Boxing Day and TV

I don’t know about you, but I was so glad to have a lovely lazy day at home today – just eating leftovers and watching TV. I was quite disappointed that the Agatha Christie this year is an updated ABC Murders. John Malkovich as Poirot is very different from David Suchet’s version, very much rougher, but I did enjoy seeing the wonderful De La Warr Pavillion in Bexhill again, always a joy – especially in reality but I haven’t been to Bexhill for years. The ABC Murders is set in 1933 and the De La Warr didn’t exist then as it wasn’t built until 1935. Just a bit of nit-picking on my part!

The contrast between the immaculate art deco building and the sleazy poorer quarters featured is stark. You can almost smell the damp. Whoever has the job of designing such settings triumphed – peeling wallpaper and all. On the whole though I found this new version to be painfully slow, but I’ll no doubt be watching the second part tomorrow night.

Before the ABC Murders I enjoyed watching The Midnight Gang. I haven’t read any of David Walliams’ books but this TV adaptation was definitely worth watching, for kids of all ages.

I didn’t have any time for looking at anything on TV before today really and I see that on the 23rd I missed something called Agatha and the Truth of Murder. I’m wondering if it’s worth watching it on the iPlayer. Let me know what you thought of it if you watched it please.

I have to say that on Christmas Eve I chose to watch entirely the wrong thing. I’m not at all religious nowadays but I do love all the old familiar carols. Unfortunately I tuned in to the BBC service – big mistake as it came from Buckfast Abbey, there were no carols at all. Everything was chanted and a lot of it was in Latin! Sometimes it’s difficult to figure out whether things are RC or very high Church of England, but Buckfast must be RC, however I thought they had given up on the Latin in the 1960s so I don’t know what that was all about. Nothing resembling a good old carol was sung, in fact nothing was really sung – just chanted. I can’t imagine why the ‘high heid-yins’ in the BBC would think that it would be appreciated by many viewers. Yes the setting of the abbey is very grand, the costumes (chasubles and such) worn are sumptuous. But it missed the festive mark by miles. Clearly I should have been on ITV but I gave up and went to bed.

Have I missed anything worth watching?

More book purchases

More Lovely Books

I’ve often seen copies of King Albert’s Book but as they’re over 100 years old they’re quite often in bad shape with torn pages, missing illustrations (they’re sort of tipped in) or drawn on. The book was sold in aid of the Belgian refugees at the beginning of World War 1 and published by The Daily Telegraph in conjunction with The Daily Sketch and The Glasgow Herald so there are quite a lot of them about. Basically it contains words of support for the Belgian people from many of the great and good of the day. There are illustrations by Edmund Dulac and Arthur Rackham to name a couple, pieces of music written by Elgar and Debussy and others. I bought it for all of £3. Beside it was a copy of Queen Alexandra’s Christmas Gift Book which I’ve never seen before. Again, this was sold for charity, but was published in 1908. She was apparently a keen photographer so it’s full of paper copies of many of her photos, tipped in as if they were in a photo album. There are a lot of family groups – the Empress of Russia appears a lot, but there are also photos of fjords and other places she visited and ships, including The Nimrod which was Captain Shackleton on his way to the South Pole in 1907. Another three quid – what a snip!

also:

Books, Books, Books

The Glory of the Garden – snippets from Country Life magazine over the years.

The Strongest Weapon by Notburga Tilt (an Austrian Resistance member in WW2 – signed.)

Dunbar’s Cove by Borden Deal. I’ve never even heard of this book but it seems to be well liked on Goodreads. I’m shocked to see that a copy with the dust jacket just like mine is on sale on Amazon for over £220. Mine cost £1.

Now comes a clutch of crime fiction.

The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie
Peril at End House by Agatha Christie
Penhallow by Georgette Heyer (I’ve already read this one but I didn’t have a copy)
The Doomed Five by Carolyn Wells

Lastly some children’s books.

The House in Cornwall by Noel Streatfeild
The Spanish Letters by Mollie Hunter
The Sprig of Broom by Barbara Willard
These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Three of those are Puffin books and I have a feeling that I might just have inadvertently started a bit of a collection as I think I bought a couple a few weeks ago.

Problem at Pollensa Bay by Agatha Christie

Problem at Pollensa Bay is a collection of eight short stories by Agatha Christie. They were written between the years 1925 up to 1971 and they feature Poirot and Parker Pyne as detectives. As you would expect, they’re all entertaining and for me anyway this book made perfect bedtime reading.

