The Real-life Agatha Christie Mystery
How did the world’s favourite crime writer become involved in a mystery of her very own?
Agatha Miller was born in 1890, the youngest child of a wealthy American businessman. But after her father contracted double pneumonia, he was unable to provide for his young family and sank into a depression, dying when Agatha was only eleven.
The poverty-stricken Millers almost lost their home as a result. The lesson was a harsh one for the young Agatha, and her continuing sense of financial insecurity was later to have disastrous consequences.
At a dance in Devon in 1912, Agatha, now an attractive tewnty-two-year-old, met a tall, dashing young army officer. Archibald Christie had trained at the Royal Woolwich Military Academy in London and had been posted to Exeter soon after he had been commissioned.
Over the next two years, they slowly fell in love. When war broke out in 1914, Archie was sent to France. During his first return on leave later that year, the couple quickly got married. While Archie served in Europe, Agatha became a voluntary nurse at the Red Cross Hospital in Torquay and spent her many free hours (not many casualties were sent to Torquay) reading hundreds of detective stories.
She was desperate to be a writer like her elder sister Madge, whom she idolized and whose stories were regularly published in Vanity Fair. In a moment of inspiration Madge challenged her to write a good detective story, Agatha’s favourite genre.
At the time, Torquay was full of Belgian refugees, and her first story featured a Belgian detective – one Hercule Poirot – who would become one of the most popular fictional detective characters in the world.
After the war ended, Archie started work at the Air Ministry in London, and the couple had a daughter in 1919. The Christies were struggling to make ends meet and so Agatha decided to approach a publisher with The Mysterious Affair at Styles, her first novel.