Agatha Christie: still the Queen of crime?
Ninety years ago, in February 1927 to be ex-act, Agatha Christie, the undisputed British queen of murder, mystery and suspense, spent a short holiday in Puerto de la Cruz, staying at the Hotel Taoro, which was then a grand hotel, the first in Spain, the equivalent of five stars today.
Tourism in the town at the time was still in its infancy; well heeled visitors would arrive in the winter months to enjoy the warm climate and the clean air. She is said to have described the trip as an escape from the pressures of England and having arrived with her daughter and her assistant the plan was to finish the novel she was working on and to spend some quality family time.
She didn’t stay in Puerto long before moving on to Las Palmas in Grand Canaria, she did however use the town as a setting for a short story, a place she names simply as La Paz. The story takes place at the viewpoint overlooking the sea at the end of the street, which now bears her name and in the house known as Casa Cólogan which sits opposite. ‘The Man of the Sea’ was published in a collection of short stories featuring Mr. Quin, the main protagonist, in a book entitled ‘The Mysterious Mr, Quin’, in 1930.
Now fast forward to 2017, her visit is still remembered in Puerto de la Cruz where her long career and books are celebrated during a biennial Agatha Christie Festival.
This year’s festival, the sixth, organised by C.I.T. as usual, takes place from 6th November to 12th November during which time there are a host of organised events planned, of which I will come to in a moment. Firstly though, there must be those among you who are thinking what a strange festival to take place in Puerto, remembering a British author who died in 1976 and one who has, if we are really honest, only the most tenuous link with the town.
I admit I used to belong to that school of thought, before realising it is not only a celebration of Agatha Christie herself. It is also a celebration of early tourism, of the town’s development and of the part the British and Irish commu-nities played in it, a contri-bution all too quickly forgotten nowadays. Besides which, it is an event, one of the few in this ‘tourist town’ where the organisers recogni-se the need to host it in langua-ges other than exclusively Spanish.
So what can we expect from this year’s festival
Dr John Curran is a guest speaker, a veteran of previous festivals, recognised as a leading authority on Agatha Christie’s life and works and someone who has worked closely with her family on her archive. Dr. Curran, the author of a number of biographical books on Agatha Christie, will deliver a talk on ‘The influence of travel on Agatha Christie’. So, it was not just Puerto de la Cruz then, a place to which she never returned.
This year he is joined by Andrew Wilson, a journalist and author who will present his book, ‘A talent for murder’ which was published earlier in the year. A novel written very much in the style of Agatha Christie with all her usual mystery and intrigue, only this story has one big difference, Agatha Christie is the main character. I’ll say no more, not wanting to give the plot away, other than to say it is a very good read and that there is to be a sequel. It is a must read for all Agatha Christie fans. Dr John Curran and Andrew Wilson also join forces to present a talk on the theme, ‘Is Agatha Christie still the queen of crime? I confess that before this year, I can’t remember having read any of her books. Since then I have been reading my way through them, probably not the best way to appreciate them, at least, not by reading one Poirot mystery after another, but if you like books that are simply written, with plots that are intriguing without tying your brain in knots, then they are a good read. Even the earliest of her books have stood the test of time and are very readable today, though some of the language used might not now be 100% pc.
Staying on the theme of Crime writers, there will also be presentations of their recent books from the follo-wing authors, Toni Hill, José Luis Correa, Yanet Costa and Mariano Gambín.
John Lucas and John Reid, both members of long established British families within Puerto will talk about ‘The British in Puerto de la Cruz’ from a historic point of view, I assume , which should be very interesting. Carlos Cólogan Soriano speaks about the history of Puerto de la Cruz from a different perspective.
Ramón Michán Doña talks about Tourism in Puerto de la Cruz before 1927.
There will be a guided walk, always a popular event, ‘A walk with Agatha Christie’. Follow in her footsteps taking a route from Taoro to La Paz.
There will be theatre on the move. A play will be performed depicting the story of ‘The man from the sea’, which starts at Hotel Botanico before making its way to La Paz.
The mystery of the stars will be revealed in an organised night excursion to Teide.
An exhibition and display of surfing will take place of Playa Martiánez. (Agatha Christie was a keen surfer apparently)
The English library creates a display of Agatha Christie books for all to peruse during their normal opening hours and Morning tea will be available. (With the emphasis on morning) The local Biblioteca will do the same only without the offer of refreshments, although there is a cafe almost right next door.
On Sunday, the last day of the festival you can enjoy free entry at Jardin Botánico, a beautiful garden in which to while away an hour no matter what time of year. Then why not make your way into town where there will be a display of vintage and veteran cars in Avenida de Colón.
This list is by no means exhaustive, there are more events going on throughout the week including an exhibition and films shows in Castillo San Felipe. If you are inte-rested and want to find out more why not visit the C.I.T office in calle Puerto Viejo (next to the municipal library) and pick up a programme giving the day, venue, and time for each event.
To finish just a final reminder of the dates, The Agatha Christie Festival runs from 6th to 12th November.