It doesn’t take Poirot’s little grey cells to figure out this is literary fakery

Digging up dead fictional heroes smacks of barrel-scraping by the estates

Share

After giving him more than 30 murders to investigate, Agatha Christie emphatically killed off Hercule Poirot with a heart attack back in the 1940s. But never mind what Agatha wanted. The fictional Belgian detective is making a comeback, his resurrection to be in a “continuation” novel, written by the writer and poet Sophie Hannah.

Hannah’s Poirot revival has the benediction, encouragement indeed, of Agatha Christie’s family. Christie’s grandson Mathew Prichard gave a rather confusing justification for the decision in one interview, saying that it was time to reclaim his grandmother’s place on the shelves of bookstores, while she is still “very well known and very well loved”.

Unlike some people I know who plan their weekends around four-hour Poirot repeats on TV, I have always found David Suchet’s Poirot, which ran for 25 years, a bit more irritating and caricatured than I suspect even Christie imagined the “quaint dandified little man” to be.

But while a television adaptation of a Christie plot is one thing, “borrowing” the product of her extraordinary imagination for your own made-up story is another. No matter how technically good the result of Hannah’s endeavour, won’t it still be as appealing as imitation leather? What possible pleasure is there for the reader in having a faux version of your favourite novelist or crime hero?

And in artistic terms, what is the difference between what Hannah is attempting and those very talented painters in that Chinese village where they do fakes of the Mona Lisa by the dozen?

I have no doubt that Hannah is undertaking this project with a great sense of respect for an author she’s been “obsessed” by since she was 13. There is already a 100-page outline but she has given assurances that she will not take too many liberties and will retain Poirot’s moustache.

She is in good company. The estate of Ian Fleming has hired six writers, including William Boyd, for do-overs of James Bond. Sebastian Faulks was another, and he has also had a go at P G Wodehouse. Anthony Horowitz has done a Sherlock Holmes. Rehashed authors is becoming almost a genre in its own right. But it smacks of barrel-scraping by the estates and the commercial interests behind them.

Publishing and bookselling are in crisis so rather than take chances on new characters or authors, you dig up your dead fictional heroes and send them out to investigate murders or chase villains again.

Agatha Christie is possibly the most successful author of all time. Michel Houellebecq, the French novelist, has described her as a key influence on his work and one of the greats, not just of crime fiction, but of literature. But in Britain she has never quite earned the place she deserves. Although a great admirer of her “craft”, P D James has described Christie’s prose style as “pedestrian”.

Perhaps, at some level it only becomes acceptable to market a pastiche if we don’t entirely respect the original.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mary Christmas: the Bethlehem story is Mary's moment, when a poor peasant girl gives birth to the Son of God in a stable  

The appeal of the Virgin Mary: A supernatural hope at a time of scepticism

Peter Stanford
 

Letters: Why Cameron is wrong about EU child benefits

Independent Voices
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there