In GAD We Trust – Episode 13: Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Greatest Detective in the World (2020) by Mark Aldridge [w’ Mark Aldridge]

This year’s celebrations of the centenary of Hercule Poirot’s debut and, arguably, the dawn of the Golden Age of Detection have obviously been overshadowed by wider events, but there’s still much to celebrate — not least of which is a new book about Poirot from Mark Aldridge.

Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Greatest Detective in the World (2020) covers the full career of Christie’s little Belgian from his debut in The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920) all the way through to the forthcoming Kenneth Branagh-starring adaptation Death on the Nile (2020). And, in that century, there’s a lot of career to cover: not just Christie’s novels and short stories, but also the plays, televisations, comics, video games, and radio dramas that have sprung up as the character’s stature has grown.

So, here’s your chance to listen to Mark’s story of how the book came about, how and why he decided to structure it as he has — chronologically, rather than by medium — the decision to avoid spoilers in his summations of each undertaking, the importance of checking up on the received wisdom of the stories we’ve all heard trotted out about Christie over the years, how Hercule Poirot is essentially Batman, and much more besides.

You can listen to the podcast on iTunes here, on Spotify here, or on Stitcher here, or by using the player below. 

Thanks go to Mark for his time, and indeed the years that went into collating and writing the material for the book, to HarperCollins for my first ever review copy of a book, to Jonny Berliner for my theme music, and to you at home, as ever, for your continued interest in this endeavour.

On a Christie theme, don’t forget that there’s still time to vote for which title — The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926), Cards on the Table (1936), or Sparkling Cyanide (1944) — you’d like Brad, Moira, and I to discuss in January, but the window is closing. The poll will be open until the end of the month, and the winner announced so as to give anyone who wishes to read along the time to so do.

Hope you’re all keeping safe and well; more podcast in a fortnight.

~

Previous episodes of In GAD We Trust can be found here.

29 thoughts on “In GAD We Trust – Episode 13: Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Greatest Detective in the World (2020) by Mark Aldridge [w’ Mark Aldridge]

  1. Great episode, really enjoyable!
    It’s inspired me to take the book off my Christmas wishlist…
    and scramble to order it for myself immediately. 😀
    The perspective on adaptations, the purpose and challenge of, and why it’s not the end of the world if they aren’t faithful, was also really interesting. In the end I guess it’s important that these books are open to spin off completely different interpretations, and they deserve to be judged on their own merits as well as being adaptations.
    I was also fascinated to hear about what must have been a very early appearance of a “challenge to the reader”! Now there’s a surprise from a Christie work!

    Like

    • I have seen very few Christie adaptations — maybe the Suchet Roger Ackroyd and bits of others, definitely the Branagh Orient Express and Phelps ATTWN, Witness, and ABC Murders — but I think the point about them having to be modern dramas is key here. We’d all love them to be faithful, but Mark makes a great point about the ability to sometimes clarify or tidy up a plot (who would want to sit through an accurate rendering of Elephants Can Remember?), and there’s undeniably scope to adjust for the different medium a story that isn’t very visual or lags horribly in the middle.

      The problem comes, I feel, when that justification is used to move away from the spirit of the original work — I understand there to be a Tommy & Tuppence adaptation where she’s a bitter drunk resentful of the attention he receives, which couldn’t be less what those characters are — or when claims are made about what the story “should” be or what the book’s author “wanted” it to be. Why can’t people just say “I thought I’d try this because I liked the idea of doing something a little different”? Would that be so hard?

      Like

      • Yes, it’s difficult to tell sometimes whether it’s all just marketing or whether people really are that self-absorbed when they claim they are adapting in the way the author would have wanted. A similar thing with highly unfaithful adaptations – did they follow the current trends off a cliff, or follow their own nose up their own –
        well, I don’t think we’ll get an honest answer to that question in public. When it comes to certain adapters I think it would better serve them to be honest – there’s value in exploring the strange corners of the original, I still feel, and who are they hoping to attract by claiming faithfulness? Maybe the viewing figures for the people who care about that are higher when they’re baited into watching out of outrage, or something.

