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Black Coffee

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A booklist for: Black Coffee

Production dates: October 19 – November 4, 2018

This is a booklist created by Gere Branch library staff to accompany the stage production of Black Coffee at Gere’s neighbor, The Lincoln Community Playhouse, supplemented by additional material from a recent Special Program at the libraries.

Black Coffee was written by British playwright and novelist Agatha Christie. Perhaps better known as “The Queen of Mystery” or “The Queen of Crime”, for the 66 mystery novels and 165 short stories she wrote over the course of her lifetime (1890-1975), Christie had a intense love for the theater. She wrote numerous plays during her teens and early 20s, none of which ever made it to the stage.

She broke into mystery publishing with her debut novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles in 1920, introducing the meticulous and slightly obnoxious Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot. Poirot had made appearances in 6 novels and a few dozen short stories by 1930, when Christie wrote an original mystery for the stage, starring Poirot, entitled Black Coffee. Though she went on to adapt four of her Poirot novels into plays, Christie made the decision to remove Poirot from those stage plays, replacing him with other, less memorable sleuths. This makes Black Coffee the ONLY full-length (3 act) play that Christie wrote that features this character — although he does appear in two short one-acts as well (though they were originally for radio and television and were adapted later for the stage).

This Lincoln Community Playhouse Booklist has some bonus content. A special presentation was given on September 30th 2018 at Gere, and November 7th 2018 at Bennett Martin Public Library, entitled “The Mystery of Agatha Christie”. In association with that presentation, several handouts were prepared for the audience, and electronic versions of all of them are now available on the libraries’ website. Check out these resources for dozens of additional Christie-related reading suggestions. Here are links to all of them:

Complete Agatha Christie Checklist

Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple Portrayers

The Mystery of Agatha Christie: Books About Christie (and Related Topics)

Agatha Christie Readalikes

The Hercule Poirot Fictional Canon

The Hercule Poirot Fictional Canon with Plot Descriptions

This presentation featured Scott Clark from the downtown library, in character as Hercule Poirot — the role he portrays in the Lincoln Community Playhouse production of Black Coffee — talking about the history of Agatha Christie — her life, her mysterious disappearance, her biographies, her best known fictional characters (Poirot, Miss Marple, Tommy & Tuppence, etc.), and the film/tv/stage/radio adaptations of her body of work. An audio recording will be made of the November 7th presentation, which will be available as part of the libraries’ podcast series.

FICTION

The Mysterious Affair at Styles
by Agatha Christie [Christie]

In her first published mystery, Agatha Christie introduces readers to the heroic detective, Hercule Poirot. This is a classic murder mystery set in the outskirts of Essex. The victim is the wealthy mistress of Styles Court. The list of suspects is long and includes her gold-digging new spouse and stepsons, her doctor, and her hired companion.


The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
by Agatha Christie [Christie]

A widow’s sudden suicide sparks rumors that she murdered her first husband, was being blackmailed, and was carrying on a secrey affair with the wealthy Roger Ackroyd. The following evening, Ackroyd is murdered in his locked study, but not before receiving a letter identifying the widow’s blackmailer. Kings Abbot is crawling with suspects and it’s up to famous detective, Hercule Poirot, to solve the case. One of the most famous murder mystery novels ever written!


The A.B.C. Murders
by Agatha Christie [Christie]

Alice Ascher, a shopkeeper in Andover, is bludgeoned to death at her place of work. Next to die is Miss Bernard in Bexhill, then Mr. Clarke in Churston. More disturbing than the alphabetic sequence of the killings or the ABC Railway guide that the killer leaves at the scene of each crime are the taunting notes Hercule Poirot receives each time the killer is about to strike again. It is one of Poirot’s most challenging cases yet.


Murder on the Orient Express
by Agatha Christie [Christie]

One of Agatha Christie’s most famous mysteries, Murder on the Orient Express was inspired by two real-life crimes and the author’s own experience being stranded on the Orient Express during Christmas of 1931. While traveling to Paris, a wealthy American is stabbed to death in his cabin on the Orient Express. With the train stuck in a snowdrift, there is no easy escape for the killer. Fortunately, detective Hercule Poirot is aboard and launches a clever investigation into the curious assortment of passengers, of whom each seems to have a motive.


Curtain
by Agatha Christie [Christie]

The final Poirot novel, published the year before Agatha Christie herself passed away. Written during the WWII years, and kept in a bank vault for 30 years before it finally saw publication. Nearing the end of his own life, and in failing health, Poirot is reunited with his friend and colleague Hastings, to solve a mystery at the same place where their first case took place — Styles.


