aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

Maybe I should fake my own disappearance

Friday was Agatha Christie's birthday. [Full disclosure: For many years, I was represented by the literary agency that also represented her estate.] As a Red Cross nurse during Word War I, she started reading detective novels. She was frustrated by how easy it was to guess the murderer, and decided to try to write her own. The Mysterious Affair at Styles was about a series of murders at a Red Cross hospital.

Christie's first few books were moderately successful. In December 1926. Christie went missing for 10 days. There was a nationwide search, and the press covered the disappearance as though it were a mystery novel come to life, inventing scenarios and speculating on the possible murder suspects. Finally Christie turned up in a hotel, suffering from amnesia. By this time, her earlier books sold out of stock and two newspapers began serializing her stories. For the rest of her life, she was a household name and a best-selling author.

Some thoughts:
- Amnesia. Right. She registered under the last name of Neele – the same last name as the woman her husband was having an affair with.
- It’s always easy to guess the killer in a Christie novel. Just pick the one who couldn't possibly have done it.
- In May of 1926, Aimee Semple McPherson (now largely forgotten, founded The Foursquare Church), went missing for several weeks. She had been swimming in the ocean. At first she was presumed drowned. Her followers and her mother mourned her death while newspapers featured the continuing search and rumors of sightings. Then her mother got a ransom note saying she would be sold into “white slavery” if they didn’t pay a half million dollars. A few days later, McPherson showed up in Mexico saying she had been kidnapped. (There were rumors that she had really spent the month shacked up with the church’s radio operator. By all accounts, McPherson was a lusty lady. I remember reading Milton Berle’s autobiography, in which he described trysting with her.) Could Christie have been inspired by what had happened to McPherson?
- When I was a kid, my parents were friends with a man who had suffered amnesia. With the Internet, his kind of thing would be impossible now. But back in the 60s he showed up on the West Coast, saying he did not remember anything about his past except that he worked in radio. He ended up working at the same station as my dad. And eventually it came out that he had "forgotten" all about his wife and four or five kids back east. I loved him with all the passion a six-year-old could muster. For his birthday, I gave him a green rubber rat squeaky toy (I thought it was cool), as well as a card from which I had carefully erased my own name. He gravely accepted them.

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Tags: agatha christie
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