Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born on 15 September 1890 in Torquay, Devon, South West England to an English mother and American father. Agatha loved to read English poetry and began writing poems when she was still a child. Her education was a combination of being tutored at home (mainly by her parents) and then being sent to teaching establishments in Paris and along the way she became an extremely accomplished opera singer and pianist.
In 1912 Agatha met Archie Christie, a qualified aviator who had applied to join the Royal Flying Corps; they soon married. It was war time and Agatha became a nurse at the Red Cross Hospital in Torquay. When the Hospital opened a dispensary, she accepted an offer to work there and completed the examination of the Society of Apothecaries. Thus began her lifelong interest in the use of poisons and made a huge contribution to her first novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles
. The murderer’s use of poison was so well described that Agatha received an unprecedented honour for a writer of fiction – a review in the Pharmaceutical Journal.
During the First World War there were Belgian refugees in most parts of the English countryside, Torquay being no exception. Although he was not based on any particular person, Agatha thought that a Belgian refugee, a former great Belgian policeman, would make an excellent detective for The Mysterious Affair at Styles
. Hercule Poirot was born.
1919 was a momentous year for Agatha. With the end of the war, Archie had found a job in the City and they had just enough to rent a flat in London. Later that year, on the 5th
August, Agatha gave birth to their daughter, Rosalind. It was also the year that publisher, John Lane, contracted Agatha to produce five more books. She went on to be one of the first authors Penguin ever published in paperback, with fantastic results.
Following the war Agatha continued to write and to travel with Archie, though sadly they were later to divorce. Agatha married again, this time to Max Mallowan, the world famous archaeologist – a marriage that would last forty-six years.
By 1930, having written several novels and short stories, Agatha created a new character to act as detective. Miss Jane Marple was an amalgam of several old ladies Agatha used to meet in villages she visited as a child. When she created Miss Marple, Agatha did not expect her to become Poirot’s rival, but with The Murder at the Vicarage
, Miss Marple’s first outing, it appeared she had produced another popular and enduring character.
One of Agatha’s lifelong ambitions had been to travel on the Orient Express; her first journey took place in 1928. The atmosphere of the Middle East was not lost on Agatha, as can be recognised in books such as Murder on the Orient Express
, Death on the Nile
, Murder in Mesopotamia
, Appointment With Death
and They Came to Baghdad
as well as many short stories.
After a hugely successful career and a very happy life Agatha died peacefully on 12 January 1976.
Additional biographies of Agatha Christie are available on Agathachristie.box.com. A chronology of Christie’s life can be found in the appendices. Agatha Christie
by Janet Morgan, published by HarperCollins and Agatha Christie: An English Mystery
by Laura Thompson, published by Headline are the two official biographies.