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Duchess of Death: The Unauthorized Biography of Agatha Christie

Overview

Although she is the most popular novelist in history, with over two billion books sold worldwide, Agatha Christie lived a life shrouded in secrecy and fueled by curiosity. Nearly as notorious for her aversion to the press as she was for her 80 books and collections of short stories, Christie made no secret of her need for privacy. Utilizing over 5,000 previously unpublished letters, notes, and documents, award-winning biographer Richard Hack allows Christie to write again, 33 years after her death. DUCHESS OF ...

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Overview

Although she is the most popular novelist in history, with over two billion books sold worldwide, Agatha Christie lived a life shrouded in secrecy and fueled by curiosity. Nearly as notorious for her aversion to the press as she was for her 80 books and collections of short stories, Christie made no secret of her need for privacy. Utilizing over 5,000 previously unpublished letters, notes, and documents, award-winning biographer Richard Hack allows Christie to write again, 33 years after her death. DUCHESS OF DEATH is her story, as full of romance, travel, wealth, and scandal as any mystery Christie ever crafted.

There have been numerous biographies of the Queen of Crime, all of which claim to be definitive. However, DUCHESS OF DEATH is the first to draw from such an enormous number of previously unpublished correspondence and notes, effectively establishing it as the most authoritative, penetrating look at the personal and literary life of Christie.
 

Richard Hack has been an investigative writer for over 20 years and has written 14 books, including biographies of Ted Turner, Michael Jackson, and J. Edgar Hoover. In 2001, he wrote the critically acclaimed national bestseller, Hughes: The Private Diaries, Letters and Memos.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Best known for biographies of Howard Hughes, Rupert Murdoch, Ted Turner and J. Edgar Hoover, Hack this time investigates the grand dame of the mystery novel, Agatha Christie. Hack smartly opens with the prolific U.K. author's biggest mystery: an eleven-day disappearing act she pulled in 1926, following the final breakdown of her marriage. From there, Hack meticulously recounts her personal and professional life, exploring Christie's youth in seaside Devon, her beginnings as a writer, and her global escapades with second husband Max Mallowan. Hack is thorough with the facts, but also humanizes his subject with personal details like Christie's strained relationship with her daughter, well-rooted in letters and other primary sources (including Christie's autobiography). Though occasionally overwritten, Hack's work should entrance Christie fans, as well as anyone who enjoys lively literary biography. Color photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal
Without the cooperation of Christie's family, biographer Hack (Hughes: The Private Diaries, Memos and Letters) tracked down his subject through an examination of over 5000 items in the Agatha Christie Papers at the University of Exeter. Hack begins with an episode in Christie's life when she mysteriously disappeared for over a week at the time her first marriage was ending, resulting in false sightings and daily press coverage. After this compelling opening, Hack returns to Christie's childhood and traces her development as a writer through her personal life. A bibliography of sources and detailed listings of Christie's works are included. Hack's obvious enchantment with Christie may have led him to imagine and create her private thoughts. VERDICT This far-from-factual technique could turn off readers of traditional biographies, who would better appreciate Christie's An Autobiography or Janet Morgan's Agatha Christie. Many Christie fans, however, will be pulled in quickly by Hack.—Stacy Russo, Chapman Univ. Libs., Orange, CA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781597776202
  • Publisher: Phoenix Books, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 7/1/2009
  • Pages: 396
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Hack has been an investigative writer for 20 years, covering Hollywood and the media for much of that time. He frequently appears on television as a commentator.

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 19, 2009

    A PAGE TURNER

    I love Agatha Christie mysteries. I can read them again and again, and even though I may know the solution, I never tire of her ability to unfold a story and entertain. I have just finished reading "Duchess of Death," the unauthorized biography of Ms. Christie and found it quite a page turner. It was not only well written, in a style familiar to all Christie fans, it presented the first well-rounded and impartial telling of her life story. There are moments in this book that will make your laugh; others that will make you cry. Could anyone ask for more from a biography? I don't know who reviewer dominic-swayne is, but he obviously either didn't read this book or has something against the author. The only thing I didn't like about "Duchess of Death" is that after two days of reading it, it came to an end. I hung on every word.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 15, 2009

    A VERY HAPPY CHRISTIE FAN

    I've been reading Agatha Christie mysteries since I was in high school two dozen years ago. The true story of her personal life remained elusive to me, despite several biographies written about her that attempted to make comparisons between her plots and her family. They were unsuccessful and quite frankly boring. Finally, with "Duchess of Death" by Richard Hack, I understand Christie's background, her motivation and disappointments, and her ego--seemingly small but not non-existent like some other books suggest. It is written like a novel, drawing the reader ever forward into the complexities of the mystery writer until we emerge with a wonderfully compassionate and complete picture of an extremely private woman. This book is a must for Christie fans, and would make a great gift for others who enjoy biographies. A fun read, with much new material discovered from private letters sent from Christie to her agent. I loved it!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 19, 2011

    Highly Recommended

    Richard Hack's Duchess of Death is a tantalizing biography of the very extraordinary woman and life of Agatha Christie. Skillfully written and exhaustively researched I could not put it down. Quotes from the various media reviews that came out following the release of each new AC book or play or film whether one agrees or disagrees was the most thrilling for me and are found throughout Hack's book. Although AC didn't give a tuppence for reviews she did justly mind about the gross distortion of story lines and her characters depicted in the film productions that came out over the years and are still coming down to us in my opine. The loss of control and legal rights obviously broke her heart which is evidenced by the disdainful remarks made by AC which are also cited in Richard Hack's bio and these are fascinating. This unofficial biography is packed with details about AC's life, her family, her marriages, her associates, her travels not commonly known. Especially appreciated was the plausible yet no wishy-washy handling of AC's 11 day disappearance. The proverbial saying "Genius is one per cent inspiration, ninety-nine per cent perspiration" albeit not underlined in bold by Richard Hack is witnessed in the turning of every page of his brilliantly written unofficial biography of the Duchess of Death.

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    Posted July 13, 2009

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    Posted November 10, 2010

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    Posted October 31, 2009

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