Friday, November 04, 2011

Agatha and Alfred.

Apart from the initial letter of their first given names, they shared a British pedigree, an ability to thrill and mystify – she with her novels, short stories and plays and he with his œuvre in cinema and television – and the curious coincidence of both having only one daughter. Both of them also shared a Victorian-Edwardian outlook by the accident of being born in the last decade of the 19th century. She was his senior by nine years, though. But what struck me as the most astounding coincidence is that both of them have at least one biography celebrating their respective lives which uses a similar literary device to tell the story. In The Life and Crimes of Agatha Christie, Charles Osborne unfolds the professional and personal life of the Queen of Crime using her books and plays as the milestones along the way. Charlotte Chandler follows Osborne’s example when she tells the life story of the Master of Suspense in her It’s Only A Movie. Both the books are excellent examples of how to write a biography that takes you close to the subject without slipping into a hagiographic muddle.