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Monday, September 19, 2005

Just A Sausage Machine

David Robinson offers an appreciation of the woman mystery writer whose paperbacks we've all picked up at A.H. Wheeler stalls -- and elsewhere -- and read and re-read simply because of the twists of her plot, and the fact that it was always the most implausible character who turned out to have done it:

"According to best-selling Russian detective novelist Boris Akunin, the real divide in crime fiction is between Conan Doyle and Christie. Doyle is about character; Christie about plot. And for all the intricate machinations of a Christie plot, the elegance and cunning with which she can turn our suspicions inside out, our tastes in the crime novel have raced off back to Conan Doyle. We want real, flawed human beings at a crime scene - a Philip Marlowe, an Inspector Rebus - not just a perfectly calculating mind and (in Colin Waters's memorable phrase) snobbery with violence.

"But the case for Agatha Christie is far from over, and it doesn't just hinge on the sales statistics, although these couldn't be more impressive...Christie made no great claims for herself as a writer. 'I'm just a sausage machine,' she said, and it's true: her prose was always serviceable rather than stylish.

" 'When I began writing detective stories I was not in any mood to think seriously about crime,' she wrote. 'The detective story was the story of the chase; it was very much a story with a moral, in fact it was the old Everyman morality tale: the hunting down of Evil and the triumph of Good. At that time [of the 1914 war] the doer of evil was not a hero: the enemy was wicked, the hero was good; it was as crude and simple as that. We had not then begun to wallow in psychology.' "

2 Comments:

  • Christie. Sigh. Her books are like puzzles. Can't find anyone like her any more.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:50 PM  

  • Ah! I like Christie too.

    By Blogger Anirudh Karnick, at 3:05 PM  

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