Hercule Poirot is the great Belgian detective created by Agatha Christie and appearing in 33 novels and 54 short stories beginning with “The Mysterious Affair in Styles” in 1920 and ending with “Curtain” in 1975. Inspector Poirot and Ms. Christie’s other famed mystery solver, Miss Marple, between them appear in 116 Agatha Christie books and short stories.
In “The Mysterious Affair in Styles”, Ms. Christie’s first novel which was written in 1916 (but not published until 1920), Captain Arthur Hastings describes Poirot’s appearance as follows: “He was hardly more than five feet four inches but carried himself with great dignity. His head was exactly the shape of an egg, and he always perched it a little on one side. His moustache was very stiff and military. The neatness of his attire was almost incredible; I believe a speck of dust would have caused him more pain than a bullet wound.”
Poirot has been portrayed on radio, films and television by John Moffatt, Albert Finney, Sir Peter Ustinov, Sir Ian Holm, Tony Randall, Alfred Molina and David Suchet, among others.
Ms. Christie grew tired of Inspector Poirot, describing him in 1960 as a “detestable, bombastic, tiresome, ego-centric little creep”. Yet she said that it was her duty to produce write what the public liked, and since the public liked Poirot, she refused to kill him off until one year before her own death in 1976.
Inspector Poirot has the distinction of being the only fictional character ever honored with an obituary in the New York Times. Upon the great detective’s death in “Curtain” in 1975, the New York Times ran an obituary on August 6, 1975 titled “Hercule Poirot is Dead; Famed Belgian Detective”.
In her autobiography, Ms. Christie described how she created the character Poirot:
“Why not make my detective a Belgian? I thought. There were all types of refugees. How about a refugee police officer? Not too young a one. What a mistake I have made there. The result is that my fictional detective must really be over a hundred by now.
Anyway, I settled on a Belgian detective. I allowed him slowly to grow into his part. He should have been an inspector, so that he would have a certain knowledge of crime. He would be meticulous, very tidy, I thought myself as I cleared away a good many untidy odds and ends in my bedroom. A tidy little man, always arranging things, liking things square instead of round.
And he should be very brainy – he should have little gray cells of the mind – that was a good phrase: I must remember that – yes, he would have little grey cells. He would have rather a grand name – one of those names that Sherlock Holmes and his family had. Who was it his brother had been? Mycroft Holmes.
How about calling my little man Hercules? He would be a small man – Hercules: a good name. His last name was more difficult. I don’t know why I settled on the name Poirot, whether it just came into my head or whether I saw it in some newspaper or written on something – anyway it came. It went well not with Hercules but Hercule – Hercule Poirot. That was all right – settled, thank goodness.”
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