Monday, 18 November 2013

David Suchet's 'Poirot and Me' (2013)

Last week, Agatha Christie's Poirot came to an end as Curtain: Poirot's Last Case was broadcast on ITV. But fear not! To coincide with the broadcast of the final series, Headline Publishing have released a book, written by David Suchet in collaboration with Geoffrey Wansell, called Poirot and Me. The book is an absolute must-have for any dedicated Poirot fan!

When I first heard about the plans for this release back in autumn 2012, I was immediately over-excited. Having seen numerous interviews with Suchet in the past, as well as his documentaries, I was confident that we could expect great things from this book. In short, my expectations could not have been higher. This is the man who for twenty-five years has portrayed one of my favourite literary characters in an iconic television series.

Let me start by saying that it did not disappoint. Far from it. With over 300 pages, the book includes comments on every single episode ever made, plus some biographical Agatha Christie information. For the first time, we get the full story of how Suchet became Poirot (the walk, the talk, the appearance), with first meetings, first costume fittings, first shoots and several acting epiphanies included. We are also treated to little anecdotes from his encounters with the Poirot fans, some of which are absolutely delightful to read. We even get his 'character dossier', the list of 93 Poirot characteristics that he carried with him on set (I was secretly hoping for this to be included, but I never thought we'd actually get to see it!), and a series of photos Suchet has taken on the sets over the years.

This is far more than just a Poirot 'encyclopedia', though. This is the life story of a character actor. I don't think I have ever seen a character actor who has been given the opportunity to describe the process of becoming different characters. In short, his craft. Poirot aside, we also get glimpses of all the other great characters Suchet has played, including the famous Shakespeare roles, George in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Salieri in Amadeus, Robert Maxwell in Maxwell, James Tyrone in Long Day's Journey Into Night, and many others. We get to share his anxiousness as he waits for the phone call from ITV saying that they want to do another series, his money worries, and holidays with his family. Sometimes when you read 'celebrity biographies' you can tell that it has been 'polished' by some PR department, and certain stories have been included to put the writer in a good light. This, however, is a very personal story told in what appears to be a very truthful and honest way. Geoffrey Wansell should probably be given some credit here, too, because the book is incredibly 'visual', in the sense that you really feel, as a reader, that you've actually witnessed all these things. You have been a part of Suchet's journey. That is quite unusual.

Personally, there were some things I was even more delighted to read about than others. It was encouraging to read about Suchet's disputes with some of the Poirot directors, his determination to re-introduce Whitehaven Mansions after a long absence and include Poirot's manservant, his personal contributions to the set designs (he bought the clock on Poirot's mantelpiece for the production team!), and his firm belief to stray true to the character. This is a man with a vision. In fact, that's a thought I kept coming back to while reading the book. On several occasions, Suchet has said that his aim as an actor is to serve the writer. 'Without actors, writers don't have a voice'. These glimpses behind the scenes demonstrate Suchet's determination. He has been committed to Agatha Christie, regardless of what some Christie 'purists' might say, while at the same time fleshing out Poirot to truly iconic dimensions (see my post on Suchet's achievement here). His reflections (in the book) on Murder on the Orient Express and the moving story from the filming of Poirot's final case, Curtain, underline this, too.

All in all, Poirot and Me is a treasure-trove of information for any fan of David Suchet, Hercule Poirot, and Agatha Christie - not to mention anyone interested in acting, television and adaptation work. Highly recommended!

P.S. I've been told by Headline that an audiobook version will be released on 21 November 2013, read by David Suchet! The book lends itself easily to an audiobook, and I'm sure the story will feel even more personal when read by Suchet himself. 


 

Richard, a reader of the blog, kindly sent me these photos from one of Suchet's promotional talks. It must have been quite an evening!

19 comments:

  1. Great reading, I just buy my book by Amazon, but I don´t receive yet... Im from Argentina, wow you could have your book with Mr. Suchet autograph!!!!

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    1. I hope your book arrives soon! It's a great read :)

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  2. I've been listening to the audio book and it's fantastic. Suchet's voice adds so much to what is already a fantastic book. Just found this wonderful blog and will be giving it a good read as I re watch Poirot all over again. xxx

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    1. Thank you, Catherine! :) Glad to hear the audio book is good! It's certainly on my wish list!

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  3. Today I receive my book... ready to read!!!

