During my hibernation periods I often go down to a local seaside market on Saturday mornings to have a coffee with my brother and then walk along the cliff sides, or if it’s really cold, to read a book in a pub. There are several used book stalls at the market and a year ago I could pick up volumes in the recent Agatha Christie reprint series. Check out the second-top shelf in the bookcase photo for how that little collection is progressing.
I have a big problem with reading Agatha Christie, the queen of detective fiction. She wrote eighty detective novels, a dozen volumes of short stories, and another ten books under pseudonyms. I’ve read over fifty of them. The only problem is, I don’t know which fifty.
I didn’t keep a list.
This is how it happened. In the year 2000 I got a job teaching English in a Japanese junior high school on a small tropical island in Okinawa. It was extremely isolated and the internet back then was still 56k dial-up. My parents would send out some paperbacks, I’d watch SkyPerfectTV cable, and I’d play every single Sega Dreamcast game . There wasn’t much else to do. A few times that year I flew up to Tokyo during school holidays and hung out with my now ex-wife. It was a huge change of pace – from a tiny island with 2,000 inhabitants to the wild metropolis of central Tokyo. I’d be there over a week at a time and some of the most enjoyable periods were sitting in Starbucks, in sofa chairs, reading paperbacks and chatting a little. Just enjoying some quiet time together.
Little did I realise, but this was where I made the following deep emotional connection:
Cafe + Sofa Chair + Paperback = Happiness
It’s never left me and remains one of my most satisfying pastimes. When my year in Okinawa was up I flew back to Newcastle and spent the next four months relaxing. I had a daily routine in which I’d take the bus to the city centre, buy an Agatha Christie paperback in Dillons bookstore, then sit in Starbucks reading it. I read at least two dozen of her books in that short time period. As years passed, I’d read more. And then I’d completely forgotten which I’d read and which I hadn’t.
With Agatha Christie it’s not as simple as reading the back cover to figure out if you’ve read it already. The stories are so formulaic, have such similar settings, and the protection of plot twists is so important, that the back cover blurbs are no help at all. Three times in a row I bought a book, sat in my sofa chair, and then twenty pages in I realised “I’ve already read this one!” So, I stopped reading Agatha Christie.
Ten years passed and I’m dipping my toe back in. I figure that even if I’ve read them before, with my advancing age I’ve probably forgotten whodunnit. So, we come to Parker Pyne. I knew for sure I hadn’t read anything with him in. Agatha Christie is a genius. Her most amazing achievement is her ability to create to enduring detectives who have completely opposite methods of detection. Consider this:
- Hercule Poirot is a man of painstaking method and deep logical thinking. The fat little Belgian will carefully observe a crime scene, game out character behaviours, and logically deduce likely suspects. He then makes further researches, usually knows the killer by the halfway point, and then sets a trap where they will be exposed, usually in front of a room of witnesses. Poirot is above all a man of logical deduction. He uses ‘the little gray cells’
- Miss Jane Marple, by contrast, is an intuit of human nature. She’s a sedantry old granny who sits in the corner with her knitting, quietly watching and listening. She observes behaviour and character. As a former busy-body, she has an encyclopedic knowledge of every character in her village. When elsewhere, she logs her observations and then thinks, “which of my friends does this new person most remind me of?” She assigns people to character types. Thus she can intuit the behaviour of a new person based on her experience of the old people. Miss Marple is above all a lady of character observation. She uses her gossip database.
Parker Pyne didn’t catch on with the public imagination but I was certainly fascinated to see how Christie would draw her protagonist. What would be his USP? I’m not quite sure. His backstory is that he worked in a government office of statistics for 35 years and upon retirement opened a private consulting agency concerned not with murder but with happiness. It would appear he’s intended to be an actuary who uses statistics to predict individual cases.
It’s a short story collection, written in 1934, but each follows the previous story including the latter half of the book in which he takes a case at each leg of his Middle Eastern tourist trip. They all begin with a prospective client reading his regular advertisement in the Times, that read:
Are you happy? If not, consult Mr Parker Pyne, 17 Richmond Street.
Pyne has an agency hiring two regular staff, a reformed rake (‘lounge lizard’ in the book) who has retired from his gigolo ways but uses those skills to help clients. The other is a stunning vampish women who plays the same game from the other side. Pyne hires them, in the London stories, to create dramas scripted by his third employee, a popular novelist. It’s a great book and I read it cover to cover in one afternoon. It has all of Agatha Christie’s hallmarks: fast efficient characterisation, unpredictable but fair plotting, dark deceptive villains, and a remarkable sense of humanity in the good people.
The reason it’s interesting for this blog is that Agatha Christie knows Game. Oh, does she know game! Consider chapter 4, The Case Of The Discontented Husband. It concerns a young man who consults Parker Pyne because his wife has fallen out of love with him and is now carousing with an interloper. They have agreed a divorce but he’s against it. I won’t type out any sections. Instead I’ll post them as photos.
As you read, consider Game concepts from blogs such as The Rational Male, Heartiste, and of course this writer’s humble contribution to the Game. I’ve annotated it to help you.
1. Women instigate most break-ups and do so by monkey-branching onto the next man
3. When a girl goes cold on you, you can’t do anything right. It’s not about you, it’s about her body telling her to GTFO
4. Men who sing the birdsong can attract the bird out of another male’s nest. That’s #9 of the sixteen commandments
5. That’s #8
6. Amused mastery, treat women like children
7. That’s #2 of the sixteen commandments. Dread game
8. That’s #2 again
9. That’s #16. When you are willing to walk away, she’ll block your exit
10. Women use their man as a foil to play the status game amongst other women. Dalrock has a lot to say about this, particularly the status of being a “wife”.
11. Make her work, make her chase. Don’t let her in too easily.
12. Boredom is the kryptonite of LTRs
13. Cheaper than my coaching
14. See Rollo’s life-cycle for why this is the period of peak danger for women blowing up their families for one last shot at new male DNA.
Here’s the lesson of the day: there is nothing new under the sun.
If you’d like to learn how to understand human nature in order to solve mysteries, you can’t do better than Daygame Infinite. That is a 524-page tour-de-force on how to understand hot girls and to solve the mystery of “how do I get them to have sex with me?”
 Metropolis Street Racer, Sonic Adventure 2, Soul Calibur, Crazy Taxi 2, Virtua Tennis 2, NFL 2K, Unreal Tournament, and Outrigger were my favourites.