        Like

        • Were I a cynical man, I might suggest that — in an age with 1400 streaming services and countless other platforms having a draining effect on viewing figures — stirring up some controversy might be adopted as a policy purely to gain attention and thus hope to stand out…

          Like

  2. I’m very glad you brought up the shift of emphasis from Christie’s plots to the character of Poirot. It’s a natural shift with a TV series, which are traditionally character-centered, but it should be kept in mind that focusing centrally on the detective figure is not only a distortion of Christie’s intent, but also of the key appeal of Golden Age detective fiction… as is suggested Mark’s mention of Christie’s almost Queenian “challenges to the reader.”

    I personally am torn between my admiration for Suchet’s excellent performance(s) in the character (I constantly remind myself that each adaptation offered a unique, discrete and sometimes different performance), and extreme irritation at his “Poirot and Me” claims of fidelity to Christie’s intent (which I find no less annoying than Sarah Phelps belief that she was writing the adaptations Christie would have wanted to write) and his very obvious lack of knowledge of the differences between the novels and the adaptations in his series— while he prides himself on vigilance to character details like Poirot’s walk, dress, etc— all those 93 Poirot details from the list he carried around with him (and which I’ve become increasingly convinced he paid an intern to compile for him). All exacerbated, of course, by the mindless, undiscerning admiration of Suchet’s fanatic worshippers (what is it John Fugelsang said about Jesus? Something like, “I think about him the way I think about Elvis— I love the guy, but some of the fan clubs scare me”).

    Incidentally, I still can’t understand the Suchet Murder on the Orient Express as being designed to prepare audiences for Curtain. It’s darker, yes, but don’t you consider the end of Curtain much LESS explicable in light of Poirot’s torment and outrage at the end of Suchet’s MOTOE?

    Thanks so much, Mark, for all the hard, painstaking work for the sake of Christie fans, and thank you Jim for bringing us this wonderful interview.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. JJ – I really enjoyed this podcast, which triggered me to order Mark’s book in hardcover. Looking forward to reading it and seeing the illustrations, cover art, etc. that Mark mentioned. Well done to both of you.

    I agree with the other Scott that I don’t see a connection between Suchet’s MOTOE and Curtain for the reason he states. I had looked forward to Suchet’s MOTOE for years but was disappointed that it injected “Poirot finds religion” into its adaptation as that seemed out of character and came from out of nowhere. I do like the later Suchet versions that stay broadly close to the books including After the Funeral, The Hollow and Five Little Pigs.

    Like

    • I was VERY disappointed with the Suchet adaptation of MOTOE, mainly because the justice theme was overdone and overdramatized. And the same was done with the Kenneth Branagh version, whereas, the book didn’t belabor the point. I MUCH prefer the 1974 version over the Suchet one. The former isn’t without its flaws but overall, it doesn’t play on being overly dramatic or hitting viewers over the head with a theme that expresses itself naturally on its own. Honestly, I don’t think we’ll ever get another adaptation of Orient Express that beats the 70’s film; it’s as close to the book we Christie fans will get, bar none.

      Like

      • I too prefer the Finney version, but the terms “belabor“ and “overdone“ to me suggest a severe exaggeration of the point Christie was making. But I don’t think they were an exaggeration at all, because Christie was actually making the exact opposite point: not the suggestion that Poirot (at ANY level) disapproved of extra-legal justice, but that he actually approved of it and actively endorsed it. For his unsolicited proposal of— and defense of objections raised to— the clearly untrue alternate theory are inescapable indications that he was actively working to provide Bouc an excuse to let the culprits avoid punishment, before anyone had even asked him to. The Finney version admittedly suggested the opposite idea much more subtly than the Branagh or the Suchet, but none of the English speaking screen versions accurately indicated Christie’s notion of Poirot’s views on the subject… except perhaps, ironically, the Molina version!!!

        Like

    • Thanks, Scott — I hope you enjoy the book, and I assure you that it wouldn’t be in my nature to recommend it if I didn’t think it was good and so it’s definitely money well-spent.

