Titles, Actresses, and of Course Murder… Oh My!

April 30, 2012 at 6:14 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

First Edition UK Cover 1933

Title: Lord Edgware Dies/ 13 At Dinner

Author: Agatha Christie

Going through my own personal Agatha Christie Crime Collection challenge, next on my list for April was 13 At Dinner.  My copies are leather bound editions with 3 titles per volume, in no particular order, so I thought my eyes were just going bad when I couldn’t find the title.  Finally I settled on 13 Problems and thought I was ready to go, but opening it up, something didn’t feel right.  So it was back to the internet to check over my list.

That’s when I discovered that 13 At Dinner was originally published as Lord Edgware Dies, and low and behold, I actually have a copy of THAT.  The story follows the trail of a woman suspected of murdering her husband because, quite frankly, she told everyone he would and then he drops dead.  It happens during a dinner party at which there are 13 guests, hence the republished title.  But that doesn’t explain why they chose to retitle the book.

I was doing a little research into this phenomena, and discovered that this happens quite often especially in crime fiction.  For Christie alone, there’s a fabulously long list of retitles, mostly between the first edition UK and the first edition US:

After the Funeral  (UK) = Funerals are Fatal (US)

Death in the Clouds (UK) = Death in the Air (US)

Destination Unknown  (UK) = So Many Steps to Death (US)

Dumb Witness (UK) = Poirot loses a Client

(US) Five little Pigs (UK) = Murder in Retrospect (US)

4.50 From Paddington (UK) = What Mrs McGillicuddy Saw (US)

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (UK) = Murder for Christmas (US)

Hickory, Dickory Dock (UK ) = Hickory, Dickory Death (US)

The Hollow (UK) = Murder after Hours (US)

Lord Edgware Dies (UK) = Thirteen at Dinner (US)

The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side (UK) = The Mirror Crack’d (US)

Mrs. McGinty’s Dead (UK) = Blood will Tell (US)

The Mousetrap (UK) = Three Blind Mice (US)

Murder in the Mews (UK) = Dead Man’s Mirror (US)

Murder is Easy (UK) = Easy to Kill (US)

Murder on the Orient Express (UK) = Murder in the Calais Coach (US)

One, Two, Buckle my Shoe (UK) = The Patriotic Murders (US)

Parker Pyne Investigates (UK) = Mr. Parker Pyne, Detective (US)

Poirot’s Early Cases (UK) = Hercule Poirot’s Early Cases (US)

The Sittaford Mystery (UK) = Murder at Hazelmoor (US)

Sparkling Cyanide (UK) = Remembered Death (US)

Taken at the Flood (UK) = There is a Tide (US)

Ten Little Niggers (Original UK) = And Then There Were None (Current UK) = Ten Little Indians (US)

They do it with Mirrors (UK) = Murder with Mirrors (US)

The Thirteen Problems (UK) = The Tuesday Club Murders (US) T

hree-Act Tragedy (UK) = Murder in Three Acts (US)

Why Didn’t they Tell Evans? (UK) = The Boomerang Clue (US) T

– taken from http://www.gaslightbooks.com.au/checklists/mchanges.html

While looking into that little curiousity, I stumbled onto another bit of fun.  One of the characters in this particular Poirot adventure is based off a real historical person.  Inspired would be more correct, as Ruth Draper wasn’t going around getting herself killed.  Christie’s actress Carlotta Adams was an invention conceived from watching the American actress Ruth Draper in action.

Draper was known for her monologues, ability to become something new with few props, and to immitate anyone.  When Christie discovered Draper she thought “[…] how clever she was and how good her impersonations were; the wonderful way she could transform herself from a nagging wife to a peasant girl kneeling in a cathedral. Thinking about her led me to the book Lord Edgware Dies.” (from Christie’s autobiography which I desperately need to read!).

Apparently, Draper loved to perform at parties as well as on Broadway.  It was said that she would watch people, taking note on all their little quirks and behaviors, and then turn what she gathered of them into one-person sketch, worthy of all sorts of accolades.  She traveled throughout Europe as well and was quite the sensation.  The character of Carlotta Adams is one in the same, aside from the small little detail that she doesn’t live to the ripe age of 70 because she gets wrapped up in a murder mystery.

I’m enjoying my weekly sit downs with Christie, and Lord Edgware Dies has been no exception.  Its fun, interesting, and Poirot always keeps me on my toes.

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