Hallowe’en: Steampunk Poirot

Feeling in a funny sort of mood this Halloween, I thought I’d do myself up with a sort of vaguely steampunk-Poirot motif, complete with pocket watch, blazer, corset, silver glitter (not showing up well in photos, but getting positively all over myself), ear fobs, and a stick moustache. The Remembrance Day poppy I’m wearing anyway due to time of year, but it seems sort of oddly appropriate in this context, too. That scarlet kimono in the background is also distinctly fitting. If only I had a cool hat…

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A word about making the stick moustache (it surely goes without saying that any store-bought moustache would be infinitely inadequate for my purpose). It’s a bamboo skewer with a bit of silver paint, cardboard, and black Velvet Paper. This is a flocked paper that has a fuzzy texture, not unlike the moustaches on the cover of that new little quote book, Little Grey Cells. (I used the same type of paper, in red, to line the little walnut shelf made to house my collection of miniature painted Poirot books.) Velvet Paper has the added advantage of adding a richer color to the project due to its texture, and of course this moustache needed to be as black as possible… and so it is, more so than if ordinary black paper had been used.

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If you look closely, you might notice that in spite of best efforts, the moustache is not really 100% perfectly symmetrical. (That ‘Tchah!’ sound you hear is not a sneezing cat, but Poirot in an alternate universe, refusing forever to forgive me for this slight.) I trimmed it and trimmed it with a small, sharp pair of scissors, and it dawned on me… this is why it takes Poirot such a blasted long time in grooming his own. Getting the thing symmetrical is a crazy tricky business!

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The painted miniature books (9)

Here’s a set of four Christie covers that depict somewhat exotic locations…

Appointment With Death is set in Jordan, but was filmed in Morocco. In this still, a tiny Tim Curry and David Suchet contemplate an ancient text unearthed in the archaeological dig. This episode was full of so many incredibly gorgeous sets, locations, and shots that it was hard to choose a cover. But the unique lighting in this image made it the winner. It was incredibly easy to paint, easier than it might look. Even the tiny rosary is visible.

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Murder in Mesopotamia is another of Christie’s Middle Eastern archaeological digs, taking place this time in Iraq and Syria but filmed in Tunisia. On this cover I had to avoid Hastings, since he does not feature in the book but was written into the script. I decided on this marvelous shot of Poirot walking away from the camera beneath an arch in a dusty alley. The angle, coloring, and everything else about the image tickled my fancy. Poirot-walking-away shots are always fun, anyway.

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Death in the Clouds features a fair bit of action in Paris. Instead of an episode still, I ended up using this image that I think I spotted somewhere online, which (as far as I know) is not actually part of the episode, but looks good. Poirot, Eiffel Tower… what more do you want? I love his outfit here, too– wonderfully dapper.

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Finally, I include Evil Under the Sun in this set of exotic locales, although the location is English– the Burgh Island Hotel off the south Devon coast. I watched through the episode to get a still for the cover and could not find ONE that I thought would work. The episode and story are fantastic (actually I think it might be my husband’s favorite episode), but again, I couldn’t use an image with Hastings, since he is not in the main action of the novel, although he is mentioned. And film-Hastings likes to hover over Poirot’s shoulder; in this episode he is particularly “mother chicken”-esque. I watched through the episode a second time searching for a shot. Finally, I cheated. I took a head shot of Poirot looking down from the hotel, and layered it onto a different background which included some of the landscape. In the end I was very satisfied with the result, and I think the cover ties in well with the chosen eponymous quote.

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The painted miniature books (8)

I’m calling this set “Poirot Chatting With Suspicious Ladies.”

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A great quote from one of Agatha’s best books, but not one of my best covers. I was tweaking this for days, utterly unsatisfied with the likeness of Jacqueline. Some people actually like this cover the best (!) but I think that’s just because it’s such an AMAZING episode. The best bit of the painting was Poirot’s little silver fob.

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This was another one where the likeness took a long time, but I was more satisfied with the final result. I had a deuce of a time finding a still from the episode to use! Since Five Little Pigs is told in flashback, Poirot is not in the story’s main action; since I wanted him on the cover, I was obliged to use a scene from the denouement. And since another of my personal rules for painting these covers is “If it wasn’t something that could have happened in the book, it can’t go on the cover,” I couldn’t use the best and most dramatic shot, which was Lucy Crale with a gun, with Poirot behind her. So this is the shot I found; I like it because it’s different.

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Another “different” shot– I did want to vary up the covers so that it wasn’t just a series of Poirot head shots, but rather told a bit of the story– at the train station. The episode of Mrs. McGinty’s Dead is full of all sorts of interestingly atmospheric filters, which gives the whole thing a sort of dreamy effect.

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I rather wish this quote had made its way into the “Truth and Lies” section of the new book of Poirot quotes, Little Grey Cells. Words of wisdom.

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Another cover that is probably a favorite, for two reasons: the character of Norma Restarick came out quite recognizable even at such a tiny scale, and it was a delightful treat to paint some of those gardens in the background. As soon as I saw this scene in the episode, I knew it would be the one to go on this cover.

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It was tricky to get a good photo of this book (alas, I didn’t), but it’s also a different sort of cover because the image I used was a lovely, extremely back-lit one– the figures are actually darker than they appear in this picture, and the painting in the background (my favorite bit) is a little less sharp and more hazy. The Labours of Hercules was my one chance, really, to get the Countess Rossakoff onto a book cover.

