Saralyn Richard is the author of Murder in the One Percent. You can check her bio out here.
I’m often asked the ponderous question of how I ended up writing mystery novels. As I reach back into my memory of that ambition’s long history, a few milestones emerge.
- I started reading mysteries at a very young age.
- I collected and read every single Agatha Christie novel and every biographical work about her.
- I became fascinated with the connections that bridge author and reader through the intellectual and emotional puzzle that is a mystery.
I’m not the only person whose fascination with all things Agatha could be classified as over the top. Agatha is still, forty-four years after her death, the only author whose books have sold more than any other author’s (except for the Bible), with over a billion books in recorded sales.
A biographical history of the prolific enchantress at her website (something she surely never fathomed) reveals many details in common between her life and mine, even though we lived in different ages and different countries. No wonder her books have always resonated with me.
An Almost Visit
The year I started teaching English, one of her short stories was in the anthology I taught. That summer I was lucky enough to have planned a trip to the English countryside, including Devon, where Ms. Christie was residing. I was plucky then and took a chance by writing a fan letter to Dame Agatha, asking if I might visit with her when I was in town.
Weeks went by without a response, so I chalked it up to experience and kept going. Then one day I received a correspondence from Ms. Christie’s secretary. She told me the author was unable to receive visitors at this stage of her life, but she was honored by my request. A year later, Ms. Christie’s life ended.
Decades later, when I wrote MURDER IN THE ONE PERCENT, early reviewers compared the book to an Agatha Christie novel. I was thrilled, of course, to be compared to the master of mystery, but I hadn’t set out to write in her style. Someone pointed out to me, though, that my book was a locked room mystery, that the characters were upper-class, that there were multiple suspects with motives. All true, and perhaps I had internalized the many Christie novels I’d read, or maybe I was channeling my writer-hero.
Of course, there are as many differences as similarities—my books are distinctly American. My series detective, Oliver Parrott, while named with a nod to Poirot, is African-American and young. The newly released sequel to MURDER IN THE ONE PERCENT, A PALETTE FOR LOVE AND MURDER, deals with modern themes, such as PTSD and other social issues, that Agatha never grappled with. But the universal themes of love, jealousy, revenge, and greed are wound throughout my writing as much as in hers.
Are you an Agatha-phile, too, or do you have another mystery author you adore? I’d love to hear your responses!