      The Suchet Orient Express has eluded me thus far, but the Molina one is on YouTube and has been brought to my attention. I’m half tempted to watch it and do a review at some point. If nothing else, Doctor Octopus as Hercule Poirot has an air of the curious about it…

      Like

  4. This day did not start well for me: I received a comment to one of my older posts, one that had been critical of a modern mystery author named Louise Penny. The comment pointed out that I had misspelled one of the continuing characters’ names and implied that I was thus too stupid to have earned my right to an opinion. This person went on to dismiss Agatha Christie as a hack who used the term “white cockatoo” in every novel and who suffers even more in comparison to a truly magnificent author like P.D. James.

    So it was great to go on a walk and listen to an author – a doctor, no less! – who could reaffirm that Christie is the greatest mystery writer of them all. It was great listening to you again, Mark, and I look forward to reading the book when it is published in the U.S. in 2057 . . . Thanks for your patience with JJ when he talked favorably about the adaptation of “Witness for the Prosecution.” I have had the chance to sit and even dine with JJ, and I assure you that he is flawed but trainable.

    As I mentioned to Mark at the Agatha Christie Zoom-festival this summer, I want to maintain an open mind about adaptations because they’re what will move our relationship with the author forward. In the podcast you discuss the chronological structure of the Poirot book; this means that nearly half of the book – or at least the time covered – takes place after Christie’s death. As Mark points out, the adaptations are a main source of deriving new fans (at least those who would consider reading a book!) and of stimulating (for good or ill) long-time fans. Even I am starting to bridle at the dismissive take some members of the Facebook AC groups have at Sarah Bloody Phelps. No, I don’t much like her, but she is stimulating our discussion of century-old genre fiction – and she did manage to create one of the very best adaptations so far of any Christie book with ATTWN.

    I’m another great fan of the Batman, and yet when I first read his adventures in the 1960’s, I can safely say that they weren’t particularly interesting or well-written. That character has been reinvented over and over and will certainly be again; some incarnations please me and others don’t. Some please me for a while and then falter in my esteem as a newer, better version comes along. I tend to agree that it makes no sense to repeat what Suchet did with Poirot using another actor, and as you mentioned, ITV wouldn’t want to do something like that anyway. The later Marple series did not improve upon Joan Hickson, but maybe that’s because it didn’t stray far enough from what Hickson’s series was trying to do.

    Whatever comes, it would be nice to think that more stuff will come throughout my lifetime, giving me a chance to get excited, get riled, and get writing! Thank you both for a stimulating conversation, and I hope that one of these days we all get to continue it together on a live basis! Perhaps in Torquay . . . 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I may expand on the Batman/Poirot thing at some point, because I feel it quite strongly, but consider this at least: there is a definitive Hercule Poirot to return to in Christie’s novels. We may not like Randall, Suchet, Molina, Ustinov, Finney, Branagh, Malkovich, and others — or we may love some and hate others — but they are, at the end of the day, interpretations of a character who definitely exists in Original flavour. Batman doesn’t have that, really — as you say, the early adventures were ropey at best, and he only really became good in the comics about 20 years after his creation when written by people who didn’t create him.

      This, then, is both a good thing and a problem. Good because there’s no definitive Batman for fans to get upset about being sullied (for my money, Ben Affleck is about as good a screen incarnation as we’ll ever get — don’t give me any of your Christian Bale nonsense, a fine actor in a deeply problematic realisation of the role) and so there’s more scope to be, perhaps, more tolerant when encountering something we don’t like being done with the character. But that’s also bad because it can be hard to point to what Batman should be when people rubbish him or praise unworthy versions. At least with books, and the possibly too-personal versions of the characters we create from the words, there’s always that fount to return to when what emerges is so very, very disappointing.

      And, of course, this is why changes made to both a character we love and a plot we love feel so damn infuriating. How can they get it so wrong twice at at the same time?!?!?. But that’s a rant for another day. Or blog.

