The Sherlock Holmes Post

The game’s afoot!

If you’ve ever been here, you know it’s all about Agatha Christie on Some Photoblog. In the five years I’ve run it, I’ve not made a single mention of Sherlock Holmes. He’s been lurking in the background, I guess, waiting for his time. And as I’ve just rediscovered my love for Sherlockian stories, this time is now.

There will be no spoilers in this post, apart from The Final Problem, which is widely known anyway.

Sherlock Holmes was created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), a writer and by profession a medical doctor, born in Edinburgh, Scotland. Now, I feel kind of bad because I always try to promote lesser known works by authors (e.g. Agatha Christie’s books without Poirot or Marple that are not And Then There Were None and non-Anne of Green Gables works by LM Montgomery) but this time around I’m going for the most obvious choice. It’s also a well known fact that the author ended up hating his most famous creation and had wished his other writings received similar attention. (Sorry, Sir Arthur!) I have read other works by him; a couple of Professor Challenger books and a short story collection Tales of Terror and Mystery and the guy does deserve to be known for his non-Sherlock writings–he was quite prolific and wrote sci-fi, historical fiction, non-fiction. I remember a few years ago a commenter on ACD’s official Facebook page post said “I didn’t know he wrote stories other than Sherlock Holmes” and I thought, how stupid can you get? Please. And any of you bloggers reading this, if you blog about Sir Arthur and have covered his non-Sherlock work (or even Sherlock only, let’s be friends), please drop a comment and I’ll check out your posts.

Anyway… today, I’m basic.

Sherlock Holmes is without a doubt the most popular fictional detective in the world and this is unlikely to change, in our lifetimes or perhaps ever. What is it that makes him so appealing, more than a century after his first appearance?

I don’t know the answer. He just is. An eccentric character, with brilliant mind, skilled in detection, what’s not to love? (Yes, I know he took cocaine. But this was legal in his time.) Mystery is a popular genre anyway, people love their detectives. And Sherlock Holmes is a classic. I think there is certain appeal in Victorian and Edwardian era London as well.

Sherlock Holmes first came to life in the 1887 novel A Study in Scarlet. Altogether he features in four novels (the other three being The Sign of Four, The Hound of Baskervilles and The Valley of Fear) and 56 short stories, majority of them written by his sidekick Dr John Watson. The character is inspired by Dr Joseph Bell (1837-1911), a surgeon and lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, for whom ACD served as a clerk at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Dr Bell used observation to carry out a diagnosis and was a pioneer of what we now call forensic science. He also served as a personal surgeon to Queen Victoria when she visited Scotland.

“My friend and colleague, Dr Watson.”

I am lost without my Boswell.

Sherlock Holmes on Dr Watson (A Scandal in Bohemia)

[Note: This is a reference to James Boswell, who was a biographer of the writer Samuel Johnson.]

The lifelong partnership–or whatever else you might want to call it, I’m not going to argue–was born in A Study in Scarlet. Dr Watson is introduced to Sherlock Holmes by an old acquaintance Stamford as someone to potentially share a place with, as he’s in a precarious financial situation. Stamford knows Sherlock from the hospital, where he, Stamford, works as a dresser and Sherlock likes to dabble with chemicals at the lab.

“Dr. Watson, Mr. Sherlock Holmes,” said Stamford, introducing us.

from A Study in Scarlet

Sherlock already knows of a suitable lodgings to rent, 221b Baker Street. The next day they meet and go view the place, Watson decides it’s suitable, and they move in.

Also can we raise a glass for Mr Stamford, without whom this iconic duo would never have existed?

Watson at first has no clue about Sherlock’s profession and for some reason is afraid to ask. Because he really has nothing else to do, he studies his flatmate and even makes a list of his skills and abilities. I made a graphic of this list, which I posted on my Tumblr and which remains my most popular post of all time on that platform. Now I’m posting it here:

Yes, there is a typo. It is what it is.

Watson is also shocked at Sherlock’s total ignorance of the Solar System. Of course, now it seems funny, because you’re thinking, haha he’s obsessed. He admits as such right there, in the text. He has nothing else to occupy his mind, has no close friends and his health is not in the best condition. This is what, on my recent re-read, made me come up with a theory–I think meeting Sherlock Holmes saved Dr Watson’s life. Hear me out.

