Home > Books, Storytelling, Weekend Feature, Weird and Interesting > Author Agatha Christie’s death pact with her hated hero Hercule Poirot

Author Agatha Christie’s death pact with her hated hero Hercule Poirot

David Suchet Hercule Poirot Agatha Christie

Imagine you’re stuck working with someone you absolutely despise, but the only way you can do your job is to remain with that person. Maybe you married the boss’ daughter and things are rocky. Maybe someone’s got nudie pics of you and they’re using them to get favours. Whatever the case, your success is tied to keeping that despicable person around.

Now, imagine you could have that nasty individual killed as soon as you yourself passed away. It could be in a month, a year, or half a century; no matter what happens, when your will is read, that person will die.

Aside from being illegal, that’d be a pretty sweet piece of revenge from beyond the grave, wouldn’t it?

Well, that’s exactly what Agatha Christie did, only the person she hated wasn’t her publisher, her ex-husband, or her agent.

It was a fictional character of her own creation: the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.

Look at the ancient hate in those eyes.

Detective Hercule Poirot was arguably the most storied character to come out of Agatha Christie’s illustrious writing career. He was short, prim, fussy, prone to stomach problems, and extremely good at solving murder mysteries. Fans loved him, but Christie considered him to be a “detestable, bombastic, tiresome, ego-centric little creep.”

That didn’t stop her from writing him, though. Christie was a smart woman, and she saw Poirot for the cash cow he was. She grudgingly accepted him as a necessary part of her writing career, but she had a plan in place to prevent him from achieving Sherlock Holmesian immortality. She even acknowledged her fear of the Holmes effect in an essay she wrote called “Why I got Fed Up with Poirot”. In the essay, she advises young writers of detective fiction to “be very careful what central character you create – you may have him with you for a very long time!”

With words like that, you might think Christie was a one-hit wonder with Poirot, but that wasn’t the case at all. Poirot was huge, but so was Christie’s mystery-solving granny Miss Marple, and the author also received plenty of accolades for her stage play The Mousetrap.

Hasbro Mouse Trap board game

The script has seen some loose reinterpretation over the years.

But for Christie, it was all about Poirot. She saw her relationship with Poirot as a sort of shotgun marriage; he’d gotten her far, and she was obliged to stay with him for the sake of her fans, despite her hatred for the character. That said, Christie was great at writing murder mysteries, and in her own way, she had the perfect murder cooked up for Poirot himself.

You see, Christie was British during a time when it sucked to be British: namely, during the Blitz of World War II, when the Nazis had Britain under siege. Bombs were dropping, people were dying, and Christie had no guarantee that she would live through it.

So, with mortal danger in the sky, Christie tended to what might well have been her dying wish: the death of Hercule Poirot.

That’s right; Agatha Christie wrote Poirot’s death story “Curtain” in 1945 – along with the death story of Miss Marple – and included both stories in her will, complete with publication instructions in the event of her death. She even stored the manuscripts in a bank vault to ensure their survival.

That’s dedication to your craft – or dedication to your hatred.

Luckily for Christie, Poirot, and poor Miss Marple, Christie survived the Blitz and continued to write both characters for another 30 years.

Old hatreds die hard, though, and Christie was a determined old woman. In 1975, with her health failing, the 85 year-old writer lived to see Poirot die of a poison-induced heart attack when she published “The Curtain” in October of that year.

The public reaction was incredible. Christie’s “ego-centric little creep” got himself a front page obituary in the New York Times, complete with photograph. It was the first time a fictional character had ever received an obituary, proving that – even in death – Poirot would continue to haunt Christie’s last days.

And they were her last days, as the aged author died mere months later in January of 1976.

Thus ended the storied career of Agatha Christie, but Poirot was far from done.

As is always the case with famous characters, they live on long past their literary deaths through repeated film and television incarnations. Christie killed Poirot in part to keep others from writing future stories, but she couldn’t control adaptations of her existing tales. Poirot has been portrayed by a long list of accomplished actors ranging from Ian Holm and David Suchet to Alfred Molina and Albert Finney.

He’s also seen his fair share of send-ups that would have Christie rolling over in her grave.

Jason Alexander George Costanza Muppets as Hercule Poirot

George Costanza as Poirot. Eat your heart out, Christie!

It was a great move by Christie, but fans of Hercule Poirot have kept him alive long past his expiry date.

If anything, Christie can be thankful that her name will last as long as Poirot’s does – together forever in their twisted literary shotgun marriage.

  1. armchairliterati
    February 15, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Wow, that was fascinating! I had no idea an author could hate their own main character so much!

    • February 15, 2013 at 8:57 pm

      Pretty crazy eh? Sir Arthur Conan Doyle really hated Sherlock Holmes, too. Must be a detective fiction thing!

  2. David Cobb
    February 28, 2014 at 8:44 am

    At least Ms. Christie didn’t have Annie Wilkes from Stephen King’s Misery.

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