      Like

  5. I would describe myself as a “purist” when it comes to Agatha Christie adaptations. BUT I do understand that there are differences between print and film medium. I don’t expect an adaptation to hit on every point drawn from the book and neither does an adaptation have to resemble the 1980s versions of Why Didn’t They Ask Evans or The Seven Dials Mystery. But when I call myself a purist, I mean adaptations should keep in the “spirit” of Christie. I don’t believe if Christie was alive today, she would jump on the bandwagon of shoehorning a plethora of profanity and sexual content only to fit into or only to draw a contemporary crowd. Every person in the 21st century doesn’t throw F-bombs and a host of other profanity around willy-nilly. To be specific every writer doesn’t do that, so why would anyone think Christie would lower herself to that bar. No doubt Christie did use profanity in her books but not at the line of excessive use as a lot of modern writers do, and a lot of times unnecessarily, if I may say so myself. I remember watching the Suchet adaptation of “The Hollow” and one of the characters called another the “B” word. At the time I skimmed through the book for the part where the character used that word and what do you know, I found it. Used in its context it makes sense that the word was used. Such a word wasn’t thrown around needlessly. It has to fit with the character and his/her feelings. So to hear from screenwriters . . . ahem, Sarah Phelps . . . who says that Christie would write such stuff today is nonsense. How does she know this? I like my Christie dark in an adaptation (all her stories weren’t all cozy and comfortable) but at the same time, it shouldn’t reach the threshold of horror (for instance the murder scene with the use of a javelin in the 2008 film Cat Among the Pigeons) or something that’s rough and gritty from the likes of a hardboiled detective story or a modern cop show. Would anyone find it appropriate to have a Pride & Prejudice film with a crop of profanity and say that’s from Jane Austen’s story or in the spirit of the author?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s funny— I have some fairly strong criticisms of the Phelps And Then There Were None (despite, IMO, it’s many excellences), but they are primarily NOT about its introduction of profanity, sex, drugs, or even its alteration of the original backstories of the characters. I think when it comes to where the Phelps adaptation most seriously misses the boat, so to speak, everyone largely has it wrong (or at least is focusing on its less fundamental flaws).

      Like

      • To me, the clumsy use of profanity, sex, and drugs inserted in the Phelps adaptations are just half of my problems concerning her adaptations. I think I read the fundamental flaw you had with the Phelps adaptations before and I remember being in agreement. I’m sure you can articulate it far better than I can.

        Like

        • No, I’ll say it – although I’m not sure this is the place to have this discussion. The worst thing about the Phelps version is the ending, which gets so much wrong, but then the novel’s ending is so . . . literary, that it’s almost impossible to get right and still maintain the elements of the story that most conform to a traditional whodunit. SPOILERS AHEAD, so I’ll be a good little boy and put it in ROT-13:

          Jngpuvat Iren senagvpnyyl gel gb xrrc urefrys nyvir nf gur punve jbooyrf juvyr gur Whqtr pnyzyl rkcynvaf gur julf naq jurersberf vf hapbzsbegnoyr gb orubyq – juvpu ZHFG or jul Curycf qvq vg – ohg, jbefr, znxrf ab frafr nsgre jr’ir orra gerngrq gb n svar cflpubybtvpny vyyhfgengvba bs jul Iren fubhyq or ynfg naq jul fur jbhyq or fhvpvqny ng guvf cbvag.

          I think Scott wanted the murderer’s plan to all be a flashback, the best filmed iteration of the novel’s ending that one could imagine, but it would have to be long enough to show us many things, more like the second volume of A Study in Scarlet or Part II of the Japanese Murder on the Orient Express. I can’t imagine English audiences going for it, as they tend to lose interest after the murderer has been revealed.

          Like

    • It’s my understanding that there are recorded instances of the word “f*ck” before 1800, so including it in a drama set in the 1940s ain’t a problem for me. People used this language, Christie just chose — or attitudes at the time dictated — that it wouldn’t be in her books. But people differ, that’s cool.

      I have a bigger problem with the inclusion of sexual content. As we know, no-one had sex before 1974. Why can’t these programme-makers get their facts right?

      Like

  6. I don’t think it would have to be entirely in flashback, though it should definitely entail flashback , which is far more called for at this juncture in the story than it is at any other point (which is why denouement flashbacks are an extremely common trope in screen adaptations of GAD stories, and pre-denouement flashbacks aren’t nearly as common).

    And it really needn’t be too literary for audiences today, and could easily be done (indeed, the Rene Clair version came awfully close). It would only require only four things:

    1. A short version of the Maine/Legge conversation from the book, merely to establish the impossibility (this should also probably involve flashback inserts of finding the chair against the wall, etc…). Without establishing the impossible crime element, the Russian and Phelps version gain little by killing off two more characters.