So, as we know from Watson’s narrative, he qualified as medical doctor, joined the army and served in the Second Anglo-Afghan War, where he was wounded during the Battle of Maiwand. His injury healed, but then he contracted enteric fever (which a quick Google search informs me is the same as typhoid fever). Afterwards, his health was so poor, he was discharged and sent back to England to recuperate. Having no living relatives in England, he arrived in London and booked himself a room in a hotel. His description of the capital city is amusing: that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained. (You wouldn’t think it of him, but our doctor does have some good burns.) His army pension was eleven shillings and sixpence a day (another quick Google search informs me this should have been quite a comfortable income). He describes this period of his life as a “meaningless existence” and confesses to spending too much money. Hence the aforementioned precarious financial situation. He realised that he needed to change his lifestyle and having just made the decision to look for cheaper living, he bumped into Stamford.

What I wonder about–what was he spending his money on? Drinking? Women? Gambling? It was at a bar where he came across Stamford, so draw your own conclusions. (Also in The Sign of Four, we learn that Watson had an older brother with a drink problem.) Stamford comments that Watson is very thin and very brown (suntan from Afghanistan, presumably). It’s not unreasonable to conclude that he suffered from PTSD. And the “meaningless existence”–could that be… depression? When he moved in with Sherlock, he got his life and finances in order and his mind was revived from idleness by this intriguing new friend of his. Then, when Sherlock finally reveals to Watson what his profession is–a consulting detective–he invites him to come along to view a dead body. The rest is history.

Watson is at first sceptical of Sherlock’s science of deduction, but soon learns that yes, it really does work. It seems to me that Sherlock, whether intentionally or not, pulled Watson back into life. That’s how the BBC Sherlock series pretty much plays it.

In the next book, The Sign of Four, a new client named Mary Morstan enters the scene and she and Watson fall in love and get married. I always thought it happened way too fast. They knew each other only for days. But it seems to have worked for them, so I guess that’s good. ACD needed to marry off Watson, so he did. *shrug* Sherlock remained in Baker Street, as Watson says in A Scandal in Bohemia, buried among his old books, and alternating from week to week between cocaine and ambition, the drowsiness of the drug, and the fierce energy of his own keen nature. In other words, he missed his friend. (The Guy Ritchie movies with Robert Downey Jr showcase this well.)

Screenshot of Sherlock Holmes, The Definitive Audio Collection from my Audible app. The complete works, all for one single credit, (not bad!), read by Stephen Fry, who played Mycroft in Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows movie. Speaking of which:

Brother Mycroft

All men are specialists, but his specialism is omniscience.

Sherlock Holmes on his brother Mycroft (The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans)

Sherlock Holmes has a brother called Mycroft, seven years his senior. We first meet him in the story The Greek Interpreter; he also features in one of my personal favourites, The Bruce-Partington Plans. Mycroft possesses even greater ability for deduction and observation than his younger brother, only he can’t be bothered to do any actual detective work out in the field. No ambition and no energy. (I can relate.) He rarely ventures beyond his circle of home, workplace and the Diogenes Club. In The Bruce-Partington Plans Sherlock nearly falls off a chair when he receives telegram from Mycroft informing him of his upcoming visit to Baker Street. It must be something really serious to drag his brother away from his usual territory!

Mycroft’s skills enabled him to create his own position in the Government–this is what Sherlock means about omniscience. He makes himself indispensable, that’s why Sherlock says Mycroft is the Government itself. But my favourite part about the older Holmes is the Diogenes Club. A gentlemen’s club set up for those who hated company, whether it was due to shyness or misanthropy, but who still liked comfortable chairs and newspapers. Talking is not permitted, except for Stranger’s Room and three offences will get you expelled from the club. Mycroft was one of the founding members.

We don’t know what Mycroft’s politics is. From Sherlock’s description, he certainly can make any regime work for him, but I like to think he was at least somewhat progressive. There is nothing in the canon to say he wasn’t.

