When Arthur Conan Doyle looked for Agatha Christie.

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Agatha Christie is one of the greats of mystery literature. For eleven days, she was at the center of her own mystery, that got international headlines. On a December night, she drove away from her home in Berkshire and vanished completely. Her car was found abandoned and a huge manhunt was launched. Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes mystery stories, participated in the search.1Arthur Conan Doyle,

At shortly after 9.30 p.m. on Friday 3 December 1926, Agatha Christie got up from her armchair and climbed the stairs of her Berkshire home. She kissed her sleeping daughter Rosalind, aged seven, goodnight and made her way back downstairs again. Then she climbed into her Morris Cowley and drove off into the night. She would not be seen again for eleven days.

Her disappearance would spark one of the largest manhunts ever mounted. Agatha Christie was already a famous writer and more than one thousand policemen were assigned to the case, along with hundreds of civilians. For the first time, aeroplanes were also involved in the search.

The Home Secretary, William Joynson-Hicks, urged the police to make faster progress in finding her.1st_Viscount_Brentford_1923

Two of Britain’s most famous crime writers, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, and Dorothy L. Sayers, author of the Lord Peter Wimsey series, were drawn into the search. Their specialist knowledge, it was hoped, would help find the missing writer.

It didn’t take long for the police to locate her car. It was found abandoned on a steep slope at Newlands Corner near Guildford. But there was no sign of Agatha Christie herself and nor was there any evidence that she’d been involved in an accident.

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For 11 days the country buzzed with conjecture about the disappearance. All the elements of a classic Christie story were there. The Silent Pool, a natural spring near the accident scene, for instance, was said to be the site of the death of a young girl and her brother and many thought the novelist had drowned herself there. Others suggested the incident was a publicity stunt, while, more chillingly, some clues seemed to point in the direction of murder at the hands of her unfaithful husband, Archie Christie, a former First World War fighter pilot.

Arthur Conan Doyle, a keen occultist, tried using paranormal powers to solve the mystery. He took one of Christie’s gloves to a celebrated medium in the hope that it would provide answers. It did not.

Dorothy Sayers visited the scene of the writer’s disappearance to search for possible clues. This proved no less futile.sayers

Not until 14 December, fully eleven days after she disappeared, was Agatha Christie finally located. Eventually, it was revealed that Christie had absconded to Harrowgate via train, where she spent eleven days hobnobbing with the young social crowd under the name of her husband’s mistress. Christie, upon being discovered, says she had no memory of the events.

Until now the two most popular theories offered for these strange events have been that either Christie was suffering from memory loss after a car crash, or that she had planned the whole thing to thwart her husband’s plans to spend a weekend with his mistress at a house close to where she abandoned her car.

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Sources

The Guardian

History Extra

 

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The other Winston Churchill

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Winston Churchill (November 10, 1871 – March 12, 1947) was an American best selling novelist of the early 20th century.

He is nowadays overshadowed, even as a writer, by the  much more famous British statesman of the same name, with whom he was acquainted, but not related. Their lives had some interesting parallels.

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Churchill was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Edward Spalding Churchill by his marriage to Emma Bell Blaine. He attended Smith Academy in Missouri and the United States Naval Academy, where he graduated in 1894. At the Naval Academy, he was conspicuous in scholarship and also in general student activities. He became an expert fencer and he organized at Annapolis the first eight-oared crew, which he captained for two years. After graduation he became an editor of the Army and Navy Journal. He resigned from the navy to pursue a writing career. In 1895, he became managing editor of the Cosmopolitan Magazine, but in less than a year he retired from that, to have more time for writing.While he would be most successful as a novelist, he was also a published poet and essayist.

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His first novel to appear in book form was The Celebrity (1898). However, Mr. Keegan’s Elopement had been published in 1896 as a magazine serial and was republished as an illustrated hardback book in 1903.

 

Churchill’s next novel—Richard Carvel (1899)—was a phenomenal success, selling some two million copies in a nation of only 76 million people, and made him rich. His next two novels, The Crisis(1901) and The Crossing (1904), were also very successful.

 

Churchill’s early novels were historical, but his later works were set in contemporary America. He often sought to include his political ideas into his novels.

 In 1898, a mansion designed by Charles Platt was built for Churchill in Cornish, New Hampshire. In 1899, Churchill moved there and named it Harlakenden House.
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He became involved in the Cornish Art Colony and went into politics, being elected to the state legislature in 1903 and 1905. In 1906 he unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for governor of New Hampshire. In 1912, he was nominated as the Progressive candidate for governor but did not win the election and did not seek public office again. In 1917, he toured the battlefields of World War I and wrote about what he saw, his first non-fiction work.

Sometime after this move, he took up painting in watercolors and became known for his landscapes. Some of his works are in the collections of the Hood Museum of Art (part of Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth College) in Hanover, New Hampshire, and the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, New Hampshire.

In 1919, Churchill decided to stop writing and withdrew from public life. As a result of this he was gradually forgotten by the public. In 1940, The Uncharted Way, his first book in twenty years, was published. The book examined Churchill’s thoughts on religion. He did not seek to publicize the book and it received little attention. Shortly before his death he said, “It is very difficult now for me to think of myself as a writer of novels, as all that seems to belong to another life.”

Churchill died in Winter Park, Florida in 1947 of a heart attack. He was predeceased in 1945 by his wife of fifty years, the former Mabel Harlakenden Hall.They had three children, including their son Creighton Churchill, a well-known writer on wines.His great-grandson is the Albany, New York, journalist Chris Churchill.

Churchill met and occasionally communicated with the British statesman and author of the same name. It was the American Churchill who became famous earlier, and in the 1890s he was much better known than his British counterpart.

The British Churchill, upon becoming aware of the American Churchill’s books, wrote to him suggesting that he, the British Churchill, would sign his own works “Winston Spencer Churchill”, using his full surname, “Spencer-Churchill”, to differentiate the books of the two authors.

 

This suggestion was accepted, with the comment that the American Churchill would have done the same, had he any middle names.In practice, after a few early editions this was abbreviated to “Winston S. Churchill”—which remained the British Churchill’s pen name.

Their lives had some interesting parallels. They both gained their tertiary education at service colleges and briefly served (during the same period) as officers in their respective countries’ armed forces (one was a naval, the other an army officer). Both Churchills were keen amateur painters, as well as writers. Both were also politicians; although here the comparison is far more tenuous: the British Churchill’s political career being infinitely more illustrious.

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