The “dispatch case triptych”

I decided to add one more little canvas panel to this series of images… all of which feature Hastings seeking clues (in vain) from dispatch cases, beginning and ending at Styles Court.

dispatchtriptych

This new panel in the center is an image from Double Sin.

dispatch3

I liked the poignant way in which these images seemed to offset each other, moving through time with Poirot “vanishing” into the background. One feels not only sorry that those dispatch cases never seemed to yield up their secrets to Hastings, but that despite a long and memorable friendship with Poirot, a wall of sorts stayed between them to the bitter end. There is a ghostly parallel there. Och, the sad!

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The painted miniature books (12)… The Grand Finale!

The last lot of three books share in common a solo Poirot in the middle of his dramatic “big reveal.” They also include two holidays, two quotes about the nature of truth, and two moments of unusually dramatic inferno-lighting.   🙂

This miniature of the collection of stories known as The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding includes an image from the corresponding episode “The Theft of the Royal Ruby,” an alternate title. The quote is from the title story. You may notice that when I took this photo, the white stripes on the spine of the book had not been painted on yet. Oops! I like the little Santa figurine on the mantle piece, and the evergreen garlands. Obviously we’re going for a Christmas-y feel here.

christmaspuddingmontage
Likewise, for Hallowe’en Party, I chose a festive pumpkin color for the book and an image of Poirot looking positively mephistophelean in the glint of the orange glow of firelight. This particular Christie story is one of maybe three or four Poirot tales where the villain is presented as a sort of satanic archetype, so I utilized the conceit for this little cover. I loved painting that bit of fire– and that silver fob! Like in the Death on the Nile image, that one bit of bling makes the picture glow. The quote is a great one, too.

halloweenpartymontage copy

Finally, Three-Act Tragedy. It was terrible trying to narrow down which image to use for the cover. There were gorgeous shots of Poirot with Sir Charles Cartwright in a garden panorama, and one pic I was very keen on of Sir Charles and Egg in the background drinking cocktails, with a blurred Poirot in profile in the foreground. That particular image seemed to sum up the book plot nicely, and three characters on a cover would have been great. But no, at last I was forced reluctantly to use this image. The stage imagery and the striking lighting made it too perfect for complementing the book title. I had trouble choosing the quote, too. There’s a marvelous Poirot quote about the observation of human nature in that book, but I ended up once again using a quote that reflects drama and stage trickery, in keeping with the story’s themes.

threeacttragedymontage

There ends the project of 39 painted miniature Poirot books, representing Christie’s full canon of Poirot. They took three months to paint. Only, it doesn’t really end there, because these little guys needed, I felt, their own custom shelf. And that would be a project of another month and a half. To be continued…!

booktower

thelotcropped

thelot2

spinescropped

thelot8

The painted miniature books (11)

I’ve got two little lots of miniatures left to cover. I’ll call this one “moments of truth.” What they share in common is a close-up of the title character in the process of making some startling discovery.

herculepoirotschristmasmontage

As I’ve mentioned before, I didn’t want my miniature Poirot books to simply be a series of straight mug shots. That would have gotten boring in a hurry. But now and then, I found episode stills that featured a clear close-up of the character in which he was still obviously interacting with, say, a clue of some sort. Of course, the great benefit of using close-ups for miniatures is that the portraits tend to be a good deal easier to paint than if, say, the portrait is a scant 1/4″ across. The shots I used for these three miniatures fall into that category; for Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, the image is of Poirot having discovered the dead man’s missing diamonds.

sadcypressmontage

Sad Cypress is a wonderful book and lovely episode. The quote is a favorite one. The image chosen involves Poirot with the clue that turns the tide of the story: the thorn-less rose.

takenatthefloodmontage

Speaking of “turning the tide” (and Shakespeare quotes, which Sad Cypress is as well), the cover of Taken at the Flood also shows Poirot having discovered a formidable piece of evidence. He’s so delighted by his deduction that he doesn’t even seem to care that one of his hands is dirty.

Only three more miniatures left to document…  😉

A favorite passage

I’ve been thinking of the various sorts of posts and content I could include on this blog, and decided it would be fun to share some favorite quotes and passages. This first one will be from Curtain, the end of chapter 12. All the more poignant on the second read-through of the book. (As always, if you haven’t read through Christie’s works, be aware of possible spoilers on this blog.)  🙂

***

I followed Curtiss across the passage.