According to Sherlock, both of them may have inherited their talents from their grandmother, a sister to French artist Vernet. Vernet was a real artist that really existed, in fact there were three of them: grandfather, father and son:

  • Claude-Joseph Vernet (1714-1789)
  • Antoine Charles Horace Vernet, known as Carle Vernet (1758-1836)
  • Émile Jean-Horace Vernet, known as Horace Vernet (1789-1863)

ACD doesn’t specify which one of them it was, but based on the timeline, the youngest one is the most likely one. Horace Vernet mostly painted battle scenes and enjoyed patronage from, among others, King Louis-Philippe. He also took photographs by daguerreotype process, the first publicly available photography technique.

Check out his self-portrait:

image credit: Wikipedia

It looks very Sherlock Holmes, doesn’t it?

Aside from this, Sherlock never mentions any other family. He says his ancestors were country squires, but offers no further details. In The Adventure of the Norwood Builder, after Sherlock returns from the dead, Watson moves back with him to Baker Street and sells his practice to a young doctor named Verner. Years later he finds out that this Verner was a distant relation of Sherlock and it was really Sherlock who provided the money for the practice, which was sold at the highest price. Verner, Vernet, sounds very similar, also R and T are next to each other on the keyboard. Most likely a coincidence, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

The Best and Finest Man I Have Ever Known

So, Sherlock believed his talent for observation and deduction came from his artist great uncle. Art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms, he says in The Greek Interpreter. Sherlock is the logical, scientific type. He also plays the violin and is fond of music. I think we can safely say that in the mind of our great detective, science and art combine.

Message Watson receives in The Creeping Man and me trying out some old-fashioned looking font

Watson’s list of Sherlock’s skills is not entirely accurate for the rest of the series. In The Sign of Four, for example, Watson notes that “[Holmes] spoke on a quick succession of subjects,—on miracle-plays, on medieval pottery, on Stradivarius violins, on the Buddhism of Ceylon, and on the war-ships of the future,—handling each as though he had made a special study of it.” Yet none of those subjects are mentioned on the list in A Study in Scarlet. Quite the opposite–any facts he considers irrelevant must be forgotten at once, as to not clutter his mind. When ACD came up with the character of Sherlock Holmes, he couldn’t have known he would still write about him decades later (he didn’t even want to!). With time, he developed his character more, realising that, when you work as a detective, no knowledge is useless. This can be easily explained by Watson not knowing Sherlock that well in their early days yet. There is also another inconsistency. Watson’s wound was in the shoulder in A Study in Scarlet, but in The Sign of Four, he tells us it’s in the leg. Not that it matters much, in any case he could have sustained more than one injury in the war. BBC Sherlock got round it by making Watson’s leg pain psychosomatic–quite clever, I think.

I drew this. It wasn’t hard.

This is a popular outline of Sherlock’s profile, thanks to illustrations by Sidney Paget. It is Paget that gave Sherlock the iconic deerstalker hat, never mentioned in the actual writing. Paget’s illustrations accompanied ACD’s Sherlock stories in The Strand Magazine, where they were published. (Random fact: Agatha Christie also published her Poirot short stories in this magazine.) ACD himself requested Paget to continue illustrating in The Strand when he resurrected Sherlock. Sidney Paget definitely deserves some credit for contributing to the famous detective’s image.

The Birth of a Fandom

ACD killed off Sherlock in 1893 in The Final Problem, hoping this would help him concentrate on the more serious fiction and non-fiction he wanted to work on. Sherlock faces his ultimate antagonist, Professor Moriarty, the Napoleon of Crime as he calls him. Interestingly, Moriarty is also a man of science, a mathematical genius. During their last showdown at Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland, they both plunge to their deaths.

Or not.

The reaction of fans to this move was like nothing else ever experienced before. Angry letters poured into ACD’s mailbox, people wore black armbands, The Strand Magazine suffered 20,000 cancellations. These days you’d shrug your shoulder, just another Tuesday in the fandom. But then, it was new. ACD eventually brought the beloved sleuth back; he needed the money and people wanted their Sherlock. Luckily the way he wrote Sherlock’s end enabled him to explain it away with “actually he didn’t fall into his death, only Moriarty did” and “he quickly realised that faking his death would help him break Moriarty’s criminal network and protect his dear Watson”. ACD though killed another character, Mrs Mary Watson, off page, so that he could reinstate Watson back into 221b Baker Street. (It’s kinda shitty if you think about it, but I understand why it had to be that way, besides, readers likely didn’t care about her. Apart from all the other qualities of the Granada Sherlock Holmes series with Jeremy Brett, I like that their Watson remained unmarried and Mary Morstan exited at the end of The Sign of Four episode.)

