Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Lost Christie tapes for reissued HC memoir

14.12.09 Graeme Neill in The Bookseller

Never before-heard audio footage of Agatha Christie will be included in a reissue of her autobiography next spring by HarperCollins.

Almost 14 hours worth of audio was discovered in 2008 by Christie’s grandson in a storeroom outside her former home in Torquay. The tapes date back to when she was dictating her autobiography during the early to mid-1960s. Agatha Christie: An Autobiography was published posthumously in 1977.

David Brawn, publishing director for estates at HarperCollins, said: “It was a rather spooky experience for her grandson to hear her talking more than 30 years after she died.

Christie would reuse tapes when she was dictating her work so the uncovered audio consists of the final quarter of her biography. Brawn said it was this part of the book where Christie moves onto discussing her work. He said: “She talks of writing The Mousetrap and its origins as a radio play and the creation of Poirot and Miss Marple. Those stories really come alive in the audio.”
Since the discovery, HarperCollins has been working on cleaning up the audio quality of the tapes. Brawn said: “We’ve tried to remove the pauses and clunkiness as she turns the dictation machine on and off. But we didn’t want to remove the spontaneity of the tapes. You can hear her perfectly clearly.

The CD has been edited down to around an hour’s worth of material. Brawn said during 2010 the publisher plans to only make the CD available with the hardback. However, he added the book could be sold as a separate audio download or included with a paperback after the end of next year.

Among the material that has not been used is Christie discussing her trips to the Middle East with her archaeologist second husband Max Mallowan. Brawn said: “There is potential for some unused material to be for additional titles.”

HarperCollins has been reissuing Christie’s backlist in hardback for the past three years. While her autobiography has never gone out of print, it has only been available as an A-format paperback. Agatha Christie: An Autobiography will be released in hardback in March, priced £20.

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