Archive for May, 2009

DAME AGATHA CHRISTIE’S SHORT STORIES – UNTANGLING THE THREADS.

Posted on 30 May 2009. Filed under: Guest Blogger, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

I declare that the following article is my own work.

DAME AGATHA CHRISTIE’S SHORT STORIES – UNTANGLING THE THREADS.

30th May 1947 – 30th May 2009, celebrating 62 years of Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mousetrap’

When, on 6th October 1952, ‘The Mousetrap’, a play written by Agatha Christie, opened at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham, England, it had already undergone transformation from a radio play to a short story and then into the stage play.  The play, ‘The Mousetrap’, was based on the short story, ‘Three Blind Mice’, written by Agatha Christie in a collection of her stories entitled ‘Three Blind Mice and other Stories’, which was published only in the United States of America in 1950, but the short story had previously been published in England in a women’s magazine in serial form.  ‘Three Blind Mice’, a thirty minute radio play, was written in response to Queen Mary’s request for a play by Agatha Christie to celebrate her 80th birthday and was transmitted by the BBC on 30th May, 1947.

On 25th November, 1952, ‘The Mousetrap’, the stage play, opened in the West End of London in the Ambassadors Theatre, and ran there until 23rd March 1974, when it was moved to the larger St Martin’s Theatre, next door, opening on 25th March 1974, keeping its ‘initial run’ status, where it still plays.  It is the longest running play in history, and as requested by Dame Agatha Christie, the short story has never been published in England in any short story collection.  Film adaptation, under the contract conditions of the play, will not be considered until the play has stopped running for a period of six months.

Such is the acclaim for Agatha Christie, often dubbed ‘The Queen of Crime’, and her works, in 1962, UNESCO claimed she was the ‘most widely read British writer in the world’, beating William Shakespeare for the first position. With her deft writing skills, Christie taunted her readers, laying red herrings to confuse them, and tacitly challenging them to unravel the mystery within her works.  Her characters were believable and her writing style was fluid and compact. Author of numerous novels, radio plays, television plays and other works, Christie wrote 160 short stories.

Her novels beguile us, but her collections of short stories may have exactly the same effect for a different reason.  While some collections of Christie’s short stories share the same title in the UK and in the USA, most do not.  Many of Christie’s books were published firstly in England then later in America.  To appeal to the American market, the titles were sometimes changed and another cover picture was created, more appropriate to the American life-style.  ‘Poirot’s Early Cases’ (UK) was changed to ‘Hercule Poirot’s Early Cases’ for the American market, presumably because Hercule Poirot at that time was not as well known in America as he was in England.  ‘Double Sin and Other Stories’ (US) contains eight short stories, which cannot be found together as a collection published in the UK, but can be found as parts of four other collections in England (‘Poirot’s Early Cases’, ‘The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding and Other Entrees’, ‘Miss Marple’s Final Cases and Two Other Stories’ and ‘The Hound of Death and Other Stories’).  Many of her short story collections suffered the same fate.

Whether it was because of cultural differences or for financial reasons, that Agatha Christie’s and/or her publishers chose to separate and publish her short stories in different collections, we may never know.  To get a definitive collection of Agatha Christie’s short stories has, perhaps, become as much a challenge to unravel as anything Christie herself wrote.

To the ‘Queen of Crime’, long may she reign…..

Dame Agatha Christie: 15 September 1890 – 12 January 1976.

Sources:

1.‘The Mousetrap and Agatha Christie’ by Sir Peter Saunders, in ‘50th Year Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap’, Souvenir Brochure.

2. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

© Valerie Ann Lettau 20th May 2009.

All rights reserved. No part of this article maybe reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.

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Apollo 13 by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger

Posted on 27 May 2009. Filed under: Book Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Apollo 13 is the story of a moon walk that turned into a rescue mission. It was written in conjunction with one of the men who was on that flight. It tells the story from several viewpoints. The astronauts, Jim Lovell’s wife, Marilyn, and various parts of the ground crew. It also gives you Jim Lovell’s background and shows us how driven he was and how he was meant to be in space.

