Wednesday, August 30, 2017

AGATHA AND ME by E.E. Kennedy

Who has had an influence on you?

By E.E. Kennedy
(A slightly tongue-in-cheek comparison)
A small sample from my complete collection
         A few years ago, there was a best-selling book and popular movie called, Julie and Julia, about the influence famous Chef Julia Child unknowingly had on a young woman’s life. It’s a familiar theme, since most of us have our heroes. And mine has always been Agatha Christie.
         I remember my first Christie. I found it in the high school library when I was in the eighth grade. It was the title that intrigued me: Mrs McGinty’s Dead, apparently taken from a macabre British children’s rhyme—many of her titles are from nursery rhymes. It wasn’t Christie’s iconic character Hercule Poirot that interested me, it was the plot and the clever way she put clues right out in the open for the reader to see, but of course, the reader overlooks them. She fooled me, and I loved it! From then on, I was hooked, and read every one of her books I could get my hands on. (I liked them all, except for two rather dark ones: And Then There Were None and Endless Night.)
         I like to give talks about mysteries and recently I explained that I began writing mysteries myself because I ran out of Agatha Christies. Of course, there are other mystery/suspense authors I enjoy: Mary Stewart, Patricia Wentworth, Charlotte MacLeod, Rex Stout, Georges Simenon, among others. But when it comes to plotting, Agatha’s the champ.
         I’m such a fan that I have seen all of what I consider the best portrayals of my favorite Christie characters, Miss Marple, played by Joan Hickson (Christie actually predicted that she’d play Marple one day!) and David Suchet, who WAS Poirot in a series lasting 24 years!
         Alas, Dame Agatha and I never met. I understand that she was rather shy and found the adoration of her countless fans embarrassing. There’s the first similarity between us. Not that I have countless adoring fans, but I am a teensy bit shy. I am an American and she was half-American on her father’s side. She had a sister and a brother, as do I. She read voraciously as a child, and enjoyed the works of children’s author, E. Nesbit. What a coincidence! So did I!
         Here’s where our paths diverge somewhat: she helped nurse injured soldiers during WWI--and I wasn’t even born yet. She became an expert on drugs and medications (ie. poisons), a knowledge that she used to good advantage in her books. I take the occasional ibuprophen and am proud that I know how to spell it.
         Agatha’s first marriage ended in a breakup. I’ve been luckier. I’m still married to my first husband. Her second marriage to archaeologist Max Mallowan, I’m pleased to say, was a long and happy one. She accompanied him on many of his digs in exotic foreign places and used the atmosphere that she soaked up in some of her stories. I have accompanied my husband to many conventions around country and have manned his company booth. We even traveled out of the country to a convention in Toronto. I soaked up what I could and incorporated a French-Canadian character nicknamed the Millionaire from Montreal in my Miss Prentice cozy mystery series. Granted, Toronto and Montreal are rather different cities, but still—hello, Canadian!
         The Great Lady and I converge again when it comes to photographs. The older I get, the less I like pictures of myself. Agatha felt the same. She even went so far as to complain that the unretouched publicity photos of herself taken at age fifty-nine made her look seventy. I am always disappointed in my photos, but I do take advantage of the miracles of modern cosmetics. They do wonders (not to mention Photoshop)!
         I am by no means trying to claim that my work compares to hers. What I am saying is that the key to good writing, in my opinion, is to read good writing. It’s how you learn to use the language, to plot, to create three-dimensional characters and make your readers happy.
         Agatha Christie wrote her first full-length mystery because her sister dared her to. I issue a similar challenge: read, read, read what you enjoy and take a crack at writing. You might might be surprised at what you can accomplish.

Ellen Kennedy, aka E.E. Kennedy is the author of the Miss Prentice Cozy Mystery series. Leave a comment below, along with your EMAIL ADDRESS, and you will be entered in a drawing to win an eBook copy of the Miss Prentice mystery of your choice!



  1. Interesting write up! Ellen, I enjoyed reading this! You know, I think I only read one Agatha Christie and that was years and years ago. I wonder why I didn't anymore of them? Maybe I'll have to to try her out.

  2. I started reading Agatha Christie in middle school, too, and loved her stories. I figure I've read all of them. :-)

  3. Ellen, I think I've read all of Agatha Christie's stories, and enjoyed each of them. I still recall reading Ten Little Indians when I was alone overseas in the Air Force--started it at 8 PM and read all night (with the lights on, of course) to finish it. Thanks for the reminder about her work--I've read all yours, and enjoy them a lot.

  4. Very interesting to see your similarities. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I started reading Agatha Christie mysteries in junior high , and systematically read through every one I could get my hands on ! I agree that reading is the key to knowledge , I encourage my kids and grandkids to read anything and everything to have a broader scope of the world .

  6. My first Christie didn't come until a couple years ago because I hadn't read mysteries at all (I was a purely classics and historical fiction girl). My daughter insisted I read Murder on the Orient Express, and I was hooked!
    Thanks for the opportunity:

  7. I love Agatha Christie. Her books were my first grown up mysteries. I'm pretty sure the first was THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD. 😉

  8. I also love Agatha Christie. The first one of her mysteries I read was The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. I also like the Joan Hickson portrayal of Miss Marple and David Suchet's portrayal of Poirot.

  9. I love all thing Agatha, too. Our favorite is David Suchet's Poirot! I have read many of those books, also. I have read the first four books in your series and look forward to more! I even requested that our library purchase them. I really enjoyed your comparison/ contrast to Dame Agatha! Happy Writing! I want to read the next one! Thanks.

  10. Oops email address: paulams49ATsbcglobalDOTnet

  11. She really did start the cozy mystery, didn't she?

  12. I haven't read Agatha; however, I did grow up reading Phyllis Whitney and Mary Stewart. I've always enjoyed mystery/suspense.

  13. I always read mysteries. Still do! Thanks for the lovely post!

  14. I tend to read more suspense then straight-up mysteries. That's not to say I don't enjoy them :-) Really enjoyed your post and learned a thing or three!

    I also have two of the Miss Prentice Cozy Mysteries on my Kindle but not all. Thanks for the chance to win one to add to the collection!

    teamob4 (at) gmail (dot) com