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Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks: Fifty Years of Mysteries in the Making Paperback – February 15, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“The most fascinating aspect of the notebooks is the rare glimpse they allow into the mind of a writer, especially one as imaginative as Christie....An appealing read for Christie-philes.” (Publishers Weekly)

“A must-have for any ardent fan of Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot.” (Washington Post)

“A must for all Christie fans.” (Newark Star-Ledger)

“Provides a unique look into the mind and working habits of one of the world’s most successful authors.” (Tulsa World)

“Meticulously detailed and scrupulous in its judgments.” (Strand magazine on Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks)

“A meticulously detailed study that is packed with shrewd perceptions about Christie’s fiction....Curran has produced an enthralling miscellany of a book, in which her fans will rummage to their heart’s content.” (Sunday Times (London))

“Many of Curran’s discoveries will shape how Christie is read in future....This book is fascinating.” (The Independent on Sunday)

“[Curran] has organized his material as efficiently as an Agatha Christie mystery….[His] enthusiasm for his subject carries us along.” (Irish Times)

From the Back Cover

When Agatha Christie died in 1976, at age eighty-five, she had become the world's most popular author. At the end of 2004, following the death of Christie's daughter, Rosalind, a remarkable legacy was revealed: seventy-three handwritten volumes of notes, lists, and drafts outlining all her plans for her many books, plays, and stories. Buried in this treasure trove, all in the beloved author's unmistakable handwriting, are revelations about her famous books that will fascinate anyone who has ever read or watched an Agatha Christie story.

Full of details she was too modest to reveal in her own autobiography, this remarkable book includes a wealth of excerpts and pages reproduced directly from the notebooks and her letters—plus, two complete, recently discovered Hercule Poirot short stories never before published.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (February 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061988375
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061988370
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #426,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on December 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The 73 notebooks were written the scrawl of a chicken, very different from the famous autograph signature we all know from countless reproductions. There must have been many times when Curran might have felt like giving up, but after months of practice, he says he was able to decipher the writing pretty quickly. Oddly, he says, Christie's handwriting improved with age, rather than the reverse.

This is not a variorum or facsimile edition of the notebooks by any means, but rather Curran's selection, with copious comments, of Christie's musings and reworkings over the years. His transcriptions look letter-perfect (a generous sampling of the handwritten entries allows us to peruse both the way she wrote something, and the way Curran took it down). I couldn't spot a flaw.

Christie lovers will find much to marvel at here. My own hunger for more and more Christie, good or bad, started when I was a child. I had a recurring dream--one I still have, years later,--in which I'm in a bookstore, library, friend's house, looking at books, and I see an Agatha Christie novel I've never heard of before. I sit down and read through it, and even want to copy it down, but lack a pencil (ha ha, Freudian I guess), and think of filching it from the premises, but lack the balls. Sometimes I wake from the dream with a title and a few words still in my head. but always with a sense of loss and emptiness. Now Curran's edition has assuaged some of the ache. We hear of dozens of unrealized projects, and quite a few of them fully realized, but withdrawn from the marketplace for one reason or another.
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Format: Hardcover
Agatha Christie's Secret Diaries is a terrific snapshot view of how she gathered, edited, refined, and finally wrote her ingenious books and plays. Any fan of Christie will revel in the name changes, plot twists, originally planned suspects, and other details which went into each piece.

John Curran is a magician in his ability to decipher and chronicle the diaries. When they were first discovered, each cover was given a stickered number--purely to keep track of how many diaries there were. The contents of each diary could cover several years, story plots, and edits-often with no sequential order.

One page may begin a new plot but on the reverse were more ideas about a previous story, often from a previous diary.

Were do you begin?

Well John has done his homework and like Poirot or Marple has puzzled through the scribbles and doodling of the diaries to come up with a comprehensive book devoted to the genius of Agatha Christie.

This book will have you returning to favorite books and perhaps finding some that you had forgotten over the years.

READER BEWARE: the beginning of each chapter lists "Solutions Revealed" to the plots of the novels and plays that are discussed. I suspect that most of the audience reading this book will be familiar with many of her novels. And of course if you dont' want to read that particular chapter until you've reread the book....who is to stop you! Enjoy !
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Format: Paperback
Dame Agatha Christie (1890-1976) is the bestselling fictional writer of all time! She has sold the third most books in history surpassed only by the Holy Bible and Shakespeare! Dame Agatha was a brilliant author of the golden age of British mystery writing which occurred from the end of World War I until the beginning of World War II in 1939.
John Curran is a Dublin native who is one of the few persons who has been allowed to study in depth the seventy-three notebooks in which Dame Agatha wrote down story ideas;' possible plots;' list of possible characters and such mundane material as shopping lists and what to buy her family members for Christmas. The notebooks reveal, says Curran, that the doyen of crime liked to work in chaotic mode. Some of Christie';s stories and plots would lay dormant for decades before being used or discarded or transformed from short story to novel. (or vice versa!).
Curran asserts that Christie had an easy to read style and used everday life settings to mold her masterpieces. She is the only crime author who created two immortal figures of the genre:" Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. She had an extensive knowledge of poisons due to her nursing work and this was her favorite way to murder her literary victims. Her favorite murderers came from the ranks of medical men and women. Christie was adept at taking readers to exotic sites of which she was acquainted through the many archaeological digs she had been on with her husband.
The most valuable part of the book deals with the careful dissection Curran performs on examining many of the major novels and short stories of Christie from "The Labors of Hercules" to ":Sparkling Cyanide": to ":Sleeping Murder": and many others.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Interesting if you're a writer wannabe, to see how Christie put into practice the standard plotting instructions that so many writing books advocate. She gave herself many, many options for a story and narrowed them down to what became the published story. She also wrote one line descriptions of major scenes, assigned each a letter of the alphabet and then very easily and conveniently shuffled them around - so much more convenient than the corkboard with 3x5 cards of the writing books. And how inspiring, to learn that she had to force herself to sit down and write them once she had plotted them --even the greats have to struggle! It did get a little boring because the process she went through was always the same, though enriched by the author's opinions of what her strengths and weaknesses were.
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