‘Eh bien!’ exclaimed Poirot. ‘So you desert me, hein?’

I forced a yawn and an apologetic smile. ‘Awfully sorry, old boy,’ I said. ‘But to tell the truth I’ve got such a blinding headache I can hardly see out of my eyes. It’s the thunder in the air, I suppose. I really have been feeling quite muzzy with it– in fact, so much so I entirely forgot I hadn’t been in to say good night to you.’

As I had hoped, Poirot was immediately solicitous. He offered remedies. He fussed. He accused me of having sat about in the open air in a draught. (On the hottest day of the summer!) I refused aspirin on the grounds that I had already taken some, but I was not able to avoid being given a cup of sweet and wholly disgusting chocolate!

‘It nourishes the nerves, you comprehend,’ Poirot explained.

I drank it to avoid argument and then, with Poirot’s anxious and affectionate exclamations still ringing in my ears, I bade him good night.

I returned to my own room, and shut the door ostentatiously. Later, I opened it a crack with the utmost caution. I could not fail now to hear Allerton when he came. But it would be some time yet.

I sat there waiting. I thought of my dead wife. Once, under my breath, I murmured: ‘You understand, darling, I’m going to save her.’

She had left Judith in my care, I was not going to fail her.

In the quiet and the stillness I suddenly felt that Cinders was very near to me.

I felt almost as though she were in the room.

And still I sat on grimly, waiting.

***

A Poirot spoof.

Here I present the first “guest contribution” to my blog in the form of a little parody by my husband, Alex. I suggested that he write a Poirot spoof, and he (kind soul that he is) obliged me with a little piece of flash fiction.

Sense of humor required. And when you’ve read it, you can’t tell me that you haven’t had the same idea that Poirot had, while watching some episode or another of Agatha Christie’s Poirot.  😉  With no further ado–

***

A Whole New Ball Game

“My dear Hastings! Come, let me tell you about the adventures I had while you were off in Scotland, shooting the… whatever you were shooting!” My interlocutor was none other than the famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. The curious little man with the impeccable yet preposterous moustache is a dear friend of mine, though he has his own quirks which can be at times insufferable.

We were at a charity ball that evening; neither of us had brought dates but, as was the norm, there were more than enough society women also needing partners that we were able to dance as frequently as we had wish to; which in Poirot’s case was not that much, typically, though I certainly fancy a turn or two, especially with the auburn-haired women; a great weakness of mine.

It was while I was taking a much-needed break from the dance floor, that Poirot, champagne glass in hand, had approached me with his query I mentioned at the beginning of this tale. No man for small talk, he; always getting to the point, economical in words when needs be.

At any rate, he seemed in good spirits, as though some case of great importance, or at least of great challenge to his much ballyhooed little grey cells, had occurred.

“Poirot, good heavens! How great to see you, old chap!” I replied. Poirot took a rather decent swig of his champagne, I thought, but seemed none the worse for it, and began his little tale.

“Ah yes, where shall I begin? A most interesting event, indeed. A femme, one of those auburn-haired beauties you are so enamored with, mon ami, stopped in one day.”

“Do continue,” I said. We sat down at a table and Poirot continued to recount his tale.

“Miss Lemon said it was something to do with a lost dog. You might remember that we long ago resolved never to call any case too trivial or too unimportant. So, although Poirot does not usually take on such cases, I thought that it might be a diversion. Without you, mon ami, the fact is that I was a little… stricken with the ennui, you understand. At any rate, this woman, she came in and handed me a 100-pound note.”

“Good Lord!” I interjected. At that, I noticed as Poirot finished his glass of champagne and then, deftly, snagged for himself another glass from a passing waiter.

“Yes, so for 100 pounds, one does hunt for lost dogs, if one does not have the standards of Poirot! But this is not enough for me. And I told her as much. ‘Madame, I do not need your cash; Poirot is not some third-rate back alley investigator.’ At this, she slapped me on the side of the face!”

“Good heavens! She didn’t!” I said, and Poirot finished this new glass of champagne. I began to be a little concerned for my friend; both on account of his rather quick intake of alcohol and also because I simply was not sure where he was heading with this particular story.

“Yes, mon ami; she braised the side of Poirot’s face with her open hand, just so!” He gestured a little comically—partly for effect, I suppose, but possibly also, I surmised a bit of the alcohol starting to take effect. “And then when I wished to explain why, she grabbed a second hundred-pound note and placed it with the first!”

