Sunday, 28 March 2021

Poirot Investigates

AuthorAgatha Christie
First Published1924
Pages: 123
Ebook Publisher: HarperCollins
Ebook Date: Oct. 2010

Mention the name "Agatha Christie" to anyone, and even if they are not books fans, there is a good chance they will have heard of her creation, the Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot or one of the novels that he takes part in, such as Murder on the Orient Express, or Death on the Nile. Such is power and success of Christies books that she is still regarded as the Queen of Crime or the Mistress of Mystery. Critically speaking she is bullet-proof. As recently as the year 2000 (nearly 25 years after her death) she was crowned "Best Writer of the Century" and the Hercule Poirot books "Best Series of the Century" at the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention.

Thirteen years later, a staggering six hundred members of the Crime Writers' Association chose her novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd as "the best whodunit ... ever written", and again voted her the "best crime writer"; considering this is coming from an assocaition of professional novelists it is difficult to ignore. And it's no surprise that all of this praise is accompanied by massive commercial success, her books are hot property, not least when it comes to movie and television adaptations. Christie has been lauded as the second most financially successful crime writer of all time in the United Kingdom, sitting firmly behind James Bond author Ian Fleming. Estimated earnings are considered somewhere in the region of £100 million. The Christie estate continues to prosper into the 2020's with projects almost unhindered by the passage of time and tastes. Many of her stories manage to maintain such a grip that they are often produced as period pieces, retaining the settings and historical trappings of their original publication dates.

Sunday, 14 March 2021

Licence Renewed

Author: John Gardner
First Published1981
File size/Pages: 270
Ebook Publisher: Orion
Ebook Date: June 2011

John Gardner was approached by the Gildrose Publication company to take on the writing of a new range of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels in 1979. The first of these to see the light of day was Licence Renewed in 1981. Gardner had been set the task of updating the franchise. It was his idea to bring Bond into the modern age of spying, accompanied by the techniques and gadgetry of the time. Garnder ended up writing fourteen original Bond titles as well as two novelisations (Goldeneye and Licence to Kill).

Although Bond is described as having aged (a slight peppering of grey hair around the temples for example) there is no other indication that he is physically feeling the strain of his previous literary history of the 50's and 60's. He brings with him, minor changes to staffing at MI6 and a car that is, shock-horror, not British. M is still Bond's head of the Secret Intelligence Service; Bill Tanner still the Chief of Staff and Miss Moneypenny still acts as M's personal assistant.

Gardner was born in Northumberland, England in 1926 and passed away aged 80, in 2007. As well as writing James Bond novels, Gardner is also well-known for his series of books starring 'Boysie Oakes' (beginning with The Liquidator in 1964) and a number of books about Sherlock Holmes' nemesis, Professor Moriarty (The Return of Moriarty, 1974). During the Second World War, Gardner served with the Royal Navy and then the Royal Marines. So keen was he to do his bit that before joining the armed services he had even served in the Home Guard at the age of thirteen.

Following the war he was ordained as an Anglican priest, but realised he had made a terrible mistake and left in 1958 to become a drama critic. After reaching rock bottom due to alcoholism he turned to writing and eventually turned out the first of the Boysie Oakes novels in the early sixties.