Agatha Christie remains the world's best selling novelist, outsold only by The Bible and Shakespeare. Her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles came out nearly 100 years ago, in 1920 and her last book was published just after her death in 1976. She wrote over 80 novels, short stories and plays.
Ariadne Oliver is the fictional detective fiction write who appears in 7 novels and 2 short stories, often helping the famous character Hercule Poirot. She is a prominent author, writing around 50 novels.
So what parallels can we draw, mes amis? Firstly, Agatha wrote most famously about a little Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, a bold move as she knew nothing about Belgium at all. She was inspired by some of the Belgian refugees she saw in WWI and drew on the character of Poirot from there. She went on the write 33 novels, over 50 short stories and 1 play starring the fictional detective, and her career was firmly based on writing about the persnickety little man. Due to the public demand for more and more Poirot stories, Agatha had to keep on writing about the man, and she soon got sick of him. She once admitted to saying "There are times when I ask myself, why did I invent this detestable, bombastic, tiresome little creature?"
Similarly, Ariadne Oliver created a Finnish detective called Sven Hjerson, who is a vegetarian with some peculiar mannerisms. Like Agatha, Ariadne wrote about a character who came from a place she had never had anything much to do with: Finland. In Mrs McGinty's Dead, Ariadne says "Why a Finn when I know nothing about Finland? Why a vegetarian? Why all these idiotic mannerisms he's got? These things just happen. Yo try something - and people seem to like it - and then you go on - and before you know where you are, you've got someone like that maddening Sven Hjerson tied to you for life."
Both Agatha Christie and Ariadne Oliver loathed public speeches. Agatha Christie rarely gave interview, partly because of all the unwanted publicity and partly because her disappearance in 1926 caused a huge stir in the press. Mrs Oliver too despised doing long and arduous speeches about her books. Ariadne said in Cards on the Table "I can't make speeches. I get all worried and nervy and I should probably stammer or say the same thing twice."
Agatha Christie never once saw a decent adaptation of Hercule Poirot on the screen or stage. In fact, she got so tired of people mucking about with her character that when she adapted some of her Poirot novels for the stage, she removed the character. Examples of this are Murder on the Nile and Go Back For Murder.
Ariadne Oliver was just the same in the books. In Mrs McGinty's Dead, one of her Sven Hjerson books was being adapted for the stage by a playwright called Robin Upwood, who wants to turn her character into a younger Norwigian resistance fighter!
"But darling, if he's sixty, you can't have the tension between him and the girl - what's her name? Ingrid. I mean, it would make him just a nasty old man" to which Mrs Oliver replies "It certainly would."
This happened to Christie when The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was adapted for the stage. The playwright turned Caroline Shepherd, the middle aged spinster into a younger girl for eye candy!
So did Agatha Christie purposely draw parallels between herself and Ariadne Oliver to reflect on her own writing? I'll let your little grey cells deduce for themselves.
All of my Ariadne Oliver quotes come from Anne Hart's brilliant book The Life and Time of Hercule Poirot. With thanks to JC Bernthal for the Agatha Christie quote.