I was too young to remember this mission so when the movie came out a few years ago with Tom Hanks as Jim Lovell I watched it with bated breath as I had no idea how it finished.  I had not done any research before the movie as I wanted to be surprised and I was very surprised.  I loved the movie so much as it gave a real insight into the problems that could occur in space missions.  When I saw the book I knew I just had to buy it to read.

And to the book.  Just fabulous!!  I’m one of those people who have read science fiction most of their lives hoping to go into space one day.  I know I never will, but I really want to go to the moon.  This must be genetic as my grandmother always wanted to be the oldest person on the moon, she would have even considered having her ashes scattered there.

So much about this book is great and I’m going to mention a few things in no particular order:

  • When Jim Lovell is looking at the moon through the window of the space craft I cried.
  • I watched Marilyn’s tension as she followed the rescue mission and was totally amazed by her strength, especially when she told the media they couldn’t park their equipment on her property and if they had a problem with that they could discuss it with her husband who would be home that Friday – all while they were totally uncertain if Apollo 13 would land safely.
  • Reading the dedication of the ground crew to bringing Apollo 13’s crew back to earth safely.  Just awe inspiring.
  • Reading about the day to day problems with just being in space.
  • Gaining an understanding of the qualities needed to be a spaceman.
  • Beginning to understand how hard it is to relay instructions to the aircrew.
  • Understand some of the parts of the movie such as why only one person spoke to the aircrew.

I can’t recommend this book enough.  I suspect my family will want to read it and then I’ll list it for sale on the website.  I have just managed to buy a VHS copy of the movie and will be including that in the sale if it is a suitable quality, I’ll have to watch it first to check it has no problems.

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The Mousetrap – Agatha Christie

Posted on 25 May 2009. Filed under: Buying Time | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

As you might know from a previous post I have a lot of Agatha Christie books, I’m really only missing three titles of short stories and The Mousetrap. So it’s a very exciting time when I find a book I don’t have.

My other half took me away for a long weekend, we drove down to Lorne on Thursday afternoon and drove back to Melbourne on Sunday. On our way back he stopped at a tiny little town called Dean’s Marsh so I could take some photos of some fabulous sculptures.  The sculptures were ingeniously carved from stumps of very large trees.  While there I couldn’t resist visiting the local shop to see if there was any local produce or handicrafts. I’m a sucker for locally made goods. They had some really good looking produce; some lovely looking jams, chutneys and mustard – although I couldn’t buy any of it as everything had ingredients I couldn’t eat. They happened to have a very small number of pre-loved books and in this little collection was an Agatha Christie. It was The Mousetrap & Other Plays. This is The Mousetrap that has been playing in London for many years and will not be printed in England until the play stops running. I had to buy it, not just for my collection, not just because we saw it when we were in London in 2001, but also as it segues very nicely into an introduction to my first guest blogger.

Val is also an avid Agatha Christie fan.  She is collecting all the Agatha Christie books which have cover art by Tom Adams.  She’s put together a nice article for me to celebrate the 62nd anniversary of the short radio play of The Mousetrap and this will be published here later this week.

I have a number of Agatha Christie short stories and novels on sale.  You can find them here.

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Murder by Manuscript by Steve J. Spears

Posted on 21 May 2009. Filed under: Book Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Murder by Manuscript is the second in a series of murder mystery books written by Steve J. Spears. Probably set in Adelaide where he lived until his untimely death from cancer at the age of 56 in October 2007.

Steve Spears was a talented playwright with his most notable work being ‘The Elocution of Benjamin Franklin’ in 1976. He had also written several books about a journalist, Stella Pentangeli, and the enigmatic homicide detective Inspector Ng.

