Monday, 4 November 2013

Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly by Agatha Christie

written 1954/55, first published 2013









The road was a long straggling country lane running between green hedges, dipping down and then up. On the upward slope two girls in shorts with bright scarves over their heads and carrying heavy rucksacks on their backs were toiling slowly upwards.

‘There’s a Youth Hostel just above us, sir,’ explained the chauffeur, who had clearly constituted himself Poirot’s guide to Devon … ‘Upper Greenshore, they call it. Come for a couple of nights at a time, they do, and very busy they are there just now. Forty or fifty a night.’

‘Ah, yes,’ said Poirot. He was reflecting, and not for the first time, that seen from the back, shorts were becoming to very few of the female sex. He shut his eyes in pain. ‘They seem heavily laden,’ he murmured.

‘Yes, sir, and it’s a long pull from the station or the bus stop. Best part of two miles. If you don’t object, sir,’ he hesitated, ‘we could give them a lift.’

‘By all means. By all means,’ said Poirot benignantly. The chauffeur slowed down and came to a purring halt beside the two girls. Two flushed and perspiring faces were raised hopefully. The door was opened and the girls climbed in.


observations: This is an oddity connected to last week’s Dead Man’s Folly, and pointed out to me by Karen Meek of the marvellous Eurocrime site. Apparently Christie wrote this long story, or novella, in 1954/55, prepared to donate the profits to a church near her holiday home at Greenway in Devon – she wanted to fund some stained glass windows. (see much more about Greenway in the earlier entry.) But, rather embarrassingly, no-one wanted to buy the story, because the length was unsuitable. So she wrote another piece – the much shorter Greenshaw’s Folly (note spelling difference), a Miss Marple story. That one sold, and the church got the windows.

But – never one to waste anything, and fully aware of her own worth – Christie took this one and expanded it into the full-length novel Dead Man’s Folly, published in 1956. And she changed very little: expanded it to include many more details, altered a couple of names and so on. But this story would be a total spoiler for anyone planning to read the longer book - many passages are the same, and the basics of the plot are identical.

And although the second story, Greenshaw’s Folly, is very different in many ways – you can find an entry on the blog here – there are a couple of ideas that live on from the original (although one of them, disguise and the importance of clothes, is a feature of many of her books).

Greenshore is an oddity, and probably only of great interest to completists, but it is worth a read if you’re a fan. You can buy it in an e-format via amazon.

The picture shows hikers going into the Grand Canyon – slightly different from the countryside of Devon – and is from the US National Archives.

6 comments:

  1. I don't think I fit the bill as a Christie completist, c'mon Moira where's the hard-boiled you've been suppressing?

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    1. Sometimes I have to suppress my noir side as part of my cover story. But it will be back....

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  2. Moira - I'm really glad this novella has been published. I do love the way she played with her work that way ('m thinking for instance of the short story and the novel Evil Under the Sun). And story of the windows is interesting history.

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    1. Yes, I found all this fascinating - and I had never before noticed the similarity between the Marple story and Dead Man's Folly. And it's always fascinating to watch a short story blossom into a novel, as you say....

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  3. This is very interesting. I can understand how a completist would be interested. I was that way about some Rex Stout stories when I had exhausted all the books. But having a ways to go to catch up on Christie's books, I will wait awhile... although I like longer stories better than short stories, and the excerpt does sound good. So, maybe.

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    1. Read Dead Man's Folly first Tracy! I envy you that you have so many Christie's still to read for the first time... plenty of treats in store.

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