Tag Archives: agatha christie

‘More on My Writing Methods’ (2012)

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The good old stuff

I’ve refined my technique (I hope!) during the seven years since I wrote this–and where did that time go?

https://leeduigon.com/2012/07/03/more-on-my-writing-methods/

One is always working to refine one’s technique. But one thing hasn’t changed: if you want to be a writer, you still have to listen to other writers. Agatha Christie and Edgar Rice Burroughs are still there to back me up.

Anyway, after seven years of working at it constantly, my literary voice is more my own, and mine only, and someday maybe new writers will try to learn from me.

That’s a rather humbling thought.


‘The Best Movies That Were Never Made’ (2013)

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These are great movies that absolutely should have been made!

https://leeduigon.com/2013/01/15/the-best-movies-that-were-never-made/

Okay, anyone can play this game–imagine a movie you would have loved to see, but which never got made. We could have a lot of fun with this, if a bunch of you played along with me.

I just re-read Only in New England recently. Otto Preminger, how could you have let this one slip past you? Joseph Cotten, was your agent asleep? *Sigh* It would’ve been a classic.


Movie Review: ‘Death on the Nile’ (1978)

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We hadn’t seen this movie in several years, so we watched it the other day and it was just as wonderful as ever.

It isn’t always easy to get an all-star cast to work together, but in Death on the Nile, the stars are out in force. What a cast! Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot, supported by David Niven, Bette Davis, Mia Farrow, Lois Chiles, Maggie Smith, Simon MacCorkindale, Jack Warden, Olivia Hussey–whew! With Angela Lansbury, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of an alcoholic romance writer who’s seen better days. Fantastic performances all around.

And if you like movies with lavish sets, exotic locations, and a plot that twists and turns all over the place–well, this one’s for you. Want escape? This film’s got it. For 140 minutes, you’re out of here. Much, much better than the David Suchet remake.

In a little while, we’re going to follow our New Year’s custom of watching George Pal’s 1960 classic, The Time Machine. Followed by Patty’s heavenly pork casserole for supper.

Happy New Year, everybody!


Still Working!

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The sun has come out, unexpectedly, so I have to seize the moment and get out there with my legal pad, to continue my work on Bell Mountain No. 12, His Mercy Endureth Forever. Unlike Agatha Christie, pictured above, I can’t write fiction indoors. As I write, I have to try to inhabit a world that doesn’t, in fact, exist; and I can’t do that if I keep getting robo-calls from “Your Debt Partner” and various resorts that try to convince me that I’ve been there before and really liked it.

We have a black walnut tree in the yard which day and night bombards us with nuts the size of baseballs. Thanks to the incessant rain, the nuts have begun to rot while still on the tree. A lot of them go “splat!” instead of “pow!” when they hit the ground: icky black goo all over the place. But even that is less distracting than the robo-calls.

I still don’t have the climax to this story, still waiting for the Lord to show it to me. I feel like I’m chipping away at a great block of marble to get at the shape that waits inside, with no idea of what that shape will be. Your guess is as good as mine. Suffice it to say that currently hellzapoppin in Obann.

Well, back to work! I hope the nuts keep missing me: a few of them this morning were… adjacent.


Here’s That ‘Curtain’ Article

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Hooray! The Chalcedon website (www.chalcedon.edu/) has a brand-new front page to display new articles and video. From now on, that’s where all the new stuff will be; and that’ll make it easy to find.

And published there today is my article on Agatha Christie’s Curtain, written months ago and now available here.

https://chalcedon.edu/resources/articles/can-a-mystery-novel-tell-us-whats-gone-wrong-with-british-christianity

Can a mystery novel tell us what’s gone wrong with British Christianity–and probably our own, too?

Read it and see!


A Cracked Criticism

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Isn’t it just awful, when you try to say something smart and it comes out stupid?

Here’s a comment by novelist and literary critic A.N. Wilson, found on the back cover of an Agatha Christie book. Pay very close attention to it.

“Time and again Agatha Christie pulled off what many obviously greater writers labored for in vain, a work of art which is both perfectly crafted and morally satisfying.”

Uh… “obviously greater writers,” you say? Who “labored in vain” to do things that Christie could do? I don’t get how not being able to match her makes them greater. It certainly wouldn’t be obvious to me. It sounds like talking about “obviously greater jumpers” who can’t jump as high as the person they’re supposed to be greater jumpers than. Which is not the most elegant sentence I ever wrote, but never mind.

Ah, well. Mustn’t be too hard on Mr. Wilson. His books have come in for a healthy share of shredding.

Literary criticism has its uses. You can line your bird cage with it, or fold it into a paper hat.


‘My Favorite Authors’ (2011)

Anytime you make a list, you always discover later that you should’ve added this or that, etc.

I try to learn more about the art of storytelling from every author that I read. My list really should have included Walter R. Brooks, Ross MacDonald, Ring Lardner, Sir Thomas Malory–and there I go again. Maybe I should just leave lists alone.

(Mark Twain, H.R.F. Keating, Eiji Yoshikawa [not showing off: I really do like him], Dorothy L. Sayres—now cut that out!)

https://leeduigon.com/2011/07/05/my-favorite-authors/


Who’s in Charge of This?

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Professor James Moriarty

For Agatha Christie, it was the Big Four; for Sax Roehmer, Dr. Fu Manchu; and for Arthur Conan Doyle, Professor James Moriarty, dubbed by Sherlock Holmes “the Napoleon of Crime.” These authors, and others, could not help wondering whether the evil events of their age were being orchestrated by a single conductor.

