Tuesday, 1 August 2017


I never liked the nasty little Belgian hero of Agatha Christie's books, but I'm watching the TV movies on YouTube in preference to the summer quiz shows on German TV.

I suppose Poirot is one of the all-time greats in fictional detective novels. Agatha Christie must have liked him .... Many people seem to find him endearing - but not me.

That got me thinking. So you have to like the characters in your novels? I mean the books you write, not read. When you invent a character, it is bland and useful - that's why he or she as been created. Characters in books tend to have a primary dramaturgical function. Questions of character come up later, especially if the person is a goodie. Baddies are usually easier to invent because it's the bad side of their nature that is needed rather than a cavernous exploration of their characteristics. We are talking about plots, after all.

We have to count fictional detectives as good unless proved evil, which would normally contradict the plot and entail consorting them to the criminals - a step the author will not take until someone other character can step in - and of course, having created a decent detective, we don't want to kill him off, do we? So we get bad cops (always good for a crime if left to their own devices or given the opportunity), but mainly good and often law-abiding fictional detectives.

I would have got rid of Poirot very quickly. He shuffles through the movies (and books), likes things very neat and tidy, is revoltingly vain and - dare I say it -. boring. He solves most of his crimes by getting people together in a drawing room and holding a speech, at the end of which the crime is solved to everyone's satisfaction like pulling the rabbit out of the proverbial hat. Even getting the guilty into that drawing room seems to me to be extremely constucted rather than inventive, especially when you have watched the device numerous times, Too many of M. Poirot's thought processes and conclusions are simply left out so that the denouement effect is more dramatic.

But Poirot battles on with his little grey cells apparently ticking away and producing at least one brain-wave per book.


One of the most useful things about writing is that you can draw on and use personal experiences in a way that does not reveal whether they are fact or fiction. This blog entry is triggered by the "Appointment with death" film that I am watching at the moment. I suspect that it incorporates a lot of Christie's experiences as the wife of an archaeologist (and remember that she 'disappeared' in real life for 2 weeks, getting away from her marriage  - WE KNOW NOT what she did instead).

So Christie transports Poirot to an archaeological dig and that's where the character becomes a puzzle! Poirot is vain about his appearance and hates the heat. He seems to be on his own - why on earth would such a character want to sleep in a tent, get sand in his shoes and sweat permanently (he dabs his sweaty face in the film)? Why did Christie do that to him, poor man?   Should I read the book to find out how many of the details in the film have been cleverly invented by the film director?

After a good deal of the kind of society hobnobbing Christie often allows Poirot (society's shrewdest foreigner) to indulge in, he gets to the dig along with the persons who are later (I assume) to be revealed as suspects all with a motive to kill this one unpleasant woman they are hobnobbing with on an open truck driving through intense heat to the dig with very little access to water, and lo and behold, the woman, arguably the most unpleasant character, gets killed and we are left half way through the movie with a justifiably dead character in a deck chair in a lookout at the top of a ladder Poirot does not climb though actually he should have to inspect the body at first hand (since that's what detectives do). We have Poirot still in the Egyptian desert behaving commendably the way we would expect him to and continuing the fastidiousness in the face of desert beetles and flies and apparent lack of water.

I'll stop unravelling the plot there because that's as far as I have watched!

I would not have the gaul to knock Agatha Christie. It is simply amazing how many stories she churned out on Poirot's back. These days we have an author churning out books in which an Agatha is the detective, but Christie's grammar is better. The fascination of readers (and viewers) for the never-ending character in charge is a reason to keep on inventing stories. It happened with Sherlock Holmes, so much so that authors are still writing fake Holmes mysteries without having the chore of inventing the character first!

I really prefer the idea of a scarf-knitting Miss Marple and close this essay with a comment on the fact that Christie hated the casting of M Rutherford as Miss Marple since she did not invent her as an unpretty person who solves mysteries despite herself and had curiously erotic meetings with other characters - something rather alien to Rutherford at least from the appearance point of view (but that trait is contradicted in Rutherford's biography where she emerges as a surprisingly sex-oriented person).  The point is that the characters an author creates are alive and kicking! The character study of Suchet as Poirot in the TV films is truly admirable - he never drops the act even for a second, so that I wonder if it is not he as Poirot that makes the films worth watching. Would Agatha Christie have approved of his casting?

I could cite a personal experience of this casting thing - I will, too. The Inspector Barnaby films are being shown with German dubbing, but I can't watch the ones made before the actor (name forgotten, sorry) who made the most recent films stepped into the role, because he is Barnaby for me (and those are the episodes I saw first), not the upstart who did the role previously. It has to be an optical element that bothers me because the dubbing is done by the same voice!

And talking of dubbing: Everything is dubbed here - that's one reason Germans don't speak English as well - subtitles help to learn a language, not dubbing (especially when it is driving me bonkers by not actually translating what the dialogue says - as is only too often the case - forcing me to switch off).
A little story confirms the effect of dubbing. An old lady I knew ages ago liked watching Cary Grant movies because - as she said - he spoke such nice German..........


Thanks for reading, if you could be bothered!

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