Rarely seen letters between Agatha Christie and her long-standing publisher are at the centre of a new exhibition about the Queen of Crime’s life and career, part of HarperCollins’ ongoing celebrations of 200 years of publishing. The letters see Christie and William ‘Billy’ Collins, former chairman and publisher of Collins, discussing jacket designs, plots and publishing schedules, and show the human side of a business relationship that lasted 50 years, until the author’s death in 1976, aged 85.
Christie is still published by Collins, and the company holds thousands of books, photographs, art work and correspondence in its Glasgow archive relating to the writers and books it has published, including material relating to Christie’s long career. Many of these items are featured in the exhibition, including candid photographs and often touching letters between Christie and Billy Collins that demonstrate their friendship and cover subjects such as first nights, publishing parties and the difficulty of obtaining tennis balls during the war. Also included is the heart-felt memorial address Collins delivered at his friend and long-standing author’s funeral; Collins himself died later the same year.
James Prichard, Christie’s great-grandson and executive chairman of Agatha Christie Ltd, said: “This exhibition offers a glimpse behind the public and professional image of Agatha Christie as a one-woman writing empire. She liked and respected her publisher, Billy Collins, and in time they became great friends. That relationship lasted till the end of her life and, in a way, carries on to this day, as we continue to work with the same publisher.”
David Brawn, estates publisher at HarperCollins, said: “It’s incredible to think that HarperCollins and Agatha Christie first worked together in 1926 – this is a publishing partnership that has lasted over 90 years. Christie is outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare, and her fan base continues to grow, as does readers’ curiosity about a writer who came to define a genre. We have dipped into our archive to help create this fascinating secret history of Agatha Christie, which cannot fail to arrest the attention of crime fans.”
The exhibition will be on display at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate from 20th to 23rd July, before taking up permanent residence at Greenway, Agatha Christie’s former home in Devon, now a National Trust property.