No-holds-barred biography unearths Agatha's secrets

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The Independent Online

After almost 80 years of speculation, we are going to be told just what happened to Agatha Christie, pictured, when she disappeared in 1926 - and a lot more besides.

Laura Thompson, who has written a bestselling biography of the Mitford sisters, is working on a new life of the author, with the blessing of Christie's notoriously protective family.

Matthew Prichard, the crime-writer's grandson, has agreed that Thompson will be permitted to have full access to all her papers, including letters dealing with her private life, which have never been seen before.

"I think it is fair to say that there are certain things that I have been given access to that will cast light on her private life in new ways," the biographer tells me.

"I'm not exactly official, so there's no question of the family's having control, but they seem to trust me to do a fair job. I'm not setting out to be controversial, but I fully intend to tackle where she went in 1926, and to deal with all the questions of lesbianism and suchlike."

The book will be the first with which the family has agreed to co-operate since the whitewash provided by an authorised version by Janet Morgan 20 years ago.

The new biography, Thompson hints, "will be rather different from that."

* The creators of Little Britain have suffered a sense of humour failure in their dealings with the producer of the third series, Jeff Posner.

David Walliams, left, and Matt Lucas, far left, have been credited as the writers of both series one and two of their hit television comedy show, but now find that Posner wants to share the writing credit.

"It's not that Jeff Posner is belittling their work, but he wants an 'additional writing' credit on the end of the series," I am told.

"Likewise, it's not as though David and Matt don't recognise the contribution that Jeff makes as producer, but they aren't happy that he should also be credited for writing the material."

The stand-off continues. However, a BBC spokesman was keen to play down differences when Pandora called yesterday.

"I haven't heard about this, so I can only say that it is a matter between David and Matt and Jeff," I am told.

* The cockney film-maker Nick Love wants to set the record straight about his decision to have one Georgina Chapman as the leading lady in his new film, The Business. Chapman, right, has little acting experience, but happens to be the girlfriend of one of Hollywood's most powerful men, Harvey Weinstein.

"The story is this," he says, at the Edinburgh Film Festival. "She walked into the casting room and we thought, we fancy this girl rotten. She pictures so well that even if she's not going to deliver such a good performance as the other girls we considered, she will still light up the film. It wasn't until a few days into filming that she told us, because Harvey was coming out to visit her."

This must be some consolation, at least, to the young ladies who didn't get Chapman's part, including Mena Suvari.

It is good to see that with Downing Street telling us that Tony Blair will be back from his holiday "very shortly", John Prescott's office is still concentrating on important matters of state.

* Within minutes of Pandora's story of last week landing on his desk, the Deputy PM had instructed a lackey to ring me up to insist that Mr Prescott does not - contrary to the belief of the cartoonist Steve Bell - wear a hairpiece.

"It's Alan from JP's office here. I'm just calling to state categorically that the Deputy Prime Minister doesn't wear a wig," I was informed.

Hair has always been a sensitive subject in the Prescott family. Back in 1999, Prescott was criticised for being chauffered a few hundred yards at the Labour party conference, and explained: "My wife doesn't like to have her hair blown about."

* The chairman of the high-street clothing retailer Next, Mr David Jones, has generously invited me to a party to celebrate the launch of his imaginatively titled autobiography, Next to Me.

The invitation - and it's a pretty impressive one, on splendidly shimmering gold card - arrived, however, without a stamp, leaving poor old Pandora to pay 21p for second-class postage - and a fine of £1.

A spokesman didn't apologise, but said that it was probably a mistake, rather than penny-pinching. Still, you can't imagine Philip Green making his guests stump up £1.21 for invitations to any party of his.