A snap quiz, crime fans.


Who wrote this?

“…He was objectin’ to this gentleman spittin’ on the floor.”

Or here’s an easier one:

“I gave half a crown to a beggar because I saw him yawn; he was a fellow-sufferer.”

This is the novel form of the great movie line game.

The answer here is John Buchan’s The Thirty-nine Steps. Everyone knows the Hitchcock film version with Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll.

Buchan’s wife hated the film but Buchan was easygoing. He thought it an excellent movie.

The trouble with a movie is that it doesn’t have time for dialogue like this:

“I got the first hint in an inn on the Achensee in Tyrol. That set me inquiring, and I collected my other clues in a fur-shop in the Galician quarter of Buda, in a Strangers’ club in Vienna, and  an little bookshop off the Racknitzstrasse in Leipzig.”

Of course the big thing you miss in the movie is Buchan’s never equalled description of Scotland’s rural landscape. One picture, even by Hitchcock, is not worth  a thousand words of John Buchan.

These thoughts furrowed my brow this week after viewing Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case on TV. He and Captain Hastings (Hugh Fraser) were back at Styles where it all started during the First World War. The Mysterious Affair at Styles was published in 1920 and Agatha Christie produced one or two books every year until 1975.

Curtain  seemed a most difficult novel to dramatize, but it worked out OK; at least what I saw before I fell asleep. It wasn’t distorted all out of proportion like so many TV versions. The Sittaford Mystery, published in 1931, had Miss Marple played by Geraldine McEwan, that actress who looks like something out of a Wonga ad. Miss Marple was not in the book. Instead a young woman named Emily Trefusis solves the crime; the young man she is to marry was arrested for the murder of his uncle. The Body in the Library, first published in 1942, was given a crude re-writing for the Geraldine McEwen version.

During her lifetime Mrs Christie saw Margaret Rutherford play Miss Marple in a series of films loosely based on her tales. Apparently she did not mind. She became quite friendly with Margaret Rutherford.

But what would the exceedingly straight-laced Agatha think about lesbians suddenly entering her story? They don’t add anything to it. In Murder At the Vicarage, published in 1930, with Miss Marple played by the Wonga lady again,  the adaptors seemed to go crazy. We see Miss Marple being in love with a man who was killed in the First World War. She kisses his photograph. Worse than this Miss Marple is seen reading Raymond Chandler’s The Simple Art of Murder, and then his Farewell My Lovely. She would never do that. Chandler didn’t like Agatha Christie. St Mary Mead was the exact opposite of Bay City, California.

Well, Poirot is gone now. But what about Miss Marple? I think I would like to write a new Marple. Agatha used many of her experiences to give her settings for her books. Her second marriage to Max Mallowan sent her off on several archaeological  expeditions in the Middle East, but she never used her youthful obsession with surfing. Mrs Christie was what could be called a pioneer of surfing. When she first married the dashing aviator Archie Christie she went with him to Africa where she discovered   surfboard riding. They then went to Australia where she pursued the sport. Colonel Christie then had to go to Canada, but Agatha didn’t go with him. She went to California instead, for the surf.

I wonder what the Colonel thought of that. This trip should have been a second honeymoon and there she was dodging off to ride surfboards , and with whom? No wonder Archie did a bunk. And where was Agatha? Her whereabouts is a mystery. I think she went surfing somewhere.

Anyway, I’ll make my Miss Marple a youthful looker visiting California. She will solve several murders of silent movie stars.

Look out for it – Miss Marple Rides the Banzai Pipeline.

Meanwhile my Murder In A Cold Climate is available to buy now – while stocks last.



Filed under Books, Crime Novelists, Crime Novels, writing

2 responses to “A snap quiz, crime fans.

  1. alexander reynolds

    Mr. Stan, check out The Last of Sheila (1973)

  2. Pingback: On This Day In 1976 – Crime Writer Agatha Christie Dies |

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