Weird serendipity. That is how Sophie Hannah got the approval from the Christie family and began writing Poirot novels. Sophie’s maverick literary agent sowed these ideas into the mind of a HarperCollins editor, who immediately rejected the idea. A thorough fan of Agatha Christie, Sophie would have loved to stay that way, but this preposterous idea and the quick rejection changed something in her. As if, the universe knew it, she received a call the next stay when Christie’s family wanted to meet Sophie. The meeting turned out to be a pleasant surprise because the Christie family wanted Sophie to write the Poirot novels.
The first problem in doing that was Agatha had killed Poirot in 1975 her novel Curtain. Sophie had to find a way to bring him back. So, instead of resurrecting him from the dead, she sets her novels in the years 1928 to 1932 during which Agatha did not write any Poirot novel and his whereabouts were not mentioned in the later ones. When she decided to do this, Sophie knew certainly that she was only going to write some more of Poirot novels and not Agatha Christie novels.
Sophie loves Agatha and Poirot. So, when it came to writing a Poirot novel, it was more like writing about someone she knew personally. But since she wasn’t trying to be Agatha, she had to create a new narrative and that was how Edward Catchpool was born. Sophie didn’t want Catchpool to be a mere sidekick with no skills at being a detective. So unlike Hastings, Catchpool too is a good detective but just not as good as Poirot and he also learns from the best man.
Sophie also observes how different she is from Agatha while plotting a murder. Sophie usually resorts to easy murders. Agatha, on the other hand, dwelled into the methods of murders. She was a pharmacist and was fascinated by poison. She knew all about them. She even had a Dentistry-based murder novel.
Even after a 100 years have gone by since she published her first book, Agatha continues to reign as the unchallenged queen of Crime fiction. Many crime fiction writers have come and gone during these years, but she still is the best. She had a lot of structural ideas of how to have a crime fiction written and she implemented them too. Her ideas advanced the genre. She had a magical style of writing. Sophie Hannah says when she began reading Agatha at 12, she found the book simple and readable. Now at the age of 47, when she re-reads them she finds them intellectually challenging. That is the speciality of Agatha.
Brushing away questions concerning the literary success of Agatha as against her commercial success, Sophie remarked that a literary novel should be more than just telling a story. According to Sophie, Agatha’s book does just that. Agatha was interested in human nature and psychology and her books give insights into human behaviour. She was also so interested in the form that she was writing in, that the genre advanced with every book she wrote. In the book, Five Little Pigs, Agatha presents the viewpoint of different characters, a format which was way ahead of her times.
Writing the Poirot novels has turned Sophie into a Christie-Missionary. She keeps travelling across the world, meeting fans of Agatha Christie, and talking to them about her. While Sophie’s next Poirot novel is slated for release in 2020, following were her recommendations for beginners in Agatha Christie world of crime fiction.
1) Evil Under the Sun
2) Murder on the Orient Express
3) The Hollow
4) Three act tragedy
5) The ABC Murders
About the Author – Jeevanayagi Ganapathy is Founder Editor and Writer at Bookstalkist.