Her less-than-refined writerly day began with finding her notebook, which surely she'd left right there. Then, having found a notebook (not the one she'd used yesterday), and staring in stunned amazement at the illegible chicken scratchings therein, she would finally settle down to jab at elusive characters and oil creaky plots. ... Christie's promiscuous note-taking meant that any one novel or play might be distributed over multiple notebooks and many, many years.I thought I was a chaotic writer but didn't expect the same to be true of such a neat plotter as Agatha Christie! In Slate magazine Christine Kenneally, a great fan of Christie's work, pours over Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks : Fifty years of Mysteries in the Making. She finds that :
The contents of the notebooks are as multi-dimensional as their Escher-like structure. They include fully worked-out scenes, historical background, lists of character names, rough maps of imaginary places, stage settings, an idle rebus (the numeral three, a crossed-out eye, and a mouse), and plot ideas that will be recognizable to any Christie fan: "Poirot asks to go down to country—finds a house and various fantastic details," "Saves her life several times," "Inquire enquire—both in same letter." What's more, in between ominous scraps like "Stabbed through eye with hatpin" and "influenza depression virus—Stolen? Cabinet Minister?" are grocery lists: "Newspapers, toilet paper, salt, pepper …" There was no clean line between Christie's work life and her family life. She created household ledgers, and scribbled notes to self. ("All away weekend—can we go Thursday Nan.") Even Christie's second husband, the archeologist Sir Max Mallowan, used her notebooks. He jotted down calculations. Christie's daughter Rosalind practiced penmanship, and the whole family kept track of their bridge scores alongside notes like, "Possibilities of poison … cyanide in strawberry … coniine—in capsule?"Most surprising of all, it seems that Christie did not always know who the killer was when she started writing her crime novels, but allowed herself the space to try out different possibilities. I always thought that an outline of the plot had to come first when writing this particular genre (I know that this is how Elizabeth George works, for example.)
John Curran's book also includes two previously unpublished Poirot stories and sounds like a must-buy for anyone who loves Christie's books. I'm fascinated by the creative process, love to study writer's notebooks, and will add this to my wishlist.