Comments: 5
I think from the beginning of "Murder at the Vicarage" we can take it that the Clements have only fairly recently settled in St. Mary Mead -- the stories really to revisit are the first ones in "The Thirteen Problems", though, as they were written simultaneously with "Blue Train" (i.e., prior to "Murder at the Vicarage"). And IIRC, there's an older incumbent in some of those ... presumably, Mr. Clement's predecessor.
BrokenTune 3 years ago
Still, there are problems that I can't quite reconcile with the vicar referring to the previous vicar - old Dr. Pender. There seems to be no mention of of Dr. Pender being married, where as in Murder at the Vicarage, Miss Vines tells Katherine that:

"There was great trouble about the new curate, who is scandalously high. In my view, he is neither more nor less than a Roman."

I'm assuming that "high" here means High Church, which would tie up with Murder at the Vicarage, where Mr Hawe has only moved to three weeks prior to the story:

"Hawes is our new curate. He has been with us just over three weeks. He has High Church views and fasts on Fridays."

Which would fit better with Christie having a sort of outline for Murder at the Vicarage in her mind when penning Blue Train.

Also, in her autobiography, she describes St Mary Mead really coming alive for her when she had to agree to changes to the stage version of Roger Ackroyd (Alibi):

"Alibi, the first play to be produced from one of my books–The Murder of Roger Ackroyd–was adapted by Michael Morton. He was a practised hand at adapting plays. I much disliked his first suggestion, which was to take about twenty years off Poirot’s age, call him Beau Poirot and have lots of girls in love with him. I was by this time so stuck with Poirot that I realised I was going to have him with me for life. I strongly objected to having his personality completely changed. In the end, with Gerald Du Maurier, who was producing, backing me up, we settled on removing that excellent character Caroline, the doctor’s sister, and replacing her with a young and attractive girl. As I have said, I resented the removal of Caroline a good deal: I liked the part she played in village life: and I liked the idea of village life reflected through the life of the doctor and his masterful sister. I think at that moment, in St. Mary Mead, though I did not yet know it, Miss Marple was born, and with her Miss Hartnell, Miss Wetherby, and Colonel and Mrs Bantry–they were all there lined up below the border-line of consciousness, ready to come to life and step out on to the stage. Reading Murder at the Vicarage now, I am not so pleased with it as I was at the time. It has, I think, far too many characters, and too many sub-plots."

(Nice nod of the head to this in Ariadne's dealing with her adaptation of Sven's stories in Mrs. McGinty's Dead.)

Anyway, the play opened in May 1928, so presumably, what Christie describes as the "birth of Marple" happened after the Tuesday Night Club stories were written, which is also a little off, unless she disregards the earlier short stories and means the birth of Marple and the rest of the actual village as we know it from the later books (starting with since she mentions Miss Hartnell, the Bantrys, etc).

As they would have needed some time to adap the play, her deliberations of St. Mary Mead may well have co-incided with the writing of Blue Train (also published in 1928).

I'm telling you we REALLY could do with that whiteboard!

What I do have a better understanding of now is that 1926 -1928 must have been an exhausting time for her, what with the divorce, Rosalind needing proper schooling, having to write