, and her travels with him contributed background to several of her novels set in the Middle East. Other novels were set in Torquay, Devon, where she was born. Famous characters include Hercule Poirot and Miss (Jane) Marple. Her stage play The Mousetrap holds the record for the longest run ever in London, opening at the Ambassadors Theatre on November 25, 1952 and still running after 50 years and more than 20,000 performances.

Sir Richard Attenborough, who was in the original production, participated in an anniversary performance: "It lasted so long because it is a bloody good play. Agatha Christie is very, very clever indeed."

In 1971 she was awarded a DBE.

Two of her novels were written at the height of her career, but held back until after her death: they were the last cases of Poirot and Miss Marple. In the final Poirot novel Curtain, Christie killed her creation and explained in her diary that she had alway found him insufferable. She had a great fondness for Miss Marple however, as she had based her characterisation largely on her own grandmother, so she allowed Miss Marple to solve one more mystery in Sleeping Murder and return to the solitude of her village.