Sunday, 3 June 2018

Hercule Poirot

I have not only been reading a lot of crime fiction lately but also about the history of crime fiction, largely inspired by Martin Edwards’s book “The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books” (British Library Crime Classics 2017).  While my eyes were bad I was restricted to word by word wading through large print books, one of which was an Agatha Christie.   Since then I have been reminding myself about Hercule Poirot.
Poirot's name was derived from two earlier fictional detectives: Marie Belloc Lowndes' Hercule Popeau and Frank Howel Evans' Monsieur Poiret, a retired Belgian police officer living in London. 
A more obvious influence on the early Poirot stories is that of Arthur Conan Doyle. In An Autobiography, Christie states, "I was still writing in the Sherlock Holmes  tradition – eccentric detective, stooge assistant, with a Lestrade -type Scotland Yard detective, Inspector Japp". For his part, Conan Doyle acknowledged basing his detective stories on the model of Edgar Allan Poe’s Auguste Dupin and his anonymous narrator, and basing his character Sherlock Holmes on Joseph Bell, who in his use of "ratiocination" prefigured Poirot's reliance on his "little grey cells".
Poirot also bears a striking resemblance to A.E.W.Mason’s fictional detective, Inspector Hanaud of the French Surete who first appeared in the 1910 novel  “At the Villa Rosa” and predates the first Poirot novel by ten years.
Unlike the models mentioned above, Christie's Poirot was clearly the result of her early development of the detective in her first book, written in 1916 and published in 1920. His Belgian nationality was interesting because of Belgium's occupation by Germany, which also provided a plausible explanation of why such a skilled detective would be out of work and available to solve mysteries at an English country house.   At the time of Christie's writing, it was considered patriotic to express sympathy towards the Belgians, since the invasion of their country had constituted Britain's causus belli for entering World War I, and British wartime propaganda emphasised the Rape of Belgium.

Poirot first appeared in “The Mysterious Affair at Styles” (published in 1920) and exited in Curtain (published in 1975). Following the latter, Poirot was the only fictional character to receive an obituary on the front page of The New York Times.
Hercule Poirot Is Dead; Famed Belgian Detective
By THOMAS LASK   AUG. 6, 1975
Hercule Poirot, a Belgian detective who became internationally famous, has died in England. His age was unknown.
Mr. Poirot achieved fame as a private investigator after he retired as a member of the Belgian police force in 1904. His career, as chronicled in the novels of Dame Agatha Christie, his creator, was one of the most illustrious in fiction.
At the end of his life, he was arthritic and had a bad heart. He was in a wheelchair often, and was carried from his bedroom to the public lounge at Styles Court, a nursing home in Essex, wearing a wig and false mustaches to mask the signs of age that offended his vanity. In his active days, he was aways impeccably dressed.
Mr. Poirot, who was just 5 feet 4 inches tall, went to England from Belgium during World War I as a refugee. He settled in a little town not far from Styles, then an elaborate country estate, where he took on his first private case.
The news of his death, given by Dame Agatha, was not unexpected. Word that he was near death reached here last May.
His death was confirmed by Dodd, Mead, Dame Agatha's publishers, who will put out “Curtain,” the novel that chronicles his last days, on Oct. 15.

By 1930, Agatha Christie found Poirot "insufferable", and, by 1960, she felt that he was a "detestable, bombastic, tiresome, ego-centric little creep". Yet the public loved him and Christie refused to kill him off, claiming that it was her duty to produce what the public liked.

David Suchet starred as Poirot in the ITV series from 1989 until June 2013, when he announced that he was bidding farewell to the role. "No one could've guessed then that the series would span a quarter-century or that the classically trained Suchet would complete the entire catalogue of whodunits featuring the eccentric Belgian investigator, including 33 novels and dozens of short stories."   His final appearance was in an adaptation of Curtain: Poirot's Last Case, aired on 13 November 2013.  During the time that it was filmed, Suchet expressed his sadness at his final farewell to the Poirot character whom he had loved.


  1. I read some of Poirot books as a teenager.Actually, I think I read most of Christie's crime stories, as my aunt has the whole collection (in cheap paperbacks). Maybe is time to re-read some of them... I find funny that the author can't stand her own creature :)

    1. I read all her crime stories when I was a teenager, as well, Eva. Though there seem to have been a couple published more recently - I think they are adapted plays. Then I re-read a few of them in my twenties and the occasional one since.
      Once I find an author I like I often read a whole lot of their books.

  2. Fascinating. It's a bit odd that some authors truly come to dislike their characters. If it's true that every character written is a part of the author's self, that makes it even "curiouser", as Alice would have said.

  3. I dearly loved David Suchet as Hercule Poirot. Had Agatha Christie been alive to see him, I am certain she would agree with me.
    Agatha Christie is a writer that I really like, and she is a fiction writer, aren't you proud of me, John? :-)

  4. The series with David Suchet as Poirot is being aired on German TV these days. I always try to catch it but rarely do, but when I manage to sit down to watch it, it is always a treat - the setting, the costumes, the plots, the acting. I must admit that I have never actually read a Poirot story, although I have read some Christie.

  5. Thank you! I love these books and re-read them often (in between more modern but less enjoyable stuff). I didn't know about that obituary notice, what a tribute that was! It's great to see you back to blogging, by the way. Best wishes from a fan and fellow blogger in Florence, SC, USA, Bette Cox (

    1. Thanks for your good wishes, Bette. I really missed blogging (and comments) while was away.

  6. I once went through a spell of reading all the POirot stories, and the little detective and his grey cells will always have a place in my heart! I loved David Suchet in the role but in fact another star of that series was the set design, it was a real pleasure to watch.

  7. As a fan of both Agatha Christie's books in general and Hercule Poirot in particular, I too, enjoyed your post and the obituary of which I was unaware: possibly because I was in the process of changing my life and place of residence irrevocably.

  8. Well, this is timely... I am just now in search of the complete collection of Poirot on Blu-Ray DVD.... it's just that I'm unwilling to pay the price they're asking just now. Love that series so much... have never read the books, but after seeing David Suchet as Poirot, I just don't need anything more. Nevermind the adorable Captain Hastings, and Miss Lemon! Can't get enough of that little trio.


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