My evening hobby is traveling via Google Maps. It’s cheap. It’s easy. I get to sleep in my own bed when the journey is over.

I like visiting places where I’ve lived and with fifty addresses over a life in and around the military, I have plenty to choose from. My former home in Belgium now has new living room windows; one of my German homes has solar panels on its roof; other homes no longer exist.

I like to take virtual trips to places where friends live or have lived. My best friend when I was 11 moved to Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada when his dad was transferred, so I made a virtual visit the other night although I’m sure he no longer lives there. None of us live where we used to.

I also like “driving” to places I want to visit — (cue Abbot & Costello) Ni-Ag-Ara Falls!

Tonight’s visit is to Agatha Christie’s home, Greenway. I lived in England when I was a child, but, of course, no one ever took me to visit Mrs. Christie. I don’t know that either of us would have got much out of a visit.

On searching Google Maps for Greenway, I was thrilled to find that the service has a 360 degree view of the front lawn of Greenway, an interactive street view drive down two of the lanes leading to the home, and the 360 degree view on the dock on the River Dart.

 

Google Map’s panoramic view of the front lawn of Greenway.

Seeing where my favorite author lived and wrote the books I so enjoy adds a layer of appreciation to my reading.

 

Other Greenway websites:

 

The latest Miss Marple in the PBS series Masterpiece Mystery is Endless Night, a bit of an oddity because Miss Marple isn’t a character in the book.<-  [highlight to see spoiler]   Continued spoilers, and a good review, are at the blog, The Agatha Christie Reader.

I’m happy that the stories continue to be made for new audiences as well as for those of us who apparently can’t get enough of Mrs. Christie’s books (the blue volumes in the near-top left and right shelves).

In addition to being happy to see the remake of the story, I liked seeing Tamzin Outhwaite’s name in websites about the episode. I last saw her in Redcap.

I was also tickled to see Janet Henfrey in the cast.  I so enjoyed her as Mrs. Bale in As Time Goes By with Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer.  Her attention to the shipping forecasts reminded me of my dad talking about the persistence of “gale-force winds” in the Scottish isles, an apparent feature of the radio weather reports in England in the early 1950s.

It makes it hard for younger people in the acting profession to get work when so many of their older colleagues continue to work well in the craft, but I do enjoy seeing familiar faces in familiar stories.  Aspiring novelists may also have a tough time breaking into the ranks of well-known stories and characters because of the devotion of readers to their favorite writers.  I know that if I’m reading another one of the Christie books, I’m not reading the stories of newer authors.  I try to balance it by reading contemporary authors during the day when it’s easier to concentrate and saving Mrs. Christie for my soothing nighttime reads.

Agatha Christie, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Agatha Christie, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

In re-reading Agatha Christie’s novels I’m listening to them rather than re-reading them.  I do have all her books, so re-reading all of the stories wouldn’t be a chore for me (the books are the 1990s Bantam collection in blue leatherette, the collection that is so readily available on eBay, and are the books that replaced my paperbacks whose pages were falling out). Still, it’s so much easier to listen to the books while I’m doing other things — we all multi-task nowadays, don’t we.

The novel I’m listening to now is A Murder Is Announced, a story set in the town of Chipping Cleghorn in which a Rudi Scherz apparently tries to murder Letitia Blacklock during an “announced” murder at Letitia’s house, Little Paddocks. In the story, Miss Jane Marple is informally assisting Inspector Craddock in discovering why (the now-deceased) Rudi would do such a thing.

Even though Mrs. Christie is called the Queen of Crime and her books are well-appreciated by readers around the world, I do listen to books other than hers.  One big difference, though, that I’ve noticed between Mrs. Christie’s Golden Age mysteries and many modern mysteries is in reading ease.   Mrs. Christie never confuses me, other than in strewing red herrings throughout the story.  I always know where I am in the story and who is who.

I’ve read the commonplace criticisms of her work: clichés, cardboard characters, and lack of depth.  My own criticism would be the repetition in what the characters are called as she seems to be fond of certain names — Archie Easterbrook in A Murder Is Announced, Mark Easterbrook in A Pale Horse.

Despite the weak spots in the Christie books, a strength I value is Mrs. Christie’s ability to tell her stories in such a way that she doesn’t baffle the reader concerning the story’s narrative, or at least, she doesn’t baffle this reader. Even when I’m not multi-tasking, I appreciate being able to follow a story even if I usually can’t figure out whodunnit.

The title of this entry comes from one of my favorite cartoons.  If you don’t want to click, it’s a drawing of a man lying in a hammock holding a flyswatter and smacking away at books flying up at him like pesky insects.  The caption is this entry’s title.

When I was a kid, I remember finishing our Air Force base library’s stock of Nancy Drew books and wanting more.  A year later I whipped through outer space with all the Robert Heinlein books our school library owned and mourned being earthbound again when I’d read them all.  Dad snapped this picture when I discovered Judge Dee.  Later I passed the hours overseas with the collections of Agatha Christie from various Army libraries.  I was always on a search for new titles and would read slowly to make the books last longer because once I finished a collection at the library, that was it.

Nowadays, I can’t keep up.  Goodreads notifies me about good reads by email, as does Bas Bleu.  The DorothyL list is a virtual avalanche of titles.  I Love A Mystery just called to say that Jo Nesbø’s latest book is in the store, and the library emailed me that my online requests have arrived and are waiting to be picked up.  I haven’t yet clicked “buy” on my latest cartful at Amazon.   Then there are the books on the shelves here at home that cry at me about how they are neglected.

I have to wonder if Johnnie Gutenberg had any idea about what he was unleashing.

Hat tip to K.d. McCrite:

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As for the ‘writing,’ (I’m supposing that’s what you’d call it, although Researcher Who Won’t Stop is more like it), I discovered I put my people in the wrong place by about five kilometers (for me, the 5K make a difference).  Since I first settled on the location, I thought I’d got the borderline-in-question correct, but in looking at Google maps, I see I was off.    If I wasn’t writing slowly enough already (1/4 of  the first story and 2 short stories), finding out the people were on the wrong side of the ‘tracks’ was like a tree in the road — I could get around it, but it would take work.  Luckily, the Google map exercise reminded me of Google Earth, and I’m pretty sure my people are now in an appropriate place.

So, now to be like a brick, and stay on task, not get discouraged*, not be perfect but be OK with it, and stop wasting time.

* In Duchess of Death, I learned that Agatha Christie wrote a play in 6 weeks.