And so the adventures continued.

Sherlockians, or Holmesians if you want, were the first modern fandom. (Ahhh, fandoms, yes, fandoms, that’s a discussion I’d rather not have today.)

Aside from the books written by ACD, Sherlock appears in numerous books by other authors–this is called pastiche. Most of ACD’s works are in public domain now–and you know that means you can get them free as eBooks. Project Gutenberg is the best place for this.

I truly hope that if ACD can see from beyond how loved the character he grew to hate is, and how much Sherlock Holmes means to people, he is not too angry. After all, Sherlock, and all the related adaptations and pastiches, bring many of us joy and in the end, that is what really matters.

My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people don’t know.

from The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle

And how about you, readers? Any fans of Sherlock Holmes there? Tell me in the comments!


Note: Apart from the tiny mentions, I don’t touch on any of the adaptations, as the post was already long enough. In the future, I might dedicate a separate post for these.

Alone But Not Lonely

See this bench in the grove?

I think it would go well with this quote from LM Montgomery book Emily’s Quest.

I was alone but not lonely. I was a queen in halls of fancy. I held a series of conversations with imaginary comrades and thought out so many epigrams that I was agreeably surprised at myself.

Remind you of something? Yes, LMM used this almost exact quote in in Anne of Windy Poplars. Windy Poplars was released in 1936 and Emily’s Quest in 1927, so Emily’s quote came earlier. (Note: Anne of Windy Poplars and Anne of Ingleside were written much later than the rest of Anne books.)

Compare the two books, though. Emily books are much darker than Anne books (there is also altogether more darkness in Montgomery’s work than people realise, but that’s another topic). Windy Poplars covers the three years in Anne’s life when she teaches school at Summerside, while Gilbert is working towards his medical degree. Large chunk of the book is comprised of her letters to Gilbert and that line is from one of them. They are apart for now, but they write to each other and look forward to the time they finally get married and start their life together. So, all is good. Emily’s Quest, on the other hand, is quite a different story. While her friends leave home to pursue their dreams, Emily stays and tries to become a writer. She and her love interest, Teddy, can’t seem to get together because they have communication issues. Emily gets ill, suffers from, what we call now, depression, agrees to marry a man she doesn’t love, and it takes years for her to finally find the happiness she deserves. It’s–bleak. Definitely not one for the children’s books section. Or even Young Adult section. Like one reviewer on Goodreads put it “Montgomery’s work is constantly under-estimated, and the way the books are marketed doesn’t help (the flowery script, the swoony illustrations).” I’ve been saying that for years.

Anne and Emily are both orphans with different journeys, but I think both of them would have loved that little bench under the trees.

Stay At Home

When I did my Gloomscapes series two years ago, I never imagined we would soon be in the midst of our own dystopia. I expected some things, of course, with Brexit and Trump and the wave of right-wingery on one side and climate change on the other, but I never expected a pandemic. And now here we are.

Following the advice of staying at home and social distancing is for me, pretty much, just living my life as I do. I stay indoors and don’t go anywhere anyway, unless I take a trip for my photography and I don’t socialise. So I thought I would post some currently appropriate shots of my home. I put no quality in these, I basically just snapped them and uploaded to my computer.

I’m very much about Kindle books, as I blogged about before, so these physical books are from the time before eBooks started or titles that are not available in digital format. I’ve got some Game of Thrones characters figures, funko pops of Captain Marvel and Black Widow, a tiny model space shuttle and cats!

This is an older photo, as you can see more effort was put in it. This pile represents so many of my interests: Anne of Green Gables, Agatha Christie, history, maps, Star Trek, A Song of Ice and Fire and Sherlock Holmes!

Jaime Lannister with a catapult pencil sharpener from Chester and a tiny globe. The doll with the red braids is, of course, Anne Shirley.

