August Murders: A Lifelong Infatuation with Agatha Christie

About 6 years ago now, I was invited to my first and only “Event to Die For” dinner party at the Rutgers University campus by my then fiancee’s parents. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was extremely excited and anxious.

I have loved mysteries since I was 10 years old and I had wanted to attend a Murder Mystery party my entire adult life. In fact my ex-wife and I had bought a kit on How to Host a Murder Mystery Dinner Party. We intended on inviting a group of friends to participate, but we couldn’t agree on who the 12 participants would be.

As soon as we walked into the door, we saw that the place was crowded. Donna and Robert were already at our table holding our seats. Nikki and I walked in, dressed semi-formal. After I hung up her coat, we went to the registration table.

The ladies took our names and our donations. They asked me if I wanted to participate, and I immediately said to pick Nikki because she was prettier, but they said they needed a man with a tie. (There were lots of men with ties. They must have noticed something in my walk that screamed at them “ACTOR!”)

I looked toward Nikki and she suggested I participate. When I said OK, along with my goody bag they handed me a binder with my character profile, a makeshift script, and some sealed envelopes that I was supposed to open at specific times during the performance.

The performance really just entailed standing up and reading the script, but because I was in front of people I wanted to impress, I emoted like a famed thespian. (If you’ve ever watched our videos, you know that I can ham it up pretty good, almost as avidly as Porky Pig.)

After the appetizer, people could go to the actors (believe me, I use that word loosely) so that as amateur sleuths they could ask questions. During every interlude, I was busy answering questions of all of the would-be detectives. (There were about 80 people, 10 tables x 8 place settings. I teach high school math. Ahem.)

It turned out that I was the murderer. Of course, I didn’t know it until I opened the last envelope, but I had an inclination. I played it as if I was innocent, so most people didn’t figure it out. In fact the five people that figured it out got a special prize, and yours truly was voted best actor.

I received a certificate to prove it and also some lovely parting gifts. More importantly, the people that needed to be impressed, were. Most importantly, I got to participate in a (fake) murder mystery.

We, Geeks, revel in our idiosyncrasies. This particular one is my oldest one, I believe. Even older than comic books if you can believe that.

I have been an avid reader since I was 10 and when I was old enough to walk to the library by myself I fed this hunger inside of me constantly. Agatha Christie was a particular favorite. I am certain that all of our blog followers know that I love horror over everything else, but Agatha Christie is quite possibly my first love.

There was something fanciful about the way she told a story. The stories were all period pieces, involving affluent snobs, political elites, and the impoverished people the wealthy would look down their noses at. Her novels were snippets of a bygone era, time capsules that exercised the intellect, and tested the skills of any wannabe sleuth.

Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie was an English writer of sixty six novels and fourteen short story collections. She passed away in January of 1976 and I truly believe that I must have watched something about her death on television that invited me to read her novels. I was 10 years old in 1976, and desperate to find new genres to explore.

My father took me to the Forest Hills library to get my first library card when I was 12. The first book I borrowed was the ABC Murders by Agatha Christie. I remember that the librarian was so sober-faced and serious about returning books on time and the hefty fines that I would have to pay that I only dared borrow the one book.

Two weeks later, it was time to return the book. I had read the book 3 times over the course of the two weeks and I approached Dad and asked him to drive me to the library. He told me to go by myself. I had never been allowed to go anywhere by myself, so I went. From then on, I made going to the library a ritualized part of my week.

Every Wednesday my brother, Marc, and I would go to the library. I helped him get his library card and I felt like such a cool older brother. I always borrowed 3 books: an Agatha Christie, something horror, and something sci. fi. I didn’t read 3 books every week, but every week I would return what I finished, and borrowed something from the categories I returned. In this way, I read every Agatha Christie in that library.

In a lot of ways, Agatha Christie was my gateway into the genre, and even though there are others like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Evan Hunter, Mary Higgins Clark, Patricia Cornwell, Tony Hillerman, Mickey Spillane, Sue Grafton, Scott Turow, John Grisham, Umberto Eco, P. D. James, Raymond Chandler, John D. McDonald and my two newest favorites: Michael Lister and Willow Rose, Agatha Christie was my first.

You never forget your first.

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