“Good heavens!” I said. And then I saw Poirot go for another drink. I began to wonder if I was not being put upon a little.

“Bien sur, mon ami! And now I had to ask; ‘Dear woman, why so much, for a pet dog?’”

“Why indeed!”

“She laughed. Not a pet dog but rather an ancient golden dog idol, with precious jewels for eyes. She had been robbed, Hastings. Of a valuable artifact indeed. At once I took up the case!”

He continued to recount his tale. At points I would interject as my emotions overtook me, and each time he took a drink. It got to the point where my friend was quite red in the face and practically bellowing his little tale, mixing up the words all a-jumble.

“And then! Hastings! I fid not dind, I did not find the dog after all— for she, devious woman, was trying to flay Poirot for the pool! Des femmes!” And with this he fell asleep.

I inquired of the nearby waiter. “My good fellow, what is going on with Mr. Poirot? I have never known him to act so… vulgarly. He is discretion itself!”

“Well, ain’t ‘e tho?” replied the waiter. “‘E said sompin about playin’ a li’l game on yer, sompin about yer, ‘ow’d ‘e say it, catch phrases or some such. He’d go ‘n take a swig ev’y time ye’d say one of yer thin’s. Anyway, ‘e tol’ me to give ‘im a refill ev’y time ‘e got low, and blast me if ‘e wasn’t thrashin’ that champagne there like it was wa’er on an ‘ot day! Af’er wot, 8 glasses, I’d be fast ‘sleep too, eh?”

“Oh.” I couldn’t think of anything else to say. My friend was playing me once again; not for a fool but for a hard night’s drink! If he weren’t such a damned fine detective and a brilliant mind that routinely shows up even the best of Scotland Yard’s men, I should find it hard to forgive that terrible joke he played on me. One never could fully understand Poirot. He just wasn’t British.

Compilation: The best of “Hastings snark”

Hastings isn’t the snarkiest of characters in the Poirot canon, particularly in the series. In the books, it is true, we can hear every last annoyed thought that passes through his head, but in general, we regard him as an unusually good-natured character. In fact, surely a large part of our admiration for him is the incomprehensible fact that he doesn’t smack Poirot in the face on a daily basis.

Clive Exton (and others) gave Hugh Fraser some wonderful zingers from time to time, however, all the more delightful for their comparative rarity and memorable delivery. Here’s a collection of some of my favorites. Sorry if I missed yours; no time to re-watch all the episodes.  😉

*****

Poirot: “Hastings, a favour… Whatever I should say, you will nod in agreement.”
Hastings: “Did I ever do otherwise, Poirot?”

-Dumb Witness

Both delightfully self-depricating and self-referential.

Both delightfully self-depricating and self-referential.

Maid: “I beg your pardon, sir?”
Hastings: “What colour were they, if you can remember?”
Maid: “Mr. Loewen’s trousers, sir?”
Hastings: “Well, I know it’s a rather odd question, but a rather odd person would like to know.”

-The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim

This script gets all the cookies. Forever.

This script gets all the cookies. Forever.

(Extensive damage to Hastings’ car, caused by murderer, is surveyed)
Hastings: “Hanging’s too good for some people.”

-The Third Floor Flat  

thirdfloor4

Hee hee hee.

Poirot (lining up a golf shot): “Am I allowed to hit the flag?”
Hastings: “Yes, yes, that’ll be fine.”

Murder in the Mews

This little exchange on the links makes me laugh more than just about anything...

I don’t know exactly why, but this whole little exchange on the links makes me laugh more than just about anything…

Hastings: “I’m not surprised she had gastritis.”
Poirot: “Comment?
Hastings: “Well, if she’s going to run around after chaps half her age…”

-The Cornish Mystery

Ouch...

Ouch…

Lazy guy at the dock: “I just told all I know to that police inspector; I ain’t got time to tell that all again.”
Hastings: “No, quite, I can see you’re a very busy man, Mr. Merritt.”

Mr. Davenheim

ALL THE COOKIES.

ALL THE COOKIES.

