فصل 04

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فصل 04

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CHAPTER FOUR

A detective story

One day, sometime before the war, Agatha was talking with her sister, Madge, about detective stories. They both enjoyed reading this kind of book very much.

‘I’d like to try and write a detective story myself,’ said Agatha.

‘You couldn’t do it,’ said Madge. ‘They’re very difficult to do. I’ve thought about it.’

‘Well, one day I’m going to try,’ said Agatha.

The idea stayed in Agatha’s head, and she wanted to show Madge that she could do it. And when, years later, she went to work in the hospital dispensary, she again began to think about writing a detective story.

‘There must be a murder in it, of course,’ she thought. The questions ran busily around inside her head. ‘But what kind of murder? A death by poisoning? Who will die? Who will the murderer be? When? How? Why? Where? And what about a detective?’

There were some Belgian people living in Torquay, who were there because of the war in Belgium. Clara, like everyone in the town, was very kind and helpful to them when they arrived. She gave them chairs and beds for their homes, and tried to make them feel happy and comfortable. Now, Agatha suddenly remembered them.

‘What about a Belgian detective?’ she thought, and began to build the character in her head. ‘He’ll be a very clever, very tidy little man. But what shall I call him? I know, I’ll call him Hercules!’ She smiled. ‘It’s a good name for a small man. And his second name? Poirot. Hercules - no, Hercule Poirot! Yes, that’s it.’

Agatha thought about her detective story during every quiet minute in the dispensary. She knew a lot about poisons now. She knew which poisons worked quickly, and which worked slowly. She knew how much to give, and what different poisons smelt and tasted like. She knew how people died from poisons - did their faces turn blue? Did they die in their sleep, or die screaming in pain? A good detective - and a good writer of detective stories - must know these things. She began to write her story at home, and used Madge’s old typewriter again.

‘What are you doing?’ Clara asked her one day.

‘I’m writing a detective novel,’ said Agatha, ‘I want to finish it, but it’s very difficult.’

‘Why don’t you finish it during your holiday?’ said Clara. ‘Go away somewhere nice and quiet, and take it with you. Where do you want to go? Dartmoor?’

‘Yes!’ said Agatha. ‘Dartmoor!’

Dartmoor was a beautiful, lonely moor in Devon. Agatha took Madge’s typewriter with her and stayed at the Moorland Hotel at Hay Tor. It was a large hotel with a lot of rooms, but not many people were staying there. For two weeks she wrote in her room every morning, then went for long walks alone on the moor in the afternoons. Everything went well. The characters seemed to come alive inside her head, and during her walks she planned her writing for the next day.

She finished the last half of the book during her holiday, and soon after she sent it to a publisher. They returned it, but Agatha was not surprised. She sent it out again, but it came back once more. She sent it to a third publisher, but they returned it, too. Then she sent it to The Bodley Head publishing company - and forgot all about it.

Two years went by. Archie came back to work in London, the war ended, and Agatha had a baby - Rosalind. The three of them were living in a flat in London when a letter arrived one morning in 1919.

It was from The Bodley Head. Agatha quickly opened the letter, and saw the words:

… will you call at our offices?… we would like to talk about your book…

‘It’s about my book - The Mysterious Affair at Styles,’ she told Archie. ‘I think they want to publish it!’

‘Then you must go and see them at once!’ said Archie.

Agatha went to the publishers’ office. She met John Lane, a small man with white hair.

‘Do sit down,’ he said. He had a kind voice, and blue eyes that looked carefully at Agatha. ‘Some of my readers think that we could publish your book. But you will need to change the last chapter. And there are a few other small things…’

Agatha was too excited to listen. She was happy to do anything. The Mysterious Affair at Styles was her first detective story, and she wanted to see it in the bookshops. So she wrote a different ending for it and changed one or two more small things, and at last John Lane was pleased with it.

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