I think most of you in this audience know who that conductor is.

Where they went wrong, I think, was in attributing all the effects of evil to a single mortal cause–one man, or one organization. But what if it was many individuals, and many organizations large and small, not necessarily working consciously together, but performing similar actions motivated by similar objectives and compatible ideologies?

For instance: can anyone doubt that there are tens of millions of dollars flowing into Australia from all over the world, to support the campaign for a “Yes” vote on same-sex pseudomarriage? It doesn’t all have to come from the same source. Organized Sodomy has movers and donors all over Europe and America. Of course they’re going to want to branch out to Australia.

I am coming to believe that, by the inspiration of Satan, there is a conscious, purposeful, directed campaign for evil in this world today, whose goal is to erase Christianity and to destroy the family, leaving no effective barrier between the individual and the all-devouring state. I believe that all this stuff that we’re seeing in this century–the transgender movement, Antifa, Occupy, the universities’ expressed hatred of white people, the activities of the Democrat Party and their GOP minions in Congress, militant atheism and all the rest of it–is all part of a concerted effort ultimately tracing back to… well, Satan. Because that’s where it all comes from, in the end.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places…    —St. Paul (Ephesians 6:12)


Why I Watch Movies and TV

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Some of you are down on movies and television for celebrating immoral and even wicked actions and letting the characters in the story get away with it. Those are not unfounded criticisms.

As a fantasy novelist, I must plead guilty to writing in such a way that the story turns out as I want it to. King Ryons gets to Obann in time to save the city. Lord Orth passes through a phase of madness and idiocy to emerge as a true man of God. These things happen because I wrote them that way. It can’t be helped.

I watch a lot of old TV and movies. One reason is for relaxation. After a day of writing, I need to veg out. I don’t think any of you will accuse me of allowing these films to shape my moral outlook.

But there is another reason.

Writing a novel isn’t as easy as it looks. The only thing easy about it is that it’s very easy to mess it up. And as I write, I have two overriding concerns: character and story. Both have to be right, or the novel will be wrong.

So I watch for the same reason I never go to bed without a book to read until I fall asleep. I want to learn how to create and manage believable characters that my readers will respond to, and how to tell a story coherently, convincingly, and compellingly. I can’t learn that unless I immerse myself in other people’s stories. And because the story-telling art is so difficult, I have to keep learning all the time.

As hard as I try to avoid it, some of the stories I watch turn out to be dreck. From these I learn what not to do! From the others, the ones that are not pigs’ breakfasts, I pick up innumerable hints that I can apply to my own stories. From C.S. Lewis, Agatha Christie, Walter R. Brooks, J.R.R. Tolkien, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Arthur Upfield, and many others, I learn the techniques I need to make my novels stand the test of readership.

And daily Bible reading is indispensable as a guide to what I ought to put into my stories and what I ought to leave out. As a writer, I can do nothing without God’s blessing and guidance.

A steady diet of B.S. fiction, consumed uncritically, unthinkingly, for no other purpose than “because it’s there,” has a really good shot at rotting the consumer’s mind.

If you want to be a musician, you have to listen to other people’s music. The same hold true for story-tellers.


A ‘Christian Spy Thriller’–by Agatha Christie

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Agatha Christie was one of the most successful novelists ever, but we don’t generally think of her books as offering any identifiable Christian content. True, her two most famous detective characters, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, were solidly Christian. Poirot was a Roman Catholic, and Miss Marple always read her devotionals before getting out of bed in the morning. To most Christie fans, that’s about the long and the short of it, as far as Christian content goes.

Neither Poirot nor Marple appears in They Came to Baghdad–a spy thriller, not a detective story, published in 1951. Underlying this book is a surprisingly firm Christian foundation: not what anybody expects from a cloak and dagger job.

The plot concerns a secret superpower summit to be held in Baghdad, and the effort by British intelligence to foil a plan to turn the conference into a catastrophe–maybe even a new world war. And the success or failure of the intelligence campaign winds up depending on Victoria Jones, an unemployed typist with a gift for coming up with amazingly convincing and creative lies at short notice.

The bad guys are identified only as a shadowy organization, global in its scope and resources, neither communist nor capitalist, committed to manipulating the free world and the communist bloc into a mutually fatal showdown.

Here’s how Victoria’s mentor explains it to her.

“What they want is, I fear, the betterment of the world! The delusion that by force you can impose the Millenium on the human race is one of the most dangerous delusions in existence. Those who are out only to line their own pockets can do little harm–mere greed defeats its own ends. But the belief in a superstratum of human beings–in Supermen to rule the rest of the decadent world–that, Victoria, is the most evil of all beliefs. For when you say, ‘I am not as other men’–you have lost the two most valuable qualities we have ever tried to attain: humility and brotherhood.”

Coming out with that in 1951–wow!

Later on, Victoria reflects: “You get mad, perhaps, if you try and act the part of God. They always say humility is a Christian virtue–now I see why. Humility is what keeps you sane and a human being..”

Or, as the Bible puts it, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).

Our original temptation, provided by the Devil, was “ye shall be as gods, knowing [deciding for themselves] good and evil” (Genesis 3:5).

Have we ever been given a more accurate description of the humanist mind-set?

Hey, everybody–try this book. There’s a lot more to Agatha Christie than you thought.


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