November 27, 2017


What Was the Inspiration for "The Murder on the Orient Express"? : Agatha Christie wrote her famous detective novel based on an even more famous kidnapping (Natalie Escobar, 11/22/17, SMITHSONIAN.COM )

The book was hugely popular when it was released, and Lindbergh expert Robert Zorn says that the parallels between Daisy and Charles Jr. must have been obvious to people. "The parallels are too striking," he says. Agatha Christie even had her own insights about the case. She suspected that the kidnapping was done by a foreigner--a hunch proved correct when the culprit was discovered to be German immigrant Richard Hauptmann. "I think she had a better sense of getting to the heart of this than a lot of the investigators," he says.

Like the novel's characters, Christie also knew what it was like to be stuck on a train. She loved traveling on the Orient Express and would bring her typewriter along. On one 1931 ride, the train stopped because of a flood. "My darling, what a journey!" she wrote in a letter to her second husband, Max Mallowan. "Started out from Istanbul in a violent thunder storm. We went very slowly during the night and about 3 a.m. stopped altogether." She was also inspired by an incident from 1929, when the Orient Express was trapped by snow for five days.

The story of the Lindbergh baby captured the popular imagination in a way that a book never could. As Joyce Milton wrote in her biography of the Lindberghs, Loss of Eden, 1932 was a terrifying time. The country was in the throes of the Great Depression, and Hoovervilles were a common sight. World War I, the "World to End All Wars," hadn't prevented the creeping rise of totalitarian regimes like fascism and Nazism. Americans couldn't help but wonder what the world had come to. [...]

As for Poirot himself, Christie never specified a real-life inspiration for her famous character. However, researcher Michael Clapp believes her Belgian detective might have lived right down the street from her. While looking into his own family history, Clapp discovered that Christie had met a retired Belgian policeman-turned-war refugee named Jacques Hornais at a charity event benefitting refugees from Belgium. It's not definitive proof, Clapp told The Telegraph, but it's quite the coincidence.

In the author's own autobiography, though, she says that Poirot was indeed inspired by one of her Belgian neighbors. "Why not make my detective a Belgian, I thought. There were all types of refugees," Christie wrote. "How about a refugee police officer?"

Posted by at November 27, 2017 9:21 AM