    2. The finding and or/delivery of the bottle, with Maine (or some else’s) voice reading it being gradually replaced (vocal dissolve) by the culprit’s.

    3. A quick narrated flashback recap of the mechanics of the central deception employed to carry off the island murders (this is done in both the Clair and Russian versions).

    4. A quick flashback narrated illustration of the efforts that the culprit will take after finishing the letter to ensure that the murderers seem impossible.

    All of this would take no more time than the culprit’s explanation (which included much inessential talk, as well as psychologically inconsistent tap dancing on the side of a chair) in the Sarah Phelps version.

    Like

    • Interesting, Scott — see, I liked the idea that the discovery of everyone at the island would be baffling without needing to see it spelled out on screen. To my way of thinking, your suggestions above would make it feel weirdly stagey, like it was trying to hammer home how much it was based on a book…and it seems I can explain it no better than that. Phelps’ ending was to my mind a better cinematic rendering of the point…but then I’ve also seen no other filmed examples to compare it.

      Like

  7. One of the MOST frustrating things about WordPress is that you really have to think before you push “reply,” especially when a thread gets long. Rather than risk “replying” to the wrong comment, I’m just going to put ALL my thoughts here:

    1) Scott, I love ya, but you’re a movie buff like me as well as a performer. Read what you put down in print and see how truly UNcinematic it is. It would only satisfy you for sure, might please a few hardcore Christie-philes (although even JJ couldn’t quite picture what you were going for) . . . and completely bore, confuse, turn off your average viewer. And if average viewers don’t tune in, we don’t get high-priced productions like MotOE, or sequels to Knives Out!

    2) JJ, I think we need to plan a joint podcast regarding Batman and Poirot. There are issues to discuss. For example, Batman was originally created for children, so while there was certainly a darkness to his origin and his persona (yes, Superman’s home planet was blown up, but his basic aura is sunny), most of that spooky stuff was engendered to strike fear in the hearts of bad guys. One of my favorite aspects of “old” Batman was that he often assumed the role of a true detective (one of his magazine titles was, in fact, Detective) and had to solve a mystery. I have in my possession an 80-page giant containing a bunch of whodunits that Batman solved. I can’t say they’re particularly fair-play, although there is often a clue that points to one suspect only, but they certainly have that GAD feel about them.

    Batman is now written for young adults/grown-ups and he has become truly dark. As modern era grown-ups, we can take this and find it much more gripping and appealing as storytelling and character development than the early comics ever attempted. I say this as someone who hasn’t read Batman in years and years. I did have a chance to explore comic books – now graphic novels – some years ago when my oldest friend became a collector. I read a number of Vertigo series and was overwhelmed by the quality, breadth and depth of the art and the storytelling. Watchmen, Sandman, Animal Man, Swamp Thing, Preacher . . . the list goes on. And i know some amazing things were done with the Batman, even though my friend wasn’t as into him.

    Poirot, on the other hand, emerged nearly fully formed for adult audiences. About the only thing he has in common with Batman, at least on first glance, is that they are both, by the nature of their jobs and personas, outsiders. It would be interesting to examine this aspect alone. But I think looking at the classic detective as a form of superhero could be a valuable conversation. It does so much to explain and satisfy the “unrealistic” nature of certain books and the super-villain status of certain murderers. (Rim of the Pit even has flying monsters!!) So . . . look at your schedule! You should have time for this in 2022!

    Like

    • No, Brad, what I propose is not uncinematic at all (and I’ll place as my primary bona fide here not my qualifications as a film buff and performer, but my university degree in cinema studies). Perhaps what you’re envisioning is an exhaustive or near-exhaustive translation of the novel’s post-hanging events. I’m proposing nothing of the kind, but rather something that delivers the most essential and compelling points of the epilogue and denouement, in a small fraction of the detail allotted to it by Christie (and in less than 1/10th of the screen time allotted to the denouement of the Finney Murder on the Orient Express, which many people still manage to sit through, even though it FAILS to lucidly explain the essential plot points).

