On January 12th, 1976: Agatha Christie dies

Agatha Christie plaque -Torre Abbey

Agatha Christie plaque -Torre Abbey. Courtesy WikimediaCommons

There is an odd fascination people have with crime. But it’s a fact that people love films and books dealing with criminal deeds, and the writers of whodunnits belong to the most famous and successful authors in the literary universe. Yet even between those very successful writers there are a few outstanding names, and one of the finest authors of crime stories is for sure Agatha Christie, who died 38 years ago today. Her main characters are so famous that one of them, Hercule Poirot, even got an obituary in the NYT (as well as a Google Doodle to mark Christie’s 120th birthday).

Christie’s own life was no less adventurous as her characters‘.  She was born on September 15th, 1890 in Torquay, Devon. Visit places of her life on the Agatha Christie Mile. Here are some photos, too.
She travelled through Egypt in the early 20th century, attended to wounded soldiers during the 1st World War, joined her husband for archaeological digs in the Near East and even vanished for 10 days without any trace – and until today without a satisfying explanation.
Here’s an interesting extended lecture about her Near-East-Years:

You can even see some of her discoveries in the British Museum (H/T Matthias Rascher)

Until her death in 1976 she wrote more than 80 detective novels, almost 20 plays, many short stories and, under the pseudonym of Mary Westmacott, a couple of romances. Here you find a list of all her published works, in chronological order of their publishing date. 
To get to know more about her life and work, read her biography on Wikipedia

Christie had a large influence on the modern murder mysteries, as The New Yorker states in an article, and her secret notebooks reveal the rather unusual way how she constructed her stories (H/T Matthias Rascher). Listen to a rare interview about how to write a best-selling novel here.

Her two main Character are without doubt the two very special detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. But she obviously was not too fond of the two personalities she had created, as tapes reveal on which she takes on them. Read about it in a NYT article here.

Hercule Poirot, the famous Belgian detective, starred in 39 novels and four volumes of short stories, as well as on TV, where he was awesomely represented by many great actors, for example by the famous Sir Peter Ustinov and, my all-time-favorite Poirot, by David Suchet in a series. Read a wonderful interview about his relationship to his role here and watch the trailer for the final episodes:

There’s also a cool interactive feature about Suchet’s Poirot outfit, and an article about Poirot’s perhaps most famous case, the “Murder on the Orient Express”.

Hotel room

Christie’s hotel room in Istanbul, Turkey, where she wrote the “Murder on the Orient Express”. Courtesy of WikimediaCommons.

More Information on Poirot is provided on this cool US website and in this fantastic longreads of the LA Review of Books.

The second famous detective is totally different: Miss Marple, a fragile but sharp minded elderly English spinster, famously portrait by Margaret Rutherford and Joan Hickson in the TV series, who was a perfect match to the descriptions of Miss Marple in the books. BBC provides an overview of the different Marple-performers.
And here you can experience a piece of Miss Marple’s World: Serve your tea in style. In Miss-Marple-style. 😉

For even more information:

Here’s a list of 35 fun facts about Agatha Christie, the guys over at Mental Floss have also gathered cool facts and even more facts and stunning trivia here.

The Guardian has put together the  10 best Christie novels for a start.

Or visit the official Agatha Christie website.

A very special glimpse into Christie’s life provides the place where she lived and invented her characters, her estate Greenway. Smithonian has a great article about it.

And if these informations are still not enough for you, or you got a taste for Christie, please visit BBC’s Christie website, a treasure trove of all things Christie.

Oh – and if you know everything about Agatha Christie now, don’t forget to take the quiz from The New Yorker 😉

Grave Stone

Agatha Christie’s tomb stone, Cholsey. Courtesy of WikimediaCommons


On May 29th, 1953: Hillary and Tenzing reach the summit of Mount Everest

Mount Everest Panorama

Mount Everest Panorama, seen from Tibetan Plateau, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Mountains, especially the really, really high ones, have always fascinated people. So impressive, so challenging, so near to heaven – or hell.

But why should anyone want to risk their life to climb up a mountain? George Mallory, one of the people who tried to reach Mount Everest’s summit, answered famously: “Because it is there”. He tried, and failed. Not only didn’t he reach his goal- he lost his life at the attempt.

It was another man who should be the first to reach the goal of conquering “goddess mother of the world”, as it is called in Tibet. Sir Edmund Hillary, a mountaineer from New Zealand, reached the highest point of the Earth on May 28th, 1953, accompanied by the Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, almost thirty years after Mallory’s unsuccessful endeavor and tragical death.

Hillary and Tenzing

Hillary and Tenzing. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The 60th return of this event is reason enough to celebrate with a few links on the Mount Everest and the people who tried to defeat it.

There is a huge amount of wonderful and impressive pictures featuring Mount Everest on the web. Here are a few examples:

One of the best ressources is the “Imaging Everest” from the Royal Geographic Society, dedicated to history, geography and the people and region surrounding the mountain.

Here is a HD panorama map of the Himalaya, to give you some orientation. Google Maps Streetview has also a panorama, from the Base Camp. And you can watch a cool video:

The NYT published a nice photo essay, “Exploring Nepal’s Everest region“. A huge collection of almost 400 pictures can be found here. National Geographic presents a few historical Everest expedition photos.

NASA provides an interesting tutorial on “How to find Mt. Everest from space” with many interesting photos.

Even the litter left by hundreds of mountaineers on the Everest is not wasted after all: Tibetan artists create stunning artworks from it.

Last, but not least, for the mountain itself, here’s the allegedly only 360° panorama view from the Everest’s top. Absolutely breathtaking!

But this day also celebrates the brave men who tried – and succeeded or failed – to conquer the mountain.

Edmund Hillary holds the title of the first man standing on top of the Everest.

Sir Hillary

Sir Edmund Hillary. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Listen to him telling you in an interview about his amazing achievement, in his own voice:

Here is a  TIME photo essay about Hillary’s ascent. A comprehensive biography can be found on Wikipedia.

In 2008, the NYT published an impressive obituary for Sir Edmund Hilary.

The second famous mountaineer to honor is George Mallory, who lost his life almost 90 years ago, allegedly on his way up to the summit. It could never be proved wether he reached it or not.

Mallory and expedition

Mallory, on the right of the rear row, on an Expedition to the Everest in 1921, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

BBC broadcasted an interesting Film, “The wildest dream”. See a trailer here:

Or explore a wonderful NatGeo photo essay about the recreation of his 1924 climb.

In 1999 Mallory’s body was discovered, after 75 years. Read an analysis of the discovery and Mallory’s final hours by the Mallory & Irvine Research Expedition’s historian Jochen Hemleb.

At last some interesting trivia about the stunning effectiveness of Mallory’s Everest clothes.

Everest Mosaic by NASA

2004 photo mosaic of the Himalayas with Mount Everest from the ISS, Courtesy of NASA via Wiki Commons

And if anyone now plans to climb the highest peak of the world, here’s where to start: The website Summitpost.org provides a lot of information, from “Getting there” to a brief gear list. But before, you probably should try to solve this quiz 😉