As Agatha Christie’s fans know, today would have been her 122nd birthday. The occasion’s got me to thinking about what it would be like if Christie were living and writing today. So in honour of her birthday, let me speculate about…
A 21stCentury Day in the Life of Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie woke up at seven and went out to the kitchen to put the kettle on. While the water was heating up she opened her laptop and checked her email. Oh, lovely, an email from her young grandson Matthew. It wasn’t long – just a confirmation that he’d be visiting this week-end. But it was still good to hear from him. She wrote him a quick response to let him know she was looking forward to their visit.
The kettle was boiling by now, so Agatha made tea. Then she returned to what she’d been doing online. Just then her mobile rang; the screen showed that it was her new publicist Ginny. She took the call.
“Sorry to call so early, Agatha, but it’s important. Have you seen it?”
“You haven’t then, have you? Check YouTube for your name and you’ll find it. I’ll wait.”
Agatha went to YouTube’s site. A search quickly pulled up a video labelled, “Agatha Christie’s wild 11-day bash!” Oh, no!
“I’ve found it,” she said to Ginny.
Agatha couldn’t believe it! Those liars at the hotel had absolutely promised not to tell anyone she’d been there. What business was it of anyone’s where she’d been? Can’t someone take a little time away without cameras following her everywhere? Apparently not. Well, perhaps a story like this would boost her sales a little. Publicity is publicity. And fortunately she hadn’t done anything racy while she’d been away. She sighed and pushed the “Play” icon on the video. When the video was over she said, “Ginny, are you still there?”
“Good. Do me a favour? Send that video to that rat Archie. Serve him right.”
“If you think so. Now, let’s talk about how we can use this video in your new promo package…”
Having finished her conversation with Ginny, Agatha noticed that it was time to get ready if she was to be on time to meet with her editor Andrew. She went upstairs, showered and dressed and before long was ready to leave for her appointment. When she got there, Andrew was waiting for her.
“Good to see you, Agatha.”
“Nice to see you, too.”
“Oh, lovely, thanks.”
Andrew poured her a cup. Agatha noticed that he seemed nervous about something.
“Something wrong, Andrew?”
“It’s just, well, I’ve gotten the word from Upstairs that we need to talk about the direction your books are taking.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, they’d like you to consider changing your approach just a bit. Just a bit, I promise.”
“What do they want?”
“Well for instance, you have yet to feature a serial killer in any of your novels.”
“Wait a minute! I did something of the kind in The ABC Murders.”
“Yes, darling, but that wasn’t a truly crazed, sadistic killer. That’s what they’re looking for.”
“You mean one of those horrible killers like Hannibal Lecter?”
“Even crazier than that.”
“But that doesn’t make for a good story, does it? We’ve talked about this before. My whole approach is a focus on a strong plot. Sadistic serial killers just don’t fit with what I try to do as a writer.”
“I know, I know, and your sales are terrific. Upstairs just wants you to keep up with what people want, that’s all. Just try it, will you?”
“What else did Upstairs say?”
“Well…they want you to try a new sleuth.”
“I suppose that could be interesting. What sort of sleuth?”
“Somebody with a really horrible past – the kind you drink your way into forgetting. You know the sort of thing.”
“But Hercule Poirot’s had a sad past. He was wounded in war, had to escape his home country…”
“Yes I know, but he’s too well-adjusted. Not nearly enough personal demons in his life. Besides, you told me you were tired of him anyway.”
“I am, but my readers aren’t.”
“Just think about it, will you? For me?”
“All right, all right.”
The meeting with Andrew hadn’t gone as badly as it could have but Agatha wasn’t very happy about the direction the publisher seemed to want to go. Maybe she ought to consider self-publishing. She hadn’t wanted to before; she’d always been afraid her readers wouldn’t like it. But perhaps it was time. She’d have to think about that.
In the meantime, there was the new manuscript waiting at home. Agatha went home after stopping for some Indian takeaway on the way. When she got home it was time to settle down to work. But first she updated her Facebook status (“Meeting with my editor this morning – Considering creating a new sleuth.”) and tweeted “Indian takeaway for lunch – mmmm!” Then one quick game of Bejeweled Blitz and it was time to work. The next few hours were very productive and that pleased Agatha. This one was actually a very good story, she thought. And it wouldn’t take much longer until she had a draft ready for Andrew.
When she’d saved her manuscript to her flash drive (no sense trusting the hard drive not to crash), Agatha decided to check her Amazon sales. She was pleased at what she saw. The ranking for her latest novel was higher than the ranking for the latest from that brand-name franchise guy. Hah! Then she made the mistake of reading the reviews for her newest release. What?! A one-star review!? What idiot had called her novel, “a worthless waste of time?” It didn’t matter that the ten other reviews of the book were all four- and five-star. Somebody had trashed her work! She frantically checked her Goodreads reviews; at least that imbecile hadn’t put the one-star review on Goodreads.
After a few minutes of anger Agatha decided not to let herself get too upset by one bad review, especially from a loser who didn’t even use a real name. Besides, the other reviews were positive. She glanced at the time display on her computer. She’d spent half an hour at Amazon and Goodreads? Frustrated with herself for getting distracted, she got back to work on her manuscript.
Tonight Agatha was having a dinner meeting with the director who was adapting one of her novels for a TV series. When she’d finished with her writing for the day, she got ready and left to meet him at Skyline. Skyline was a trendier restaurant than Agatha preferred and more expensive than she usually chose but the food was good. Colin met her at the door.
“Agatha! I’m so glad you made it!” She wasn’t crazy about Colin’s somewhat smarmy manner but she put that feeling aside.
“I’ve got some great news about the production!”
“Oh, that’s good to hear. What’s been happening?”
“Well, for one thing we’ve got Andrea Jennings on board as Miss Marple!”
“But Colin, she’s only thirty or so isn’t she? Won’t that mean quite a lot of makeup and so on?”
“That’s part of what I was going to talk to you about. Andrea sees Miss Marple as a young, sexy woman. She won’t do the role if she can’t do the character that way. And she wants a love angle too.”
“Then couldn’t we get someone else?”
“But Andrea is bankable! People will watch. Don’t you want that? Besides, it could be great!”
“But it’s nothing at all like the novel. Miss Marple is not a young woman and most definitely not looking for love.”
“But that’s in the novel. This is television. Things have to be different. People aren’t going to notice a few little changes from the book. Oh, and speaking of changes, we’re also going to include a car chase. You’ll love it! Miss Marple catches the murderer trying to make an escape and goes after him in her sports car. Doesn’t it sound exciting?”
“Car chase? Sports car? No it doesn’t sound exciting, it sounds awful!”
“Trust me, when you see it, you’ll fall in love.”
Agatha sincerely doubted that.
Happy Birthday to Agatha Christie. Maybe it’s just as well she isn’t living in the modern age, although I have the strong feeling she’d be able to manage it…
ps. I know, I know – I’ve taken several liberties here as far as details go. Sorry – couldn’t resist…