Recently, I was listening to Third Girl one of the later Hercule Poirot novels by Agatha Christie and Poirot had a thought that made me pause. The book was published in 1966 (probably written in 1964 or 1965). Poirot is thinking about a writer friend of his, a woman named Mrs. Oliver who writes detective stories. His thought is “this woman make me feel like a human computer.”
The line jarred me at first, forcing me to take a momentary break from the book as I considered it. Then I did a mental head slap. Of course, Agatha Christie knows about computers in 1964 or 1965. They existed back then, in early forms. Not home computers or anything (for my blog readers born after about 1984 – which is the imaginary date I seem to have embedded in my brain as the dividing line for those who once lived without technology such as cell phones, home computers, etc).
As a writer of serial killer thrillers, I try to keep up in advancements of technology that may be applicable to my books. I also try to keep up on psychological theories regarding crime. Just because Christie didn’t have the internet at her fingertips doesn’t mean she would have ignored these advancements and leave them out of her books.
I dare say, it’s probably quite the opposite. Because she was a writer of crime fiction, every advancement on both the side of the criminal and law enforcement would have needed to be within Christie’s grasp. No doubt the prolific novelist had several police officers within her sphere of friends to keep her appraised of technology they were using and I suspect she probably consulted with a handful of psychiatrists and psychologists as well.
Christie did attempt to make her mysteries and detective novels as true to life as possible. Granted, she took some fictional liberties, but that’s just part of being a writer. (Which reminds me that I need to get a lecture on how the dark web works from my best friend for Innocent Dreams – Which is going to involve snuff films just FYI – I’ve been working on the plotting of it since finishing Ritual Dreams and writing has been significantly easier without the Lyrica in my brain).
But this is the stuff I love about older novels. Christie’s novels from the early 1940s suddenly start to feature automatic lifts (elevators… until this time all elevators in a Christie’s novels were run by a porter). Before the outbreak of war in 1938, elevators were manned by a porter who used a lever to take you to your floor. The automatic elevator was a thing, but a rare thing. People preferred the kind run by porters, it added a bit of personality to something as dull and dreary as an elevator ride. With war came shortages of men to work as porters and run elevators for every Jane, Joan, and Jenni that needed to go up to the fifth floor and so the automatic elevator suddenly became fashionable as there was no need for a porter to run it.
My two favorite things; history and literature.