Is Agatha Christie the best author?

Hello there, I am doing a speech about Agatha Christie, as her novels are some of my absolute favourites. I was just searching for some other opinions on the matter, as several other viewpoints would improve the quality of the speech. Is Agatha the best author? If so, what is your favourite novel and why? Additionally, who do you prefer:- Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple? Personally, I find Poirot's plots more engaging and fun, however I can name many Marple classics also.

Let me know your opinions,
H xx


  • You will find a lot of answers if you scroll through the various discussions on this site. However, I can't resist a question, so I'm writing some of my own thoughts:
    Is Agatha Christie the best author? Well, first of all, what is your reference group? And what is your criterion for comparison? I'd compare her to other female anglo-saxon writers of about the same period - Dorothy Sayers, Margery Allingham, Ngaio Marsh, Patricia Wentworth, Georgette Heyer and others. 
    In terms of character depth and development she is certainly not the greatest, also in terms of creating an atmosphere and literary means (I'd say, of the writers I mentioned, the best is Margery Allingham). However, she is certainly the most fertile, both in sheer bulk of writing and in innovation of plots. Also, she is probably the best in terms of showing us the social conditions and norms of the different periods she wrote in.  
    One of the things she is unique in, is the simplicity of her language. She uses a fairly basic vocabulary and her sentences are simple and clear - this makes her great reading for non-native-english speakers, without detracting from the interest of her books. 
    I agree that the Poirot books are more interesting, but the Marple books I found better at creating a believable society and maintaining our interest in the characters' fate. 
  • Hi @hxrrietdocksey, Your statement is a personal question. I agree with the comments by taliavishay-arbel. In writing your speech, you need to convince your audience that you really believe Agatha Christie is the best author, and you will do that but expressing it in your own words. Select about three books, find something interesting in each of them and tell your audience why you feel AC was good at writing and was able to gain a huge audience for her stories throughout her lifetime. I'm sure many of us here would love to read your finished essay.
  • Hi @hxrrietdocksey, ...In writing your speech, you need to convince your audience that you really believe Agatha Christie is the best author, and you will do that but expressing it in your own words. 

    This reminds me of a quote from "Elephants can remember", when a woman is giving Ariadne Oliver, the Detective story writer, a pep talk:

    ""I listen to you," Albertina had said in her charming, low, foreign voice. "I have listened to what you say to that young man who came from the newspaper to interview you. You have not got--no! you have not got the pride you should have in your work. You should say 'Yes, I write well. I write better than anyone else who writes detective stories.' " 
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    Whether Poirot stories are more interesting or Miss Marple's is subjective, sometimes the Poirot's start in roughly the same position and go in different directions for instance with 2 of the Novels Poirot receives a letter but both books end up quite differently and in at least 2 Poirot is asked by someone to take on a task with different outcomes, Some Poirots and stand alone books are Cosmopolitan and some stand alone books and most Miss Marple books are Metropolitan. I think Agatha Christie is the best Author because her books while in a way primitive and unsophisticated are educational and still relevant today and there are people who are like Christie Characters everywhere. 
  • Thank you all for your feedback, your comments have been very useful. My speech is nearly completed, however I still need to make a few alterations. I shall try to share it, criticism would be appreciated.

    Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie, Lady Mallowan, DBE was an English writer born in Torquay, Devon in 1890, Christie lived an idyllic childhood as the youngest of 3 children, with weekly dance, piano and singing lessons, a huge mansion of a home in Nottingham and many luxurious holidays in France. Often recognised as the 'Queen of Crime' Agatha Christie, in her 85 years, sold approximately 2 billion books, a number only surpassed by the Bible and Shakespeare. Her most popular novels include the hugely acclaimed 'Murder on the Orient Express' and 'And then there were none', both of which were recently televised.
    Christie is best known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections, her website claims Christie to be the worlds best selling author. But is she? According to the internet, Christie's best book is 'And then there were none', with approximately 100 million copies sold. First printed in 1939, it details a series of murders on an island in which each death coincides with a line from an old nursery rhyme, with the seemingly impossible crime explained in Christie's ingenious epilogue. Absolutely in love with the novel, I watched the episodes produced for the BBC in 2015 and fell utterly in love with it. Christie's plots are riveting and so well thought out that it is almost impossible to discover the culprit yourself. 
    Christie invented 2 venerable detectives during her writing career- Mr Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. Miss Marple is a very charming old lady, very gentle and clever. She's always alert, watching and thinking. Poirot is an observer too, also always pays close attention on things and people, always listens and figures out the solution. However, Christie was not very fond of Poirot and apparently wanted to "exorcise herself of him."
    Her curiosity and imagination is believed to have stemmed from the childrens stories of the 19th century, novels such 'Little Women' by Alcott and 'The Railway Children' by Nesbit. The alien influence of the Middle East was also not lost on Agatha, as represented in novels such as 'Death on the Nile' and 'Appointment with Death'. Also, the concept of train travel was a new idea and it interested Agatha hugely, and this interest is relayed through the novel '4:50 from Paddington'. Christie's first novel was actually written as a dare from her sister, the novel was published in 1920 and was called 'The Mysterious Affair at Styles'.
    Agatha had a real appreciation for archaeology and in an interview she once said "Archaeologists only look at what lies beneath their feet. The sky and the heavens don't exist for them", and her second husband was archaeology professor Max Mallowan. They remained together until Agatha passed away from natural causes at the age of 85. Mallowan passed away two years later in 1976 at the age of 74. They lived together at Greenway House in Brixham. The area is now a pulchritudinous National Trust site with endless acres of land including a portion of the beautiful river Dart. The mansion holds countless rooms, all decorated with opulent furniture, charming photogaphs and attractive gardens- all of which are available to be viewed by the public.
    In conclusion, I am of the opinion that Agatha Christie was an outstanding writer of the 20th Century, however I also believe that there have been and there will be more striking authors in the future. According to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), Christie is the most translated author of all time with her novels being translated to over 103 languages. I shall leave it up to you to decide- is she the best author of all time?

  • edited January 2019
    On the whole I like your speech. I would organize it a bit differently - starting with the question about her greatness and the statistics about her selling - number of books and number of languages translated to, and mention the many and long-running plays. Then the short biography, then with her sister's dare, then her most popular books, a bit about her style and the way she crafts her mysteries, then about the two major detectives - and I'd add a bit more about their character - Poirot as something of a dandy, with an extremely high self image, and Miss Marple, in contrast, as a seemingly scatty, fussy village old spinster, always interested in her neighbours' affairs, but actually kind and principled with a razor-sharp mind. And then end with the question about AC being the greatest - in what ways was she the best, her strengths and weaknesses, and leaving it to the hearers to decide.
  • BOOT88BOOT88 San Antonio,USASAT
    edited February 2019
    Agatha Christie was possibly a racist or just another "privilged " person. Her most successful novel was originally titled "Ten Little Niggers" and published in UK. The title was changed (1939( when the novel was published in the US. This titled was connected to a "blackface minstrel " song that was highly popular in UK and Europe. I do not think Christie is the best writer of all time. Yes, her novels are very popular, but from her prejudicial views which are threaded throughout her writings, Christie displays a lack of racial sensitivity.
  • Being a racist and being a great author are not mutually exclusive, unless the bias affects the writing. E.g., Taylor Caldwell was a great writer in my opinion, but in books where she lets her (pro McCarthy) political opinions dominate the book, it becomes weaker.

    As to the racism - I agree, there is a measure of racism in AC's books. I once checked references to Jewish people in her books, and in almost every case, a person identified as Jewish, Mosaic, Hebrew or with Jewish features was described as cunning, vulgar or unpleasant. Overtly she was very much against antisemitism, but her bias shows in her writing. 

    As for her being THE greatest - even as a mystery writer, I don't think she is the greatest - certainly not if you look at all her books (though some, like "The Hollow", are much greater than others). But she is certainly the most popular, and she is certainly a very good professional writer. 

    AC herself never claimed literary merit - she saw herself as a craftswoman rather than an artist when it came to her writing. 
  • @BOOT88 I think you have to make allowances for the period in which the author wrote the novel. The same book title or poem you quote would not be acceptable today, however, you can review many other author's works and find the same instances. Society today is very different from that of the 1930s.
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