      For, the secret to effective cinematic translation is not a matter of how much detail is retained, but rather WHAT detail is retained. Take as illustration the denouement of the Clair ATTWN, which I consider a model of cinematic economy. In a few well-chosen words accompanied by perfectly appropriate visuals, the essentials of (as yet understood) pre-hanging plot are conveyed. But think of what is left out:

      1. The culprit’s self-discovery of his sadistic nature.
      2. How the culprit’s sense of justice together with his bloodlust governed his choices in his profession.
      3. His righteousness regarding the case of Edward Seton.
      4. The incident which gave him the idea for his grand criminal enterprise.
      5. The individual circumstances and means by which he came across data on his chosen victims.
      6. His use of Isaac Morris to make arrangements and cover his tracks, and his subsequent murder of Morris.
      7. The choice to order the deaths based on degrees of guilt.
      8. The mechanics of all but two of the deathsb(and even one of those is described with Lubitschean elusion).
      9. The mechanics of the hiding places of the revolver, the red curtain, and the wool (the last two not included in the plot of the film).

      and, of course, two post-hanging explanations:

      10. The clues purposely left by the culprit.
      11. The details of the plan to ensure the “impossibility” element.

      The question remains WHY these many elements were omitted. The answer is that while these elements were all appropriate for the novel, and indeed the lack of a few of them in the film is probably regrettable, they were rightly deemed NOT ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. The viewer of the film, seeing a character they believed dead calmly describing his criminal plan does not wonder “how did he arrange to get them on the island?” “How did he collect info on his victims?” “Why did he kill them in that particular order?” “Where could he have possibly hidden the revolver he claims he ‘borrowed’ from Mr. Lombard?” And even if he does wonder such things, he can come up with possible explanations (Christie’s actual choices or not) to account for them. No, what they’re wondering is, how can this character we witnessed being declared dead possibly be still alive? And that’s why the answer to that question— and pretty much only the answer to that question— is what constitutes the culprit’s confession.

      My idea of a flashback confession, while it would probably include a bit more of the omitted elements listed above, would not be much longer. It would primarily explain what NEEDS to be explained. Moreover, the Legge-Maine conversation could be vastly abbreviated (probably beginning with in a cut in to Legge crying “What do you mean none of them could have done it?” and following with an extremely streamlined synopsis which confirms the impossibility). And as for the killer’s post-hanging activities to ensure “impossibility” (the chair, the eyeglasses, the elastic, the door handle)— while note they actually take up very little verbiage even in the novel— they can be abbreviated even further in the confession by a visual of the actual shooting, the gun being pulled to the door and dislodging from the elastic as the “written” spoken voice says, “if I’m right, the gun which last shot Philip Lombard will be found in my room with Vera’s fingerprints on it, thus shedding no further light on this inexplicable riddle.”

      I’m not suggesting that this idea, clearly based on the format of Christie’s novel, is the only good way to go with it. But if you’re not going to go the Clair route, you really ought to include the impossibility aspect. I really like your other proposed idea, Brad, except that it doesn’t remove the possibility of Lombard as a U.N. Owen outwitted by his final intended victim (there is really nothing In the novel prior to Legge’s explanation that suggests that he is not the culprit). But I’ll admit that would probably not be noticed by nearly any viewers.

      Like

  8. The problem is, without the leg main conversation there’s no impossibility. There’s still interest to the story, but the moment at which the reader realized than none of the inhabitants could be the the killer is arguably the most impactful point of the whole book. I have no particular need for it to be delivered in the same way, but I feel the loss of the impossibility is a great one. Add to that the fact that despite the artistry of Charles Dance, the denouement of the Sarah Phelps ATTWN is among the least compelling denouements of any whodunit I’ve ever seen. It takes what should be the high point of a great mystery story and makes it practically an afterthought.