The eight stories are:

Problem at Pollensa Bay (1936)
The Second Gong (1932)
Yellow Iris (1936)
The Harlequin Teaset (1971)
The Regatta Mystery (1936)
The Love Detectives (1926)
Next to a Dog (1929)
Magnolia Blossom (1925)

Yellow Iris, which was first published in Strand Magazine was expanded into the novel Sparkling Cyanide in 1945. I’ve seen it umpteen times on TV with Poirot as the detective, but I think it would still be interesting to read it, just to see how Christie went about padding it out into novel size. Also the blurb says that the book doesn’t feature Poirot, so now I’m intrigued. I plan to read that one sometime anyway.

The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie

The Mystery of the Blue Train was first published in 1928 and I believe that Agatha Christie didn’t think too highly of it, but I think she was being harsh on herself, I enjoyed it. I read her autobiography when it first came out, I’m shocked to say about 38 years ago now and I have a vague memory that she said she wrote one book because she had a hefty gas bill to pay and no means to pay it with! This may have been the one.

Anyway, from early on Christie managed to dupe me because there was one character who hailed from St Mary Mead – aha thought I – it’s a Miss Marple book, but I was wrong, it’s a Poirot. Poirot is described as a little man with an egg-shaped head and fierce moustaches.

The story involves theft, murder and unfaithful men, I suspect that that last bit was Mr Christie’s contribution!

Recent Book Purchases


Yet again, I had banned myself from the library to concentrate on my own books, but a visit to the adjoining museum shop to buy a card ended up with me sloping into the library and of course I was seduced by some new books, but it was the unplanned book buying which was quite spectacular. In January it seems that every time I went out of the house I came back with books which I wasn’t even looking for – honest!

A visit to an antiques centre ended up with me buying the lovely Folio editions of the Mapp and Lucia books by E.F. Benson. I have them all but just in paperback so I couldn’t resist these, especially as they were so incredibly cheap. I’m not going to tell you exactly how cheap, I don’t wish to cause pain!

A mooch around some Edinburgh charity shops ended up with me buying the Penguin crimes.
The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie
The Mask of Glass by Holly Roth
Cork on the Water by McDonald Hastings

I also bought It Ends with Revelations by Dodie Smith. Has anyone read this one? I’ve only read I Capture the Castle, which I really enjoyed. Then when I saw a pristine hardback of All Our Worldly Goods by Irene Nemirovsky I had to buy that too.

In the Scottish bookshop in Dunfermline I couldn’t pass up on
Children of the Tempest by Neil Munro and
The Selected Travel Writings of Robert Louis Stevenson called Dreams of Elsewhere.

Taking my library books back I swore I wasn’t going to borrow any more books, well I stuck to that but I couldn’t help just glancing at the bookshelves which hold the books for sale, Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym jumped out at me – really it did!

A trip to St Andrews saw me bringing back:
The Angel in the Corner by Monica Dickens, I haven’t read anything by her for getting on for 40 years, hard to belive it but true.
I also bought The McFlannels See It Through which is the second book in a humorous Scottish wartime series, but I don’t have the first one yet.

A trip to Linlithgow saw me buying:
The Children of the New Forest by Captain Marryat. It’s a children’s classic which I’ve never got around to reading. Of course it’s set in the English Civil War, which historians now recognise involved the whole of Britain, some of them are now calling it the War of the Three Kingdoms.

Also Nan of Northcote by Doris A Pocock, which is set in a girls school and was published in 1929. It cost me all of £1 and it could be absolute garbage but I love the cover.

My favourite and most expensive purchase was:
Scottish Gardens by Sir Herbert Maxwell, published in 1908 and it has lovely illustrations of some gardens which I’ve visited. I’m sure some of them don’t exist any more but I’m going to track them down and visit the ones I can, to see how they have changed over the years. The book is a beauty and was still a bargain, it’s for sale on the internet for much more than I paid for it. I’ve also discovered that the author was Gavin Maxwell’s grandfather. When I was a teenager I loved his nature books which are set in Scotland.

As you can see, I’ve got to get on with my reading!

The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

This one was first published in 1930 and is apparently the first one in which Miss Marple appears, it has been dramatised for TV in fact I’ve seen it umpteen times but I still enjoyed the book. The story is told by the vicar of St Mary Mead, Mr Len Clements but the whole book is very dialogue heavy, which must have made dramatising it so easy as Christie is very good at dialogue with a perfect ear for the differences in speech of the various classes of those days.

Colonel Protheroe is much disliked in the village so when he is found dead in the vicar’s study, sitting at his desk, there are plenty of possibilities as to who the culprit might be.