This book is fabulous and I’m anxious to find the others in the series. The author was very good at writing characters that I’d love to meet. Stella is not necessarily the nicest person, but she has character and she is really anxious to make Inspector Ng a very close friend. Inspector Ng is enigmatic, well thought of within the police force and doesn’t appear to have his mind focussed on everyday life. He is wonderful at solving cases, but has been assigned a regular policeman nearing retirement, Sergeant Cross, as his offsider…not actually offsider, more as a driver as when Inspector Ng is on a case (most of the time), he is not safe on the roads.

The writing style is very free and easy to read. It is uncomplicated, but Steve Spears has somehow managed to put a lot of depth into it.

Warnings:

1) It has some swearing and it makes me hesitate to let my 16yo read it.
2) It has some brief homosexual sex scenes. Very brief and it’s not dwelt on too much, but it does help them solve the case.

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Longitude by Dava Sobel about John Harrison

Posted on 18 May 2009. Filed under: Book Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

This is the story of how John Harrison solved the greatest scientific problem of his time, how to find longitude. His clocks are works of genius and artistry and he was truly an amazing person. Yes, I have read this book, I really enjoyed it and learned an enormous amount about the struggles he went through and the politics of the time.  It felt like an extension of the program on the ABC called Longitude.

You can find this book for sale at Suz’s Space.

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Journey From Venice – Ruth Cracknell

Posted on 16 May 2009. Filed under: Book Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Ruth Cracknell was born 6th July 1925 and died on 13th May 2002. She was a wonderful actress being most noted for playing Mrs Beare in Mother and Son. I remember as being a wonderful Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Ernest.

I’ve always been fascinated by her. I recall seeing her interviewed and wished I could have met her to ask her more questions, sadly that interview was played just after her death. The next best thing is to read her books. She has written several memoirs and I was lucky to get hold of a copy of Journey From Venice. This memoir is the story of her husband’s illness in Venice and subsequent death in Sydney.

The writing is compelling and honest. I feel as if I was there with her, I feel the streets of Venice, I feel the delight she feels at being there, but most of all I feel her emotion.  I cried buckets over those last few days in Venice and the evacuation of Eric (her husband) to Sydney. I’ve been crying more buckets of tears while reading the end of Eric’s life.  The illness was so totally devastating to Ruth, but she managed to pull herself together and keep going just for him.  She talks about times when she could just walk away and not come back, to stop herself doing that she doesn’t leave the room.  I love the way a person can be that devoted to someone else that they make themselves stay even though it hurts so much.

When Eric finally does die we get to see the whole process. With every other book I’ve read where someone dies we don’t get to see the emotions that go through the author when they have to call their children in and when their loved one finally does die, but Ruth has her heart totally on her sleeve and we see every single bit.  It must have hurt her again to write it down for us, but she did and in such a way that I believe it should remain a classic for all time.

I seriously loved this book.  I recommend it but I also recommend you have a box of tissues with you while reading.

Currently for sale on the Suz’s Space website.

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Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

Posted on 13 May 2009. Filed under: Book Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is one of those classics. It is a book that you have to read at some stage in your life, you may not necessarily enjoy it, but it is important. I started reading it with some trepidation as I’d started and abandoned another of his books earlier this year. I actually managed to finish this book and was quite pleased about it, but I’m not sure I enjoyed it. It was quite challenging with some of it’s concepts, most especially as we live in a world where recycling is the norm and those who don’t are looked upon very strangely. Let me set the picture for you.

It’s set some time in the future where people are totally brainwashed. Recycling, even reusing, is something that just doesn’t happen. If you need clean clothes you just buy them. Things generally don’t get used more than once as buying creates jobs and that means more people are employed. People are conditioned from birth to believe that they shouldn’t lead solitary lives and they shouldn’t be monogamous. Actually, they’re conditioned with these ideas and many others from conception, while conception through to birth happens in a ‘test tube’.  People who somehow break out of this mold are looked upon as very strange.  The lead character had something happen to him in the ‘test tube’, he he got the wrong level of chemical and that lead to some ‘pecularities’ in his personality that didn’t mesh with society.  He tried to do things that were different and that lead to his demise.  This included a trip to another part of the world where things were more like they are today and the society there was considered backwards.

