Gordon Ramsey, an American academic, was assisted by his friendship with Phelps Pratt, president of Agatha Christie’s American publishers, Dodd, Mead, in persuading the notoriously reclusive author to co-operate with this, the first full-length evaluation of her work, published in the US in 1967. Janet Morgan’s 1984 life of Christie records that Ramsey had to agree to various constraints on his work: the book contained little biographical material and respected her wish that he should not mention the then unpublished final novels featuring Poirot and Miss Marple, although they had been written many years earlier.
Although by this time ageing and weary, Christie appears to have agreed to correct, with the help of her agent Edmund Cork, the long galley proofs; because of Ramsey’s discretion, swingeing cuts proved unnecessary and the various amendments I have seen are of a minor nature. Nevertheless, it is intriguing to imagine the great crime writer unwrapping and leafing through the tissue-thin sheets, checking to make sure that no secrets that she wished to keep from public view were uncovered by the text.
The proofs come in a box containing the published first edition of Ramsey’s book, and are accompanied by a manuscript letter from Christie to Mr Dodd of Dodd, Mead, thanking him for his congratulations on her CBE, bestowed in the New Year’s Honours List of 1956, while she was wintering in Baghdad with her archaeologist husband.