The secret history between Agatha Christie and her long-standing publisher, HarperCollins, is being revealed as part of a new exhibition celebrating the company’s 200th anniversary.
The “candid photographs” and “touching letters” unearthed from the Glasgow archive show Christie and William or ‘Billy’ Collins, former chairman and publisher of Collins, discussing jacket designs, plots and publishing schedules. They show a relationship that lasted 50 years, until the author’s death in 1976 aged 85.
Christie is still published by HarperCollins and the company holds thousands of books, photographs, art work and correspondence in its Glasgow archive relating including material relating to Christie’s long career.
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, Christie’s former home in Devon, now a National Trust property. The exhibition about the author's life was announced in April.
A HarperCollins spokesperson said: “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.
A promotional pamphlet for ‘Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case’ which features an ad for The Mousetrap
“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.”
He added: “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.”
To explore HarperCollins’ 200 year history, visit hc.com/200.
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