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I discovered Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie’s famous detective, in the summer of 2014. It was vacation time at my in-laws’ house, and I was idly pulling paperbacks from the shelf to read. Two Christies were zipped through before I encountered a Poirot– After the Funeral, followed by The Big Four and a few short stories. The TV series, at that point finished with its near-quarter-century run, was completely unfamiliar to me. The day after we returned from vacation found me at the local library, borrowing stack after stack of Christie books, and subsequently investigating to see if Poirot had ever been dramatized.
About three years later, I’ve written a continuation novel, maintained a blog, and created an enormous volume of fan art entirely revolving around this character. If the world had never seen quilts themed on The A.B.C. Murders and Murder on the Orient Express, or paper snowflakes with poison bottles and keyholes and mustachioed detectives worked into the design, or a frankly alarming number of paintings and drawings of these characters, they have now. Both the books and the TV series have been absorbed and burned into my memory.
It sounds rather freakish put like that. My husband, who is far too polite to call me an obsessive, says instead that if I’m interested in something, I like to get to the very bottom of it. Put it down to the INTJ personality– we just analyze the crud out of things we love.
All the same, it’s created some pretty serious qualms, both as a writer and an artist. I have my degree in Art with a minor in English. Isn’t all of this too derivative? I’m doing fan art– really? And… fan fiction? Incredibly murky swamps, both of them, in frequent association with bizarre adolescent fantasies and extremely poor end products. And to what end? What’s it all about?
Art is another thing. With the exception of word art and a few abstractions, most of my Poirot fan art has utilized existing images, drawn from the television series. I don’t think I’ve ever been so impressed with a television series adapting so faithfully and so beautifully from the original books. My artwork tends to look mostly like a tribute to the series, and as I reproduce single moments in time. I am actually learning, in many intimate ways, how other artists have successfully interpreted Christie. The use of lighting and color, the composition of the shot, the flash of telling expression on an actor’s face– all these become fodder for study. It might sound extreme to compare it to going to the museum to copy the old masters, but the principle is the same. There is creativity in the process too, as when a photographer chooses just which existing moment to catch, and in the juxtaposition of images (such as in the Dispatch Case Triptych). I daresay that someday I’ll visualize Poirot from my own imagination, but right now I’m enjoying the learning process. All of this is also, in a sense, a very long and drawn-out way of saying “thank you.”
If you really love a literary character and you’re somewhat on the analytical side, this sort of thing is just what “fun” looks like. It’s also an interesting way to connect with other fans who share some of the same weirdness. The weirdest thing of all is that even after Christie wrote Poirot for nearly sixty years, it still doesn’t feel like enough for those of us who know an immortal character when we see one.