Black Coffee
by Charles Osborne [Osborne]

Nearly a quarter-century after her death, Agatha Christie remains the most popular mystery writer of all time. In 1998, in a celebrated publishing event, fans and newcomers alike were treated to a “new” Christie novel. Created in 1930 as a stage play and faithfully adapted by Charles Osborne, Black Coffee brings back beloved detective Hercule Poirot to exercise his “little grey cells” one more deliciously deductive time… An urgent call from physicist Sir Claude Amory sends famed detective Hercule Poirot rushing from London to a sprawling country estate. Sir Claude fears a member of his own household wants to steal a secret formula destined for the Ministry of Defense. But Poirot arrives too late. The formula is missing. Worse, Sir Claude has been poisoned by his after-dinner coffee. Poirot soon identifies a potent brew of despair, treachery, and deception amid the mansion’s occupants. Now he must find the formula and the killer…while letting no poison slip ‘twix his low lips.


NON-FICTION

In the Shadow of Agatha Christie: Classic Crime Fiction by Forgotten Female Authors, 1850-1917
edited by Leslie S. Klinger [823.08 In]

Agatha Christie is undoubtedly the world’s best-selling mystery author, hailed as the “Queen of Crime,” with worldwide sales in the billions. Christie burst onto the literary scene in 1920, with The Mysterious Affair at Styles; her last novel was published in 1976, a career longer than even Conan Doyle’s forty-year span. The truth is that it was due to the success of writers like Anna Katherine Green in America; L. T. Meade, C. L. Pirkis, the Baroness Orczy, and Elizabeth Corbett in England; and Mary Fortune in Australia that the doors were finally opened for women crime-writers. Authors who followed them, such as Patricia Wentworth, Dorothy Sayers, and, of course, Agatha Christie would not have thrived without the bold, fearless work of their predecessors — and the genre would be much poorer for their absence. So while Agatha Christie may still reign supreme, it is important to remember that she did not ascend that throne except on the shoulders of the women who came before her — and inspired her — and who are now removed from her shadow once and for all by this superb new anthology by Leslie S. Klinger. Featuring the work of: Mary Fortune, Harriet Prescott Spofford, Ellen Wood, Elizabeth Corbett, C. L. Pirkis, Geraldine Bonner, Ellen Glasgow, L. T. Meade, Baroness Orczy, Augusta Großer, M. E. Graddon, Anna Katherine Green, Carolyn Wells, Susan Glashell.


Poirot and Me
by David Suchet [Biography Suchet]

David Suchet shares his many memories of creating this iconic television series and reflects on what the detective has meant to him over the years. In the summer of 2013 David Suchet filmed his final scenes as Hercule Poirot. After 24 years in the role, he played the character in every story that Agatha Christie wrote about him (bar one, deemed unfilmable) and he bid adieu to a role and a character that changed his life. Here he tells the story of how he secured the part, with the blessing of Agatha Christie’s daughter, and set himself the task of presenting the most authentic Poirot that had ever been filmed. David Suchet is uniquely placed to offer the ultimate companion to one of the world’s longest running television series. Peppered with anecdotes about filming, including many tales of the guest stars who have appeared over the years, the book is essential reading for Poirot fans all over the world.


Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days
by Jared Cade [823 ChrYc]

This fascinating biography concentrates on this central mystery of the writer’s life, an eleven day disappearance in 1926, one that was to have a profound effect on her later behavior and an episode to which she was ever afterwards profoundly anxious to avoid allusion. Cade has uncovered a wealth of startling new evidence including firsthand accounts by relatives and intimate contemporaries that make it apparent why Agatha disappeared and what she did in the first few days of her disappearance, and how it all went terribly wrong. He tells in more detail than ever before the fascinating story of the search itself, including the massive Great Sunday Hunt which involved thousands, and the intense public interest her disappearance caused — such notables as Edgar Wallace, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Dorothy Sayers all contributed their “solutions” for publication in the press.


Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks: Fifty Years of Mysteries in the Making
by John Curran [823 ChrYc]

Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks: Fifty Years of Mysteries in the Making is the fascinating exploration of the contents of Agatha Christie’s long hidden notebooks, including illustrations, analyses, and two previously unpublished Hercule Poirot short stories. Not only will Christie’s legions of ardent fans find a treasure chest of new material from the author of such classics as And Then There Were None, Murder on the Orient Express, and Death on the Nile, but Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks is also a must-read tutorial for writers who want to learn the intricacies of constructing crime novels.


Curtain Up: Agatha Christie – A Life in the Theatre
by Julius Green [Biography Christie]

From the producer of numerous Agatha Christie stage plays comes the first book to examine the world’s bestselling mystery writer’s career and work as a playwright, published to commemorate her 125th birthday.

Agatha Christie has long been revered around the world for her mysteries and the indelible characters she created, Miss Jane Marple and Hercule Poirot. In addition to her contributions as a novelist, this gifted writer was also an acclaimed playwright. Offering a unique, in-depth look at her work for the stage, Curtain Up analyzes her plays and features excerpts from Agatha Christie’s correspondences, notebooks, and several unpublished and unperformed scripts quoted from for the first time.

Meticulously researched, peppered with groundbreaking discoveries–including a details discussion of her only play to premiere in America — Curtain Up sheds new light on Christie’s artistry and adds a fascinating layer to her remarkable story.


Created in partnership with the Lincoln Community Playhouse by ka/Gere Branch October 2018 | Modified for use on BookGuide by sdc/bmpl