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 Agatha Christie 

The world's best-selling writer

   Although she died over 40 years ago, Agatha Christie is still one of the world's top-selling authors, and she remains the best-selling fiction writer of all time.
 by Andrew Rossiter

Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie in mid life
   Although she died over 40 years ago, Agatha Christie is still, according to the Guinness Book of Records, the world's most successful writer of fiction.  Agatha Christie has sold between two and four billion books – about as many as Shakespeare, and four times as many as the next most successful writer of fiction, romance writer Barbara Cartland. To put things in perspective, J.K.Rowling, the creator of Harry Potter, has only sold about a quarter as many books as Agatha Christie.
  Agatha Christie’s  first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, was published in 1920; and since then she has been a non-stop best-seller. Over a billion (yes, one thousand million!!) copies of her books have been sold in the English language alone; and a further billion have been sold in translation! With sales of her books still running at 5 million copies a year, and actually increasing, the grand old lady's record is getting further and further ahead of any competition all the time.
  Apart from the quality of her novels, one reason for Agatha Christie’s lasting popularity is that she is, according to UNESCO, the world’s most translated fiction writer. Noone is quite sure how many languages Agatha Christie’s books have been translated into, but it is at least 103, and maybe quite a few more. Harry Potter novels are a long way behind, as they have only been translated into 68 languages, according to their publisher.
  Agatha Christie was born on September 15th 1890, in the genteel seaside town of Torquay, in the southwest of England. Although her father was American, Agatha Christie (born Agatha Miller) belonged from birth to that prosperous English upper-middle class she portrayed is so many of her books and plays. It was a world she knew and observed intimately, a world of leisure and prosperity, of afternoon tea in the drawing room, of tennis and travel. In many ways, it was a very closed world, a world where characters seem so often to be sheltered from the unfortunate realities of life such as work. Unless, of course, that work happened to be detection.
   Like Agatha Christie herself, her heroes and heroines are brilliant. There is discreet Miss Marple, Agatha's alter ego, the elderly lady and amateur detective who can always put together the pieces in the puzzle, while others keep barking up the wrong tree. And there is the gentlemanly Hercule Poirot, forever reminding people that he is "Belgian, not French," and solving mysteries as cleverly as any detective has ever done.
  Poirot and Miss Marple had to be genii, because their creator was a genius. Although many of Agatha Christie's novels and plays take place in basically similar situations, each one is different. In her most famous works, most of which have been filmed, like Murder on the Orient Express or Death on the Nile, the characters move in a closed circuit, cut off from the outside world. It can be an island, or a ship, or a moving train, or just a country house. Each time, a crime is committed; each time, everyone is a suspect, and everyone has a perfect alibi.  With second-class writers, there would often be failings in the plot. With Agatha Christie, there are hardly any. There is just one vital clue that only the detective, and the very astute reader, can pick up.
  Although Agatha Christie is certainly the best-known English writer of the twentieth century, her name is strangely absent from books about twentieth century "literature", as if detective fiction were not a genre worth talking about. In some cases, that may be true; but Agatha Christie was more than just a detective writer. She was a literary phenomenon, and her books and plays give a panoramic view of the world in which she moved
   Besides, Agatha Christie has had a huge influence on many other writers and dramatists across the world, and most modern crime writers admit their admiration for Agatha Christie. Ian Rankin, author of the very popular Inspector Rebus novels, said: "The thing about Agatha Christie is she has done it all…    Christie was the beginning and the end of the crime novel."

The Mousetrap

Shakespeare would be  very jealous. None of his plays has ever run for as long as "The Mousetrap". Indeed, no other play has ever run for anything like as long as this detective thriller by Agatha Christie.
   The play opened at the Ambassador's Theatre in London in 1952, and it has been running ever since. The 26,500th performance took place in May 2017, and in this time, the play has been seen by over ten million people! The actors, of course, have changed regularly; the play has even moved from theatre to theatre! But in spite of all that, the play just goes on, and on. Indeed, it has become something of an institution, and many people wonder if it will not become as permanent a feature of London as the Houses of Parliament, or the Tower. One thing is certain; the trap will continue to be set every night for a long time yet. Audiences will continue to sit in suspense, to learn "whodunnit"! Tickets for the show are still selling well.


according to:   as is said in  -  fiction: invented stories  -  romance :  romantic fiction, love stories -novel: invented story  - lasting: continuing -  genteel: polite, bourgeois -   sheltered : out of contact with -  discreet: quiet -  alter ego: (latin) - other person -  elderly :  old - solve:  find the answer -  genius: very clever person   -   play: a show in a theatre  -  deserve: merit - alibi : proof that one was somewhere else- failings: weaknesses- astute: sharp, clever - genre: a form, a type - a whodunnit: a detective story (who has done it)..

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Agatha Christie

Interactive word order exercise .

Put the words  into the correct order for each of the sentences below, and replace any missing punctuation.

Tip: you can select words with your mouse, and move them into the answer box. Answer boxes will expand to take your text..

  • as the only creator of  a quarter Agatha Potter, J.K.Christie has many books about Harry Rowling sold as
  • Agatha Christie's many of different novels and plays take in basically situations place , although each one similar is
  • many huge writers has had a influence across Agatha Christie on the world and other dramatists .
  • Indeed, as Agatha Christie has run by this detective thriller for ever like  no other play anything as long
  • as many of people will not become the wonder of London if it a permanent feature as  Houses Parliament
* the Mousetrap

Creative writing

Imagine an interview with Agatha Christie. You are a journalist; the year is 1950, Agatha Christie is already famous.  Think up ten questions to ask her, and imagine her answers..

Notes for teachers

Language point as
the several examples of numerical comparison in the first paragraph using .Pay attention to several other uses of the word as in the article too. 

... as they have only been translated into 68 languages

... the unfortunate realities of life such as work

...solving mysteries as cleverly as any detective has ever done.

... as if detective fiction were not a genre worth talking about

None of his plays has ever run for as long as "The Mousetrap".

... anything like as long as this detective thriller

... as permanent a feature of London as the Houses of Parliament,

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Advanced level English resource
Level - Difficult.
IELTS Level :  7
Flesch-Kincaid  scores
Reading ease level:
55 - Fairly difficult
Grade level: 10.6

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Updated 2017 from an article originally published in Spectrum magazine .
© Linguapress renewed 2020 

Photos  -  Portrait of Agatha Christie. Public domain photo

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