The relationship between the vicar and his much younger wife Griselda is a lovely one with Griselda’s light-hearted personality – on paper everything that a vicar’s wife shouldn’t be – perfectly complementing her husband’s necessarily more serious attitude, but he is obviously besotted with her, a great couple of characters.

In general the books are always better than the TV shows but I must admit to loving the period clothes, jewellery, handbags and hats, all very stylish, whether the setting is 1930s, 40s, or even 1950s, although that isn’t my favourite decade.

If you haven’t seen the most recent TV Murder at the Vicarage you can see it on you tube below.

Lord Edgware Dies by Agatha Christie / and William McIlvanney

I went straight from reading Blyton’s Famous Five books to Agatha Christie and it is decades and decades since I read any of her mysteries (apart from a slim volume called Black Coffee which was originally a play and was worked up into a book by Charles Osborne.)

I’ve seen quite a few people have been reading Christie so when I saw this one in my library I thought I would give it a go and see if I still found her work to be enjoyable. It was quite a surprise to me that I did enjoy this one as I had read a few snidey newspaper articles, basically saying her books were only for those of little intelligence and even smaller vocabulary. I had seen a version of this book dramatised for TV but I think it was quite different from the book. You’ve probably seen it too but the book is still worth reading. It’s a Poirot and Hastings book, the tale being told by Hastings and of course Inspector Japp pops up too, but his character is somewhat less chummy and amusing than the Japp of TV fame.

I thought that crime fiction fans might be interested to read the William McIlvanney article which appeared in today’s Guardian. I loved his books when they were first published in the 1970s. He managed to capture the atmosphere of Glasgow in print, which is more than can be said of Denise Mina whose books are set in Glasgow but are completely devoid of any Glaswegian class, gallusness and banter, something which I find unforgivable as a Glaswegian myself. McIlvanney is apparently the forgotten man of Tartan Noir, what a shame. He inspired Ian Rankin to write his Rebus series, transferring the setting to Edinburgh, the city which he has experience of.

Agatha Christie – Guardian Review article

If you are a fan of Agatha Christie you might be interested in reading the article by Sophie Hannah which appeared in the Guardian Review today. You can view it here.

The Affair Next Door by Anna Katharine Green

This book was first published in 1897 so it’s an early detective novel but well worth reading if you enjoy that sort of thing, which I do. I downloaded this one from girlebooks.

Miss Butterworth is a genteel and fairly well-heeled spinster of the parish of Granmercy Park in New York and she likes to keep an eye on the movements of her neighbours. (Who does that remind me of?!) When she sees a couple entering a house across the road very late at night she wonders what’s going on. She knows that the house owner is away and the house is empty.

In the morning she forces a policeman to enter the house and they discover the body of a young woman under a large cabinet. Who is she? Is it murder or suicide?

Miss Butterworth has no great faith in the detective who is investigating the case, Mr Gryce, and she determines to carry our her own inquiries.

There are lots of twists and turns in this book to keep you interested and there’s humour too in the character of Miss Amelia Butterworth. I can’t help thinking that Agatha Christie probably read this book and came up with her English spinster, Miss Marple as a consequence. I hope to read more books by Anna Katharine Green.

The Unfinished Clue by Georgette Heyer

This book was first published in 1933 and for some reason seems much more like an Agatha Christie book than the others which I’ve read by Heyer. So if you’re a fan of Christie you’ll probably really enjoy this one. I didn’t dislike it but I was just a wee bit disappointed that there wasn’t much of the witty repartee in it which I’ve come to expect of Heyer. Maybe her humour was more a feature of the later books, it’s a shame really because as far as I’m concerned there’s always a place for a bit of fun, even when there’s been a murrrderr!

It’s a classic country house whodunnit, a favourite setting of mine and it’s a plus that I didn’t guess who the culprit was until very late on in it. Either my brain wasn’t in gear or it was more of a puzzle than the last P.D. James book which I read.

It wouldn’t be a Heyer without romance, she seemed to be incapable of leaving it out of any of her books. It’s daft how quickly it all happens though – certainly no problems with her men being incapable of commiting!

The blurb on the back of the book says:

‘Miss Heyer’s characters are an abiding delight to me… I have seldom met people to whom I have taken so violent a fancy from the word “Go”.’ DOROTHY SAYERS

I’m pleased that good old Dorothy was generous with her praise of another crime writer, it wasn’t always the case, especially with female crime writers. I believe Margery Allingham was a bit of a bitch where Sayers was concerned which must have been a bit awkward as they both lived just one train stop from each other and were often on the London train at the same time.

I do love vintage crime but feel that there are far more crime writers I should be giving a go. Any recommendations vintage or modern?