The Double Cigarette Case

If you’ve fled Russia and intend to lead a life of international crime, always make sure to pack an extra cigarette case, just in case you plan to accidentally leave behind your other specially-monogrammed case near one of the safes you mean to rob.

Those Russian aristocrats– they practice the prodigality!

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Additional wacky bit of speculation: one of the reasons Poirot suspects the Countess, despite the fact that everyone and their aunt has the initials of B.P., is that by giving these cigarettes a careful sniff, he recognizes the smell of the contents of the empty monogrammed case. He is subsequently so taken by the smell of these exotic Russian cigarettes that he himself smokes nothing else for the rest of his fictional life. (But he cuts his cigarettes in half because Belgians, they practice the thrift.)  😉

“Well, I’m jiggered”: a discrepancy most curious in “Murder in the Mews”

In Christie’s story, “Murder in the Mews,” we have this quote from Poirot…

“That man is now in prison, he will serve a long sentence for other matters. Do you really wish, of your own volition, to destroy the life– the life, mind– of any human being?”

In the television episode of Poirot, we have this interesting variation on the quote…

“The man you wish to trap is already in prison. Do you really wish to destroy him? Do you really wish to destroy the life– the mind– of any human being?”


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The word “mind,” you may have noticed, is being used in two completely different senses. Christie has Poirot saying “the life, mind [you]”; Suchet delivers the line as though Poirot is speaking about the destruction of the human mind by murder.

So the mystery is: accidental or intentional? Did the script writer misread the story and write the script exactly as it was delivered? Did Suchet misread the script and deliver an alternate meaning by accident? Or was it a deliberate choice on the part of either of those people to depart from Christie slightly, and have Poirot equate the tragedy of murder with the destruction of that most prized faculty, the human mind?

I will never have the guts to ask, so I fear I shall never know.

“Well, I’m jiggered.”

The painted miniature books (7)

Since I’ve already covered the Hastings novels (no pun intended),  I thought I’d round off the rest of the covers with “series sidekicks” Inspector Japp and Miss Lemon.

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This cover for the story collection Murder in the Mews features Japp and Poirot contemplating a red “kipper” of a cuff link. Apparently I took this picture before painting the black line frame around the image! The quote on the back features an oft-reiterated sentiment from Poirot on the topic of murder.

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This mini was the last one I ever painted, and I was happy to get Japp on just one more cover before the series was completed. He features in seven novels, after all, but was often squeezed off my covers by Hastings. This novel features Japp but not Hastings, and so was an ideal one to feature the good inspector. While I was painting this, my iPod actually fired up “Take On Me” by a-ha, and if you don’t know why that’s hilarious, well, it’s because Philip Jackson (in magnificent, rotoscoped glory) appears as Pipe Wrench Guy in the song’s video, which is considered by many to be one of the greatest music videos ever made. Go watch it now. Or maybe watch the literal video version for some extra giggles. Anyway, I was in hysterics while painting for that reason.

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This photo is terrible, terrible, terrible, but Pauline Moran turned out nicely enough on this cover of Hickory Dickory Dock. Yellow is for Lemon. This novel was the most obvious one to feature Miss Lemon on the cover, as she (and her sister) feature prominently in the story. I rather wish I could take better photos of these book minis, but I don’t have them anymore. (And if I did, my photos would still be terrible!)

Agatha Christie ambigram

I’ve posted a couple of Christie-themed ambigrams here before, and I think I’ve finally managed to create a more-or-less successful one of her name. I doodled it during my daughter’s gymnastics practice this afternoon, actually. This particular ambigram reads the same upside down and rightside up.

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Just in case you were looking for a new tattoo design.

That statue in The Big Four…

The episode The Big Four begins with Poirot’s “funeral,” then flashes back four weeks to the chess tournament arranged by Abe Ryland, an advocate of the Peace Party. The room in which the guests are congregated– location: Syon House, Brentford– is full of copies of famous ancient statuary, including the Apollo Belvedere (located at the opposite end of the room from the chess table). You may have seen these in other films shot at this location.

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There are 4 full-sized statues in the room (the Great Hall of Syon House) and the one that caught my attention was the one on the opposite side of the chess set, where the main action of the event is centered. We begin to get a good look at it when Poirot and Japp are having their little conversation about Madame Olivier.

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It is a copy of The Dying Gaul.

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In the ancient world, Gaul was the region of western Europe encompassing France, Belgium, and the surrounding area. The Gauls spread across Europe, with pockets reaching as far as Turkey (e.g. the Galatians). Of course, we still use the word “Gallic” to describe anything characteristically French, as in: “Poirot bowed with Gallic politeness.”

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But what’s really amusant about The Dying Gaul and its place in this story is… did you know… The Dying Gaul has one of the most famous MOUSTACHES in all of sculpture? In fact, the moustache is one of the reasons that he is usually assumed to be a Gaul in the first place.

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An interesting coincidence, n’est-ce pas? Beyond the fact that a man dies at that chess table… isn’t cutting from Poirot’s funeral to a room that prominently featured The Dying Gaul be a rather appropriate bit of foreshadowing?

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