Hastings: “What’s up?”
Poirot: “You do not know who is Marie Marvelle?”
Hastings: “Can’t say I do, no. These look good, Poirot…”
Poirot (repressively): “Dah!! …Marie Marvelle is the greatest film star Belgium has ever produced.”
Hastings: “I should think she’s the only film star Belgium’s ever produced.”
Poirot: “You do not remember ‘La Tendresse Religieuse’?
Hastings: “The what?”
Poirot: “And ‘Drôle de Coeur’?”
Hastings: “I didn’t even know they made films in Belgium.”
Poirot (disgusted): “Why is it the fate of Hercule Poirot to live among such Philistines?”

-The Adventure of the “Western Star”  

No, really, they make films in Belgium?

No, really, they make films in Belgium?

Hastings: “Well hang it all, Japp, what are we going to do next?”
Japp: “Eh?”
Hastings: “Well, we can’t let Poirot die in vain. We’ve got to stop them.”
Japp: “Now hang on, Captain Hastings–”
Hastings: “We can’t be faint-hearted now, man. Are you with me or not? For Poirot’s sake, together, we have to stop the Big Four!”
Japp: “Listen, these people mean business. They’ll stop at nothing. If even Poirot couldn’t stop them–”
Hastings: “Good Lord, man. I never thought I’d hear such conchy talk from you. Well, if you won’t do anything to stop these brutes, then I certainly will. And I’ll leave no stone unturned. Good day.”

-The Big Four

"Good old Hastings"... and conchy is my new favorite word, I think.

More serious snark from “good old Hastings”… and conchy is my new favorite word, I think.

Hastings: “Well, he’s always been middle-aged. Have you seen that photograph of him at his christening?”
Miss Lemon (smirking): “I know!”
Hastings: “He looks as though he’s about to address a board meeting.”

-Double Sin

CRIKEY, I love this script, too. And not an easy short story to adapt to screen.

CRIKEY, I love this script, too. And not an easy short story to adapt to screen. Totally going to get nightmares from this screen shot, though…

(Hastings is ditched on the dance floor by the aristocracy-stalking Mrs. Mallerby, who has spotted Lord Cranshaw)
Ackerly: “Been stood up, Arthur?”
Hastings: “No title, I’m afraid!”

-The Affair at the Victory Ball  

ZAP. Bonus points for the face that he makes just before turning to go back to the table...

ZAP. Bonus points for the face that he makes just before turning to go back to the table.

Hastings: “Well, the pub’s so crowded, I’m having to share a room, and you’ll never guess who with.”
Poirot: “No Hastings, I will not.”
Hastings: “Japp.”
Poirot: “With the Chief Inspector Japp?”
Hastings: “And the room has only got one bed.”
Poirot: “I wonder why the Chief Inspector Japp is here.”
Hastings: “You’re not very sympathetic!”

Hastings: “Poirot, my dear fellow, I promise you, you’ve never heard anything like it. You know those boots he wears? Bang. And the other one– crash. When he finally gets into bed, it’s worse!”
Poirot: “Worse?”
Hastings: “He talks in his sleep. ‘Now I’ve got you, young fellow, me lad. Japp of the Yard strikes again!’ I thought I’d go mad. Every time I managed to drop off, he’d start shouting. ‘Stand back, lads, he’s got a blancmange!’ Some of the things he was saying were enough to make a cat laugh. I can’t take much more of it, Poirot. I’ve been through three days of a jerry barrage.”

-The Incredible Theft 

I think this one wins the snark-fest, not only for the sheer volume of dialog, but the delicious needling of Japp, the convincing delivery (while eating), and the BLANCMANGE. Bravo everyone, and cookies.

I think this one wins the snark-fest, not only for the sheer volume of dialog, but the delicious needling of Japp, the convincing desperation of the delivery (while eating, no less), and the BLANCMANGE. Bravo everyone, and cookies.

“Agatha Christie”-themed paper snowflake cutouts

Well, why not?? Nothing says “first snowfall of the year” like curling up with a hot beverage and your favorite Agatha Christie.

Hence, I present you with some Christie-themed paper snowflake cutouts!

christie snowflake group

Okay, that’s about the only logical connection I can make between those tiny, delicate, fractalized bits of winter fluff and murder most foul. I’ve made oddly-themed paper snowflake cut-outs before, so I just thought I’d give this theme a try, too. Not recommended for general Christmas decoration, but hey, for a wintery murder mystery party…? Or, you know, just to freak out your husband.  🙂

The technique for folding and cutting a standard 6-point snowflake is pretty common, but the specific designs here are my own. You’re welcome to use them if you want to; they are universally free for anyone crazy enough to want to try this project. I include specific instructions for cutting out the Poirot design below.

