Who is the number one selling author of all time? Stephen King? Good guess, but no, actually. JK Rowling? Nope. Mmmm… Shakespeare? Yup – but those are all plays. He (if indeed he was one person) was a dramatist, not a novelist. So for our purposes, the Bard doesn’t count. He is widely read – but as a poet, a playwright. Not a novelist. Shakespeare is number two overall. Number one overall, the Bible. Also fiction (if inspired, although, you have to read with very forgiving and favourable lenses to think so) – but also not a novel. Important, no doubt – documenting shared myths of a vast swathes of humanity. The King James prose so exalted that even arch-atheist Christopher Hitchens considered its study mandatory for a full understanding and appreciation of the English language. That is number one. But also not a novel.

So… in terms of bestsellers… the top two are not novels at all. First the translators of the translations of the committees that worked from the works of people who took the names of contemporaries but wasn’t actually – the religious scripture of the Christians.

Then, the Bard and his plays.

So, we still don’t know. Who is the number one novelist of all time? It’s a mystery, one might say.

Her name was Agatha Christie. She was born in 1890 in Torquay, Devon – just a few miles from where I live. In fact, this weekend, I’ll be participating in the International Agatha Christie Festival – an event that brings together fans, critics, academics, experts, readers and writers to celebrate the Grand Dame of Detective stories and her 66 novels, 14 short story anthologies and her play The MouseTrap – which is the longest running play of all time.

Edgar Allen Poe created the Detective story, writing four of them before moving on to more interesting things. Arthur Conan Doyle carried on the tradition.

They blazed some trails… but then the little girl from the South West, schooled by her American father and teaching herself to read at age 5, took the form and built it out… creating many of the conventions we know today. Agatha Christie created the murder mystery.

Once, she sparked a mystery herself, vanishing for 11 days and sparking – at the time – the largest manhunt ever mounted.

So… this weekend is a road trip to Torquay – and a celebration of a magical storyteller, whose Marple, Poirot and other characters continue to amuse, and whose influence permeates nearly every crime or detective story since.

Number One. Of All Time:

Lady Mallowan herself.

Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie.

Stay safe until next time 😉