The Poisoned Martini ‘s first author interview continues. Be sure to read Part One and Part Two. Then read on for the third and final part of my interview with Len Lovallo, co-author of The Agatha Christie Companion.
The PM: With the recent release of such books as Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks and Agatha Christie Murder in the Making: More Stories and Secrets from Her Notebooks, do you think there is more information available about Christie’s life and works today compared to when the 1989 edition was released?
Len: This will be the shortest answer—Yes, absolutely.
The PM: Though Christie’s novels have remained perennially popular and television adaptations have been successful, why do you think there have been no major motion picture (English-language) adaptations since 1988’s Appointment with Death?
Len: I do not think they would be big box office hits. Of all her movie adaptations over the years, only Murder on the Orient Express can be considered a major box office success.
No, Christie adaptations are better suited for television where the viewer can savor the plots, listen to the dialogue for clues, sip martini’s or wine (like I do) ; and enjoy their favorite detectives move through the slower paces of solving crimes.
If the studios tried to update the novels to the current time, they would not work. You cannot add action scenes, car chasers or spicy dialogue to her works. Christie fans would dislike it—I know I would.
The PM: Is there a Christie book or play you wish would be filmed, but, for whatever reason, hasn’t been yet?
Len: If you mean a theatrical released film, then yes—though the adaptation for TV with David Suchet was very good—[I’d like to see] Hallowe’en Party.
The PM: And finally, do you have a favorite novel, play, or movie? Or more than one? And why?
Len: I am going to list my five favorites:
The ABC Murders has a very clever and original plot. It holds up very well today. I recently re-read this book, and I thought after finishing, that we should have had a longer entry in the Companion. Not all Christie novels hold up with multiple readings for me; but this one does. This is one of my favorite Poirot mysteries. I love the interaction between Poirot and his old friend, Captain Hastings.
A Murder is Announced is fun to read. This book has some of my favorite English village characters, all well defined by Christie. She does a good job planting clues throughout this book and the ending blew me away. With Miss Jane Marple along for the ride, I have read this novel more than other Christie. I especially love the title. Christie scored a home run for me on this one.
Murder on the Orient Express is the perfect example of how successful and exciting a closed setting for a murder mystery can be. All the elements that make this book great work perfectly.–. When I originally read this book, I did not have any clue that Christie based the plot on actual events—I thought how ingenious she was to think of this plot and create such interesting characters. And the way she tied it all together. Wow!
Murder at the Vicarage was not a very well-reviewed book when it was first published—but who cares. It is one of my favorites for several reasons. It’s the first novel to feature the sharp-eyed elderly spinster Miss Jane Marple. It introduces us to that picturesque hot bed of intrigue English village of St. Mary Mead. This book establishes a great beginning of the Miss Marple traits that’s her fans adore.
And finally, I have to include that book that started my love affair with Agatha Christie, and Miss Marple, 4:50 from Paddington. It is for that reason alone, it makes my favorite list since it lead me to The Agatha Christie Companion.
My favorite movie is Murder on the Orient Express. It was a great adaptation, with a superior cast, expertly acted and directed I saw the film on opening day. At the beginning of this film, when all the passengers are onboard the Orient Express and the train starts rolling out of the station –the camera focusing on the wheels turning–with the theme music playing, I started to cry. I’ll never forget that moment.
And my secret pleasure film is Murder She Said. Who could not love Margaret Rutherford’s Miss Marple. I saw this film years after its original 1962 release. Ever since, whenever I would read a Marple, I would visualize Miss Marple as Margaret Rutherford.
The Poisoned Martini: Again, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.
Len Lovallo: I want to thank you for setting up this interview. I enjoyed using my ‘littler grey cells” recalling the time researching and writing with Dennis The Agatha Christie Companion.
I would like to dedicate this interview to Dennis Sanders who passed away in May of 2011.
Again thank you, Brian.