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    1. Great! Hope you've enjoyed it as much as I did! :)

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  4. I love Poirot! As a designer the fabulous style of the 1930's is marvelous and works so well with his character! I watched a 2 old shows on Public Tele last night and forgot how much I miss this series. I am going to d a design post on his style and hope that its okay to use some of your images with credit of course! Thank you, Karolyn

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    1. Hi! I see you've used some of the photos - great! :) And an excellent blog post, too! (http://therelishedroost.blogspot.com/2014/01/poirot-interiors-of-great-taste.html). Eirik

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  5. I received my copy last week and I'm going to begin it as soon as I've finished my current reading. Your article is great; thanks ! I wish you the best for 2014

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    1. Thank you - and a happy new year to you, too, Lewerentz! :)

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  6. You - and this blog - have made me want to read this. I kind of flipped through the television documentary version. And was surprised by Suchet's take on Poirot's personal life or lack thereof: Suchet talks about Poirot never falling in love, wishing he could, reflecting on that whenever he's around the women who factor into his cases, etc...and he doesn't even mention Countess Rossakoff! He spends some time on Chocolate Box and emphasizes Virginie as the one woman Poirot fell in love with!

    That might be an instance of Suchet failing to "pick up on" something in Christie's works, because I think her descriptions of Poirot's moods after running into the Countess imply some sexual excitement. While the series takes a more genteel approach, clearly Poirot's interest in the Countess is partly physical since it starts the moment he looks at her. And then he jeopardizes Hastings' safety and Japp's career to protect her.

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    1. My daughter bought the entire TV series as a birthday gift. ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS. Been reading agatyha for more than seventy years ( 84 ) and cane get enough not her. No one to replace her, and no one will ever replace David. The PERFECT Poirot. I thinking am in love with Poirot, so go away Countess Rossakov!

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    2. My daughter bought the entire TV series as a birthday gift. ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS. Been reading agatyha for more than seventy years ( 84 ) and cane get enough not her. No one to replace her, and no one will ever replace David. The PERFECT Poirot. I thinking am in love with Poirot, so go away Countess Rossakov!

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  7. I have realized that my sense that Suchet captures Poirot more perfectly than other actors is based partly on the actors' physical appearances, which, of course, they can only do so much about. On the other hand, Suchet looks very different out of costume (I was surprised at that the first time I saw a picture of him) so this series was able to do something to change appearance.

    If I had to boil it down to a single trait I would say that Ustinov and Finney both make Poirot look BIG, while Suchet manages to make him look small-ish. I believe Christie herself commented on the trend of physically large screen Poirots. And a particularly odd effect is achieved in the Ustinov Thirteen at Dinner, where Japp, played by Suchet, is so much smaller than Poirot!

    The series' Countess Rossakoff(s) were not what I would have expected physically, either, going by the books' descriptions of her as "large and flamboyant," but there was somehow a sense of Poirot being smaller than her.

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  8. Suchet's response when PBS asked if he had any desire to portray any other sleuths:

    "No. I'm going to leave it at Poirot. I don't think it would be in my bag now to play another sleuth. I've done the best of them all. And in his own words, he's the world's most famous, so where would I go from there?"

    Is it just me, or did that answer sound very "Poirot"? Don't the last two sentences in particular sound like Poirot talking about himself?

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  9. The whole tv series says that there are 80 hours of filming. My daughter gave it to me for my 83 birthday and I do not want to watch anything else. Perfect , just perfect, although knowing Agatha's books so well,having read them so many times, they do deviate from the original. Doesn't matter. Perfect. And Joan Hickson was the perfect Miss Marple, no one else can take that part. I have the whole series with Geraldine McEwen. Tommy and Tuppence joined her in one episode!! Of course, I am in love with Poirot.

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  10. The whole tv series says that there are 80 hours of filming. My daughter gave it to me for my 83 birthday and I do not want to watch anything else. Perfect , just perfect, although knowing Agatha's books so well,having read them so many times, they do deviate from the original. Doesn't matter. Perfect. And Joan Hickson was the perfect Miss Marple, no one else can take that part. I have the whole series with Geraldine McEwen. Tommy and Tuppence joined her in one episode!! Of course, I am in love with Poirot.

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  11. I must apologise for the spelling in my post. Predictive text drives me crazy!!!

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  12. I must apologise for the spelling in my post. Predictive text drives me crazy!!!

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About Me

I'm a passionate fan of Poirot, Agatha Christie and the ITV series. If you have any questions, comments, suggestions or requests, please e-mail me at poirotchronology@gmail.com, post a comment on one of my blogs, or get in touch on Twitter @pchronology. (I used to call myself HickoryDickory)