Posts Tagged ‘agatha christie’

“I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun. I put them on and went out of the room.” — Philip Marlow as created by Raymond Chandler in Farewell, My Lovely

Crows: Their flock name is A Murder. — Watercolor by Pat Bean

So Many Lists, So Little Time

I frequently come across lists of recommended books to read, from 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die to The 50 Best Travel Books. There is even a book about book lists, aptly titled A Book of Book Lists: A Bibliophile’s Compendium,

Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep was on one of these lists, so I checked it out of the Library. The book, published the year I was born, with its cynical private eye Philip Marlow, was made into a movie in 1946 starring Humphrey Bogart as Marlow and Lauren Bacall as the leading lady.

As a sample of Chandler’s Marlow character, here are a few bits of his dialog:

“She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket.”

“It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window.”

Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep.

           “A really good detective never gets married.”

           “The kind of lawyer you hope the other fellow has.”

           “When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.”

“The streets were dark with something more than night.”

Chandler wrote seven and a half Marlow novels with the eighth finished by Robert B. Parker (whose Spenser books I also love) after Chandler’s death. Parker died in 2010.

Perhaps because I picked up Sue Grafton’s D is for Deadbeat (published 1987) to read right after I finished The Big Sleep, I decided Grafton probably had might have been influenced by Chandler’s books because I saw similarities between Grafton’s protagonist Kinsey Millhome and Philip Marlow. Both are no-nonsense characters with a strong sense of morals, their own if not society’s, and fiercely independent.

Says Kinsey in V is for Vengence: “I know there are people who believe you should forgive and forget. For the record, I’d like to say I’m a big fan of forgiveness as long as I’m given the opportunity to get even first.” And in F is for Forgiveness: I pictured a section of the ladies’ auxiliary cookbook for Sudden Death Quick Snacks… Using ingredients one could keep on the pantry shelf in the event of tragedy.”

Grafton, meanwhile, was more prolific than Chandler, getting all the way up to Y in her alphabetical murder series before she died two years ago. But even she wasn’t as prolific as another of my favorite dead mystery authors, Agatha Christi. Her characters, the egotistical Hercule Poirot (“Hercule Poirot’s methods are his own. Order and method, and ‘the little gray cells.” – The Big Four), and the old pussy Miss Marple (“Everybody in St. Mary Mead knew Miss Marple; fluffy and dithery in appearance, but inwardly as sharp and as shrewd as they make them.” — 4:50 from Paddington) have enthralled me almost as long as I’ve been reading, which is well over half a century.

So, what are you reading?

Bean Pat: To all the authors, dead and alive, whose characters and thoughts and knowledge have enriched my life. Thank you!

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.


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Agatha Christie on her world tour in 1922.

Agatha Christie on her world tour in 1922.

“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” — Sophia Loren


The Wonderful World of Books

I’m currently reading Diana Athill’s “Somewhere towards the End,” which was written when she was in her late 80s. She’s now 98 and still going. While I’m only in my 70s, I find that Diana’s reflections on life expressed in her book often mirror my own.

Agatha Christie with her surf board in Hawaii.

Agatha Christie with her surf board in Hawaii.

For example, both of us are big readers, and both started our reading adventures focused heavily on fiction. But we both find ourselves reading more and more non-fiction books with each passing year.

Writes Diana: “I am puzzled by something which I believe I share with a good many other oldies. I have gone off novels.” She then goes on to ponder, with no definitive answer, why this is?

Of course I had to ponder the same question. I think it’s because I no longer need to escape from life but am more fully willing to embrace it. But then it’s also because I love surprises, and real life seems to contain just as many, if not more, of them than the make-believe worlds.

For example, I’m a big fan of Agatha Christie’s, whose mysteries often hold many surprises. But the book about her that I’m now reading – The Grand Tour: Around the World with the Queen of Mystery – has also held a few surprises.

The book, which mostly consists of letters to her mother, written while she was on a world tour with her husband in 1922, has also been full of surprises, completely changing my preconceived idea of who Christie was. I think I saw her as an extension of Jane Marple.

But Jane Marple never went surfing, and Agatha Christie loved to surf. I’m not sure why I thought this was so absurd, but the book contained illustrations to prove it.

I don’t know about anyone else, but learning to read is one of the greatest gifts life has bestowed on me. So what’s everyone else reading these days?

Bean Pat: The Iris and the Lily http://tinyurl.com/jy6sqkf This blogger is just beginning her retirement years and she’s off to a great start.


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 “Write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you are writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.” – Agatha Christie


The view out my RV window at Wassamki Springs in Maine. I wanna go back. -- Photo by Pat Bean

NaNoWriMo Update … 40,035 words

First Maggie got the doggie runs. She needed to go out every hour on the hour for the entire night. The consequences of not crawling down from my bed over the cab of my small RV was enough to make sure I kept getting up hour after hour.

So I awoke with very little sleep, and so my writing suffered. My best writing occurs when I am in bed by 10 p.m. and get up and get in front of my computer by 5 or 6 a.m.

Second it was Thanksgiving, and there was family around that needed my attention, or I needed theirs, or whatever. And calls from family far away, and too much eating going on, followed by several games of Settlers, none of which I won.

And so my writing suffered.

Today, with the end of NaNo only five days away, it was back to the keyboard. My decision to demand everyone leave me alone, however, has probably earned me a few black marks in my ledger. It’s the big Christmas decorating-day here at my son’s house in Harker Heights.

My daughter-in-law looked shocked when I refused the call to arms.

The upside, however, is that today I got past the 40,000 word mark. if I write 2,000 words a day for the next five days, I will meet the 50,000-word goal.

What I have going for me is that I think I’ve figured things out in my head on how my story is going to end. And that in my 37 years as a journalist I never missed a deadline.

I’m also thinking that my conclusion might not take the book all the way to 50,000 words, but I’m hoping that’s the case. I have lots of extra scenes in mind to flesh out what is already written. The trick will be to add these scenes without deleting all the unnecessary and redundant words that go into all my first drafts.

It takes much longer to write short than it does long.

So now if you’ll excuse me, I still have writing I can do today. I don’t want to push that deadline beyond my capability.

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Somewhere over the rainbow is Mesa Falls in Idaho -- Photo by Pat Bean

My Favorite Places

 The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes. – Agatha Christie

NaNoWriMo Update … 25,743 words

Two glorious days of writing going well, followed by two miserable days of brain farts. At least I got a little more written these last two miserable days, and thankfully I was ahead of schedule.

Next two days have chunks of missing writing time: Doctor’s appointment, final physical therapy appointment (The therapy for my neck went much better today than the writing.), and drive to my oldest son’s for his the official retirement ceremony from the military after 37 years.

I sure hope Christie was right about writing going on even when you’re not writing. But just in case she’s not, please send words my way.

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