    Like

  9. Once more, with feeling:

    You love the impossibility. I love the impossibility. I would imagine that JJ loves it, too. If you line up on one side all the people who think this aspect of the book is fascinating – that an impossible crime is presented twenty pages before the end of the novel! – and line up all the people who don’t even know what an impossible crime is on the other side . . . . our side loses. The fact of the matter is that this aspect of the novel, which I agree is one that makes it even more special than it could already possibly be, is handled brilliantly through literary conventions. The exquisite tension of a crime that the world will never solve – something that modern writers do all the time – is hard to pull off on film when all the major characters are dead; Christie knows where her bread is buttered. Her fans DEMAND to know the truth; hence, the message in a bottle, another convention that works better on the page than on the stage or screen. Meanwhile, the scene with the police is fantastic because it’s not simply a summing up of what we’ve already lived through; instead, it casts a whole new light on the mystery. I still get goosebumps when we learn that the chair Vera kicked over is now neatly placed against the wall!! What the hell . . . ?!?!?!?

    By the way, Alfred Hitchcock understood this perfectly: once the seal of truth is broken, things need to be wrapped up fast! We can’t go through your four-step-plan so that the idea of an impossible crime can be introduced, savored and dispensed with in the time it takes to do a quick flashback.

    This is why books should be read for their own thrills. I can’t think of a truly succinct way for viewers to get the same thrill I got about the chair, but here’s a suggestion:

    1) Vera walks up to the house, finds the noose in her room with a chair on it, stands on the chair and kicks it away. She dies.

    2) The camera slides backwards (like in that cool murder of the girlfriend in Frenzy), out of Vera’s room and down the hall. We hear a door click open and footsteps come down the hallway. From the killer’s point of view we see Vera again as a hand reaches out and rights the chair. Then the footsteps go from room to room, checking on the bodies, and we see a brief flashback to the murders of each person from the killer’s perspective. The killer looks out a window and sees the doctor’s body, and we flash to that conversation between the doctor and the killer about how to trap the maniac. Finally, the camera slides up to reveal the killer’s face, returns with him to his room, where he sets up the apparatus with the gun, lies on his bed, and shoots himself. Then the camera pans back to encompass the hall, the house, the island.

    3) Fade to black. No need for a bottle. The viewer knows the answer; the rest of the world never will. The biggest thing we cut is the killer’s ego, which existed to provide the readers with an answer.

    I’m not saying this is perfect, and I’m sure you’ll miss the cops. There’s no spelling out of the impossible crime element, but then there’s no weird scene where the killer has to explain his motives and plans to Vera while she’s “in extremis.” When I staged the play, I had the killer come in and explain everything to Vera, who was pretty far gone by then, and remind her that after the killer uses the gun on themselves, Vera alive will be arrested and hung for the crimes while Vera dead will escape the torment of losing Hugo and the blame for the murders. It worked pretty well.

    Like

  10. Okay, I’m giving in to my eternal optimism: even though The Book Depository failed me miserably on Moonflower Murders, I have cancelled my order through Amazon for this book and ordered it through TBD, hopefully assuring that I will receive it by Christmas instead of in March. JJ, since you now have an in with all publishing companies and with the author, can you please pull strings and assure me that I will receive the book?

    Also, I’m excited to see your review of The Dain Curse, as I remember enjoying it very much when I read it, oh so many years ago. Red Harvest is probably my favorite Hammett novel, but what I love about him is that every one of his five novels is trying something different.

    Finally, I will tell you in advance that you will DESPISE the Molina version of MotOE, which does nothing to promote the argument of taking adaptations of Christie forward into modern times. It gets pretty much EVERYTHING wrong and, worst of all, it’s boring. Risk-taking that doesn’t work is one thing; boredom is unforgivable.

    Like

    • I am surprised that you enjoyed the Dain Curse so very much, and wonder if it would up so well in a re-read by the now-so-much-wiser-and-more-experienced Brad.

      Like

      • No doubt it would not hold up, which is why I intend to NEVER re-read it! I mean, The Hardy Boys are now virtually unreadable, but I will never give away my childhood collection! Such is life! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • I will tell you in advance that you will DESPISE the Molina version of MotOE

      Wonderful! I feel like my response to so much rendering of books on screen is a disinterested “Yeah, it was fine…”, and I welcome some anger to proceedings!

      Like

      • I’m not sure you will despise the Molina version. But I do hope you will. Despising it is I indication of a sound mind.

        The said, I believe it’s the only English language adaptation that somewhat accurately reflects Poirot’s decision regarding the culprits, as indicated in the novel.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.