Few names are as iconic as Stephen King when it comes to the written word. Known for his spine-tingling tales of horror and suspense, which have been adapted into countless horror movies, King has enthralled readers for decades with his unique brand of storytelling.
But in a recent interview, the master of the macabre revealed a surprising twist in his approach to writing mystery novels, and it takes a deliberate page (pun intended) straight out of Alfred Hitchcock’s playbook of suspense as opposed to Agatha Christie’s guide.
The renowned author of Salem’s Lot is currently promoting his latest novel, Holly, which reintroduces his beloved character from Mr. Mercedes. It’s a gripping story about a mass murderer plowing a Mercedes-Benz through a crowd at a job fair. During an interview on The Book Review Podcast, the horror author shared his approach to crafting mysteries, emphasizing his preference for the suspenseful style of Alfred Hitchcock over the intricate whodunits often associated with Agatha Christie.
Agatha Christie was sitting quietly on a train when she overheard a stranger saying her name. In the carriage, she said, were “two women discussing me, both with copies of my paperback editions on their knees”. They had no idea of the identity of their fellow passenger, and proceeded to discuss the most famous author in the world. “I hear,” said one of the ladies, “she drinks like a fish.”
I love this story because it sums up so much about Agatha Christie’s life. They both had her paperbacks. Of course they did. Christie wrote more than 80 books, outsold only by Shakespeare and the Bible, so the cliche runs. And she wasn’t just a novelist, either: she remains history’s most performed female playwright. She was so successful people think of her as an institution, not as a breaker of new ground. But she was both.
And then, in the railway carriage, there’s the watchful presence of Christie herself, unnoticed. Yes, she was easy to overlook, as is the case with nearly any woman past middle age. But she deliberately played on the fact that she seemed so ordinary. It was a public image she carefully crafted to conceal her real self.