Things that didn’t sit well with me were the assumptions Huxley made about this society he created.  While I liked the idea that everyone was concerned about everyone else being employed I didn’t like the waste this created.  I recycle, reuse and reduce as much as possible and I found it really upset me to read of things being thrown out as they’d been used once.  I didn’t like the pack mentality this society had, everything had to be done together.  They had communal bathrooms, they talked about the people they, and others, had slept with as if it was the right thing to do, as if it was wrong to be with one person for more than a week.  The conditioning really worried me.  I don’t like being told what to do and this conditioning amounted to that.  They would listen to certain phrases a certain number of times while they slept to ensure they were conditioned to be like everyone else.  The phrases they listened to depended on where they were in the hierarchy which in turn depended on which chemical they were given before birth.  In other words, their caste was determined before their birth and they were conditioned to liking and enjoying this status.

This whole concept left me feeling very uncomfortable.  I know this book is tongue in cheek and is hitting out at the society Huxley lived in at the time, that’s the only saving grace of the whole book.  I strongly recommend this book even if you don’t normally read science fiction due to it’s discussion of society.  If you’ve already read this book I’d like to hear your comments about it.

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Agatha Christie Books

Posted on 11 May 2009. Filed under: Collections | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Agatha Christie.

This is an interesting one. Originally my sister was collecting them. She moved countries when she got married and sold them to me. I continued collecting them and now have almost all of them. The only ones I’m missing are the plays and short stories. My kids have been helping and know more about them than I do. I’ve been thinking about this collection and have been asking myself why I still collect them and what I’m getting from this collection.  I don’t actually have any answers here.

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Bulk Books at Wesley

Posted on 8 May 2009. Filed under: Buying Time | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The first story starts at Wesley College – Elsternwick campus. They were having an Open Day a few years ago and to encourage more people to come and see what they do they had a few stalls. I was helping out on the Raffle stall, there were plenty of food stalls, a few rides, the teachers were doing a concert, a cake stall and the most important of all was the book stall. I got to it early and picked up a few bundles of ABC delicious and a number of great titles. Near the end I offered to buy whatever was left when I returned. They were quite quick to accept. I can’t think why!

When I got back we packed them up and I discovered there were 17 boxes. I was very excited, my first bulk book buy!! When I was looking through them I found all sorts of treasures. I had 3 boxes of computer books. I managed to actually sell some of them and the rest were taken by a happy freecycler. I had a box of new books I knew nothing about and lots of miscellaneous other books. Several boxes were Encyclopaedia Brittanica, but I think that should be a post of it’s own.

I had a wonderful time sorting through all the books and listing them on eBay and an even better time storing them. My youngest left that campus three years ago and I still have some of these books. I’m going to be sorting through all my stock and these books will be among those to be sold at a garage sale and if not sold to be sent to an op shop. I think I’ve held onto them long enough.

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Fred Hollows : an autobiography

Posted on 6 May 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

I’ve heard a lot about Fred Hollows over the years. He’d led an amazing life and done a lot of incredibly good work, if I do a fraction of his good work I could be happy with myself. Recalling all of this I picked up this autobiography written by himself with Peter Corris with tremendous excitement. I wanted to find out more about the man himself and what led him to do the things he did. The excitement faded as I read the book.

There’s a lot of facts and information about his life and a number of times we get told about his temper and how he spoke out, but we never get shown it. We do get told about his upbringing and his education and also what lead him to specialise in eyes. To me, though, it feels like a history book. All facts and no emotion, nothing to lead me to the man behind the story.

One of the projects he lead was to look at the health of the eyes of the Aboriginal communities across Australia. As a part of this project he and his teams wrote out copious notes about each person. An example of the paperwork was presented in the book with identifying features blacked out. It was tremendously detailed and was then and will be a fabulous resource in the future. It set the benchmark for any future projects. Unfortunately, the book was exactly like the paperwork for this project. Very clinical, very factual and not very emotional.

I would still recommend it as it is written well and does have a lot of information. It would be good reference material.

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