First, gather your materials: an X-Acto knife, a very sharp pair of scissors (I like the Cutter Bee scissors by EK Tools), a metal ruler (optional), a pencil, and a piece of paper. You want paper that is relatively thin but not tissue-y, as you’ll need to cut small pieces of it with your knife. Origami paper would doubtless work well; I like using plain white paper from the printer. A piece of paper that is too small will be more difficult to fold and cut through.

1.   Fold paper diagonally to make your large triangle; if your paper is not already square, trim the excess rectangle using the ruler and your X-Acto knife. Scissors work, too.

step1

2.   Fold triangle in half again.

step2

3.   Now you’re going to fold this triangle into “thirds,” keeping the center point of your square as the bottom point of your folded paper. It takes a little practice to learn where to make your alignments along that top edge. Steps 3 and 4 go together, so take a look at the photos…

step3

4.   …And after you’ve folded the right corner up, fold the left side over so that it’s lined up along the far edge. You want the outer edges as closely and compactly lined up with each other as possible.

step4

5.   Next, you’re going to cut off the top part, going through ALL the layers (if you peek on the reverse side, you’ll see where all the layers are) at an angle. It doesn’t matter at which angle you cut; different cuts give different results.

step5

6.   Here’s where your snowflake design begins to differ from the standard snowflake– the cutouts you draw need to be only on the top part of the design. Leave plenty of space underneath. This is the design I used for the Poirot snowflake.

step6

7.   Cut out the design with scissors (or the knife, too, if you have any fiddly bits you’re adding in) and unfold.

step7

8.   Here’s where the secret of the designs come in, the element particularly dear to the heart of Poirot. You’ve been using radial symmetry (the sort that flowers have, for example) to make the snowflake. You’re now going to finish the design using bilateral symmetry (the sort of mirror-reflection symmetry that the human face has). In this case, we’ll do Poirot’s face.

I would recommend that, whichever design you choose to use or invent, to sketch out the whole thing first to get an idea of what you want the finished product to look like. Then fold your drawing in half to get a more accurate idea of what “half an image” should look like before you sketch it into the snowflake. I didn’t use any picture or model for my Poirot face, although I’ve drawn Suchet’s Poirot so many times I can probably render it in my sleep by now. This doesn’t matter– with the right clothes and moustache, the guy in your snowflake WILL be Poirot. Anyway, this is a paper snowflake, not a formal exhibit piece.  🙂

Fold the snowflake in half, the top point facing straight up. Line up the points as closely as you can before creasing, but don’t worry if they don’t align perfectly. Draw your design on, and any additional cutouts you want to add to the design.

step8

9.   Carefully, carefully cut the design out with both scissors and your knife. Use scissors wherever possible, if you’ve got a good, small, sharp pair. In that larger area unreachable by scissors, I cut a small hole with the knife, and then finished the job with my little scissors. The eye and the wing collar were the only parts I needed to cut exclusively with the knife.

Unfold… and voilà! What facial symmetry!

poirot snowflake

There you have it… paper snowflakes suitable for a snowy evening of murder and mystery!

Proof positive that David Suchet is Achille Poirot.

The man beside me was not Hercule Poirot.

He was very like him, extraordinarily like him. There was the same egg-shaped head, the same strutting figure, delicately plump. But the voice was different, and the eyes instead of being green were dark, and surely the moustaches– those famous moustaches–?

…The countess leant forward and snatched at Poirot’s moustaches. They came off in her hand, and then, indeed, the truth was plain…

‘This is Achille Poirot,’ I said slowly. ‘Hercule Poirot’s twin brother.’

-The Big Four

suchetpoirot

 

Hastings – acrylic sketch

This little painting was made on an 8″x10″ canvas board. Curtain has so many beautiful images. Also, it’s Monday. Apparently some folks on Tumblr (which I don’t do) have “Hastings Monday” and share graphics and humor pertaining to our favorite sidekick. That sounded rather up my alley, so here we are. As for the painting, I didn’t bother with the wallpaper pattern or a couple other background details. I thought the simplicity of this was sufficient for a painted sketch.

"Othello?!? That's it??  ...#$%^&..."

“Othello?!? That’s it?? …#$%^&…”

I got good and messy while painting it. And for some mysterious reason, I was listening to my Partners in Crime audiobook at the time. Right actor, right author, wrong series.  😉

hastingspaint1