The dog is called Snoopy and I’ve had him since 2003. Obviously I’m a cat person but Snoppy is special.

I’ve posted some of my Polaroids before, here they are again.

Elizabeth Gaskell House

Elizabeth Gaskell House is in Plymouth Grove, Manchester and was a home of, obviously, Elizabeth Gaskell, the writer, who lived here between 1850 and 1865. After recently reading her book North and South, I thought I should go and see it, so I did.

And here’s the pics:

This is the study of William Gaskell, Elizabeth’s husband, a Unitarian minister, teacher and and all round remarkable person.

The drawing room:

Pictures on the wall in the drawing room. Portrait of Elizabeth on the left, the one on the right you may recognise as fellow Victorian author Charlotte Brontë , who was Elizabeth’s friend. After Charlotte’s death, Elizabeth wrote The Life of Charlotte Brontë, biography of Charlotte on request of Charlotte’s father Patrick Brontë. (My Haworth Parsonage post is here, if interested.)

The dining room:

Table in the dining room where Elizabeth did her writing work:

The contents of the house are not originals. Elizabeth and William had four daughters, two of whom never married and lived here till their death. The last one, Margaret, nicknamed Meta, died in 1913 and after that the house and its contents were sold. Later, the house was used as accommodation for students (Plymouth Grove is not far from the universities), until it was acquired by Manchester Historic Buildings Trust and reconstructed to look as much as possible as how it did during Elizabeth’s life.

The Gaskells used to have a lot of famous visitors, aside from Charlotte Brontë these included Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles Dickens and John Ruskin. You look at that nice tea set and think, hmmm, I bet there was a lot of tea spilt!

Here’s the link the Elizabeth Gaskell House website, which has all the info.

Elizabeth Gaskell’s books are all now in public domain so you can read them for free or download them from Gutenberg. I’ve only read North and South so far, it’s her most famous novel and it’s a fantastic story but… on my dears, 19th century literature is… well, 19th century literature. Why use two words when you can use twenty in a sentence, eh? I don’t think I’m ever going to not struggle with it *long sigh*. But in the case of North and South, it’s worth it. The 2004 miniseries is pretty good too and it’s on Netflix, so go check it out. (Also, Richard Armitage as the love interest Mr Thornton, need I say more?)

Have you read any Elizabeth Gaskell? Have you visited the house? Tell me in the comments!

Marple Station

Marple is a small town near Manchester. Its name may remind you of a certain old lady sleuth.

The town’s station embraces it 100%.

There is also this, on the other platform.

The poster lists all the ties Agatha Christie has to the North. I’ve already covered Abney Hall on the blog.

This was the first time ever I visited Marple. I always thought it was a coincidence, but it turns out that Miss Marple’s name was indeed inspired by the town. I actually found out about the posters at the station from the Twitter account Agatha Christie in the North. And I found out about the Twitter account because they followed me after I tweeted something (I think it must have been that Abney Hall post–all my posts are automatically tweeted as soon as they’re published.) So really, it was me being a fan that helped me discover things related to the thing that I’m a fan of!

Although to be fair, I most likely would have gone to Marple at some point anyway.

Read my post on Agatha here.

Of course, I saw more than the train station when I went to Marple–but that’s material for a different post.

Some Writing – A New Blog

I’m pleased to announce a new blog for my writing, called Some Writing.

It’s just some short pieces of fiction (usually flash fiction) I felt should be released to the world. It’s only appropriate to make a post about it here.

I’m looking forward to see what I can come up with. I’m no writer, I may sometimes have an idea or two, that’s all.

This blog will continue with photography.

So I did find Anne of Green Gables in print… and it’s pink

I’ve never seen Anne of Green Gables series in printed format, she said.

She was looking in the wrong section.

The other day I was in Waterstones, an incredibly wonderful UK bookstore, which also sells stationery and other cool silly stuff. While I was paying at the till, for one reason or another (I don’t know where I get the urge to talk to people these days, I never used to be like that), I asked the checkout guy if they ever had Anne of Green Gables in stock. He searched the database and confirmed they did have it–in the children’s 9-12 years section.

You know how much Anne means to me. So yesterday when I was in Waterstones again, I went to check the said section and indeed, there it was. I picked the hardback, because when it comes to physical books, I prefer them to paperbacks.

This is the treasure.

Actually… a few days before I bought it, I was in Paperchase (a mega cool stationery shop) just browsing around and I saw this same edition. They don’t normally sell books, so I thought it was some hipster thing and didn’t pick it up and open it. So when I saw it at Waterstones, I was like, OMG it’s real!

Can I just say… okay, I know nothing about categorising books, but it doesn’t seem right to me to have the Anne series in the children’s section. Little Women gets to be with the classics, yet has a similar theme. Anne is also far more fun, far less patronising, has better characters and the right people end up coupled at the end; as opposed to wrong people marrying the wrong people in Little Women. Maybe I shouldn’t be bothered about it, because after all, there is nothing wrong with children’s books, but why can’t it be in both sections at once? I spent ages desperately looking for Anne when I came to UK, in libraries and bookshops. When I couldn’t find any LM Montgomery books here, I concluded that she wasn’t as popular here as in Slovakia (where her books certainly aren’t in the children’s section). I know you think I could have just asked the staff in library or a bookshop, but well, I didn’t. I have social anxiety for one and I hate asking for help and then, I used to feel stupid about liking certain things. Like, nobody cared about Anne anymore after they’d finished all the books and I was the only one who did. Also, I could not have been sure what the book was called in English. Green Gables is translated into “green house” in my language. I don’t think we even have a word for “gable”, Anne’s room in east gable is translated as “east attic room”. Different countries, different architecture styles.

For the inside the book shot, I chose this unforgettable chapter, in which Anne and her friends Diana, Jane and Ruby decide to play out Elaine (I believe it’s the poem The Lady of Shallot by Alfred Tennyson) in real life and Anne nearly drowns in a pond. After this, she makes a sensible decision to not be romantic again. “It was probably easy enough in towered Camelot hundreds of years ago, but romance is not appreciated now,” she says to Marilla. This however saddens Matthew and he tells her:

Don’t give up all your romance, Anne. A little of it is a good thing–not too much, of course–but keep a little of it, Anne, keep a little of it.

Dear, dear Matthew Cuthbert. We need more like him.

Agatha Christie

This is the post that was always meant to be. I have never specially planned it but I was always conscious of its existence outside Some Photoblog’s space-time continuum. Now, the time has come to publish it.

World, welcome to my most favourite author ever.

Some call her the Queen of Crime and even if you’ve never read any of her books, you know who she is.

I have mentioned Agatha Christie once or twice on this blog, most notably in the Yggdrasil entry, but never made a post about her. I’ve blogged more about LM Montgomery, who is my second most favourite author (sorry LM!) That’s understandable; when you photograph nature it’s easier to quote Montgomery, as anyone who ever read even one of her books will know, because of those beautiful descriptions.

I got into Agatha Christie sometime in my mid-teens; my first book was Murder of Roger Ackroyd, an Hercule Poirot mystery, which also happens to be one of the best. It could hardly have been a better start. But her best selling (and indeed the best selling mystery novel of all) is And Then There Were None. I think all of us who have read And Then There Were None can agree that this is absolutely justified.

(Yes, it’s the-one-that-one-that-used-to-have-that-racist-title, but this was taken from a children’s rhyme, which is not Agatha’s creation. In newer editions, the racial slur in the rhyme is replaced with “soldier”.)

Hercule Poirot, the private detective from Belgium and Miss Marple, an old lady who has lived all of her life in a little village of St Mary Mead are Agatha Christie’s most famous characters. But she’s much more than that. There are Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, the couple that first appear in The Secret Adversary as young adventurers and who unlike Poirot and Marple actually get older with each subsequent book. Then we have short stories featuring Mr Parker Pyne, who is an unusual type of detective, if he can be called that. Are you happy? If not, consult Mr Parker Pyne, runs his advertisement in the newspaper. His speciality appears to be the matters of heart (as in, love, not heart surgery). And then there is the most mysterious character Agatha ever created, Mr Harley Quin (not to be confused with Harley Quinn, the DC comics character). He appears and disappears again just at the right time, with no explanation, and we never get to find out anything about him. The short stories featuring him are written from the point of view of Mr Satterthwaite, a middle aged socialite, who–not in a malicious way–enjoys other people’s drama. Harley Quin short stories have this spooky atmosphere, almost touching on supernatural.

Apart from the above, Agatha Christie’s work includes numerous mystery novels without any regular detective; a few with Superintendent Battle, who also appeared alongside Poirot in Cards on the Table. And so on and so on.

I don’t know how many people are aware of the fact that she didn’t just write mystery/crime fiction. She wrote six novels under the name Mary Westmacott. I’ve seen them boxed under “romantic novel” genre, though I’m unsure how correct this would be. I’ve only read Giant’s Bread so far and I would not class it as romance/romantic fiction. I’m not that good at labelling things, but if Giant’s Bread got a movie adaptation, I’d call it drama or period drama.

And that’s not all. She was also a playwright. The Mousetrap is the longest running play in UK. I have seen it performed here in Manchester on their 60th anniversary tour. (As you can see from the top picture, I kept the ticket, for all of six and a half years!)

What’s interesting also is that, though she wrote a few plays and even turned her own books into plays (e.g. there is a stage version of And Then There Were None with a different ending; Witness for the Prosecution was a short story before it was a play), her stories are still adapted for stage by other writers. For example, Love from a Stranger is a play based on the short story Philomel Cottage. You can find Philomel Cottage in the Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories collection (maybe in other collections too) or on its own in digital format. It’s a tense story about a newly married woman experiencing sudden anxiety, which she cannot identify. I like to think of it as a predecessor to modern domestic thrillers, though it’s probably not, because I can’t imagine many people/writers know of it. But it has exactly the same feel. I went to see Love from a Stranger last year in July.

Speaking of adaptations, it would be an unpardonable crime not to mention this guy.

David Suchet played Poirot on screen for 24 years and will probably always be the best, the most ultimate Poirot of all time. Not that other actors shouldn’t play him or that they won’t be good as good Poirots; I mean that no one will be the truer Poirot as Suchet. He is so much associated with the little Belgian detective that he wrote a book about it!

Currently he is played by Kenneth Branagh, who has done Murder on the Orient Express and is preparing Death on the Nile next. Branagh’s Poirot is more of a 21st century hero, with a more diverse cast. And that moustache is a legend!

I relate to Poirot in a way that he’s a Continental European living in England and people keep getting his nationality wrong.

My name is Hercule Poirot and I am probably the greatest detective in the world.

Hercule Poirot, The Mystery of the Blue Train

The impossible cannot have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances.

Hercule Poirot, Murder on the Orient Express

Human nature is much the same everywhere and, of course, one has opportunities of observing it at close quarters in a village.

Miss Marple, The Thumb Mark of St Peters (short story)

This above quote is the most typical of Miss Marple. She usually cracks the mystery because someone reminds her of someone else. I think in this way, her village serves as a microcosm of the world. She observes life closely, which then helps her solve crimes that baffle even experienced Scotland Yard officers.

Some of my collection:

In fact most of the physical books I own are Agatha Christies. I bought them before eBooks were a thing.

So, as you can see, I’m an Agatha Christie fan. I know she’s not literally acclaimed–some male author apparently wrote an essay titled Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd? (who cares about you, more like)–but so what. There is nothing like curling up with a blanket, nice cup of hot drink and a good old fashioned mystery. Does not mean you can’t appreciate Shakespeare as well. Actually Agatha sometimes quotes Shakespeare–the novel Taken at the Flood is titled after a line in Julius Caesar. And I want to add another thing, the thing I think about often and which appears in her books quite a lot and is my favourite element of her entire work.

Whenever there is a crime committed, the perpetrator must be found. But the most important thing is not to punish the perpetrator. It’s to clear the people that didn’t do it. I first came across this in Miss Marple short story The Four Suspects. Miss Marple and her companions discuss an unsolved case presented to them by Sir Henry Clithering, a retired Scotland Yard Commissioner. Miss Marple, as is her fashion, comes to the correct conclusion without much trouble. Sir Henry is outraged by the fact that the guilty party got away with it, but Miss Marple points out that it was not the case–the murderer got in with such a bad lot that their end will be inevitable. But she urges Sir Henry to let the other parties know that they’re innocent. Well, she means particularly one party, the one she believes would suffer most from having that suspicion hanging over their head.

One mustn’t waste thought on the guilty–it’s the innocent who matter.

Miss Marple, The Four Suspects (short story)

This is also the whole premise of Ordeal by Innocence. Dr Calgary approaches a family claiming that he can provide an alibi for their son who got charged with murder. It’s too late for the son, who died in prison but he thinks he can at least clear his name. But this causes distress to the family–if it wasn’t him, then who was it? And immediately they start suspecting each other again and their nightmare is back. Dr Calgary then decides to find the culprit–which he does in the end.

It’s not the guilty who matter. It’s the innocent. It’s we who matter. Don’t you see what you’ve done to us all?

Hester, Ordeal by Innocence

And that is why Ordeal by Innocence is such a good book and a rare late one. (To be perfectly honest, the later works of Agatha Christie are not as good, though there are still some gems.) It is also why the latest adaptation on BBC got it so wrong. It’s not so much that they changed the murderer, it’s that they completely misunderstood the story. You can change a lot of things in an adaptation and still keep the spirit of the book. Remember what I said about the new Netflix Anne of Green Gables series, Anne with an E? It differs from the books a lot, adds new characters and plots, but it still keeps the same spirit. The same aesthetics. All the characters are what they are in the books; Anne, the Cuthberts, Diana, Gilbert, Mrs Lynde. The setting, which is crucial, is still the same Prince Edward Island. Sure, it’s dark, but it’s not like that darkness was completely made up by the screenwriter. It was always there, between the lines. The screenwriters knew their stuff. Kenneth Baranagh also knew his stuff when he made the Murder on the Orient Express. Unfortunately the BBC adaptations do not know their stuff. Not. At. All. The last two made me so angry I will not watch them again.

I will end with a quote from the epilogue of Agatha’s autobiography.

I have done what I wanted to do. I have been on a journey. Not so much a journey back through the past, as a journey forward–starting again at the beginning of it all–going back to the Me who was to embark on that journey forward through time. I have not been bounded by time or space. I have been able to linger where I wanted, jump backwards and forwards as I wished.

Ooh she really does float outside the space-time continuum!

Over to you now, readers. Any Agatha Christie fans? Any of you have blogged about her? Come and tell!

Yorkshire Moors

Out on the wiley, windy moors

So here they are, as promised in my previous post.

These pastures are right beyond the Haworth Parsonage and the church–there are several little paths that lead out on the moors.

I believe Top Withens, carved on the above sign, was Emily Brontë’s original inspiration for the setting of Wuthering Heights.

I wish I could have seen more of the moors, but I had to rush back to town to catch the bus. Yeah, literally I ran on the moors, though for much more practical and much less romantic reason than that I wish I were a girl, half savage and hardy and free. (Well, I am ever an indoors person.)

“Heeeeathcliiiiiiiiiiiiiifffff!!!”


Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.

I’ve always had hard time with Wuthering Heights. It was a struggle for me to read it in English (when Jane Eyre and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall weren’t) and I don’t like the narrative style, though I can get past that. What really was the problem, as it is probably for many people, was that the book was promoted to me as romance–when it isn’t. It’s a story about revenge and cycles of abuse, as brilliantly explained in this Tumblr post. Once I understood that, I got it. And what I always liked, even before I knew all of this, was the ending and how Catherine the younger and Hareton get together. I have no doubt the first Catherine and Heathcliff loved each other, but they were both awful and hurt everyone around them. Whereas Catherine Jr and Hareton chose kindness in the end and they lived happily ever after. (And let’s not forget, in the 1998 adaptation Hareton is played by Matthew Macfadyen, who went on to play Mr Darcy in the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice!)

After seeing the moors with my own eyes, I no longer wonder why Emily Brontë wrote Wuthering Heights. How could she not?

My own video, made by smartphone.

You may have recongised the first line of this post, out on the wiley, windy moors, as the line not from the book, but from the 1978 song by the magnificent Kate Bush. I wonder, could this song be considered a musical version of fanfiction?

Fun fact: Kate Bush and Emily Brontë share the same birthday, 30th July.

And thus concludes my Haworth trilogy.