Tag Archives: agatha christie

What a Dame

As some of you may know, I’m a devoted reader of crime/mystery/detective books.  Among their authors, Agatha Christie stands, for me, not only tallest, but somehow in … a class by herself.  Of course the plots are devilish.  But along with that — and despite that — her narration just has the most natural quality, with Humour at every turn.   Before she was Agatha Christie, here is Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller …

Agatha_Christie_as_a_child_No_1

My particular problem, however, is that … I have a MOST challenged memory, when it comes to keeping track of what is going on in a mystery book.  So, like all Christies, the first time I read Lord Edgware Dies, I was just totally at sea.

Pback cover 645827

I have just finished reading it again, for the second time.  (Or perhaps the third?)  In a way, it was even more fun, because I remembered enough not to feel completely flummoxed, yet still was fuzzy on a good part of the goings on.

Oh, here is how the book looked upon its American introduction, in magazine installments Dickens-style.  Thirteen For Dinner (or for the book, Thirteen At Dinner) was the original American title.  M. Poirot is so proud of les moustaches!

American-13-for-Dinner

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What a difference an apostrophe makes. Or does it?

What do all these books have in common?

Parker - Lullaby 13269092

Ludlum 9781455519422_p0_v1_s260x420

CHRISTIE MonogramMurdersCover_Final (660x1024)

refusal 17707494

As I hope you saw (but as the publisher probably wishes you hadn’t), each of these books was written, NOT by the famous author (probably no longer with us) emblazoned on the top, but by the relative nonentity whose name is hidden away at the bottom.

Why does this kind of cover layout make me so angry?  To begin with, of course, I don’t like to be hoodwinked.  But it goes deeper than that.  I feel that the writing style of any human being is as distinctive as his or her fingerprints.  Try as another writer may to deal with the same themes, have the same characters, and so forth … an essential part of the book — how it is written — will be missing for me.

I will, however, admit that my “fingerprint” theory has never been put to the test.  The trouble is that by the time I open “Robert B. Parker’s Lullaby“, or any such “apostrophe” book, I am already so upset that I cannot give the book an unbiased reading.  What I need to do, is take a friend to a bookstore or library.  The friend will choose a book unread by me — either a book really by the celebrated author that I know and love, or an apostrophe book.  Then — without spilling the beans — he or she will open the book and hand it to me.  I will read a few pages, and issue my opinion of the book’s authenticity.  If it turns out that I have trouble distinguishing the ersatz writer from the original one, … well, I will have to eat my hat.

If you, faithful blog reader, care to do one such exercise, I can now put myself in the position of aforesaid “friend”.  Below are two opening excerpts.  One is from Under Orders, a book really by Dick Francis.  The other is from “Dick Francis’s Refusal” (pictured above), by his son Felix Francis.  (To make things as uniform as possible, both books feature the same protagonist, Sid Halley.)  Which is which?  Obviously, it will help if, as I have, you have read some of Francis’ “real” books.  (Though if Refusal were one of them, it would help too much!)  But even if you’ve never read Dick Francis, you might still get my quiz right, just by having a good built-in “knockoff meter”.

Excerpt #1:

Refusal Ff p01

Refusal FF p02

Excerpt #2:

Under Orders DF p01

Under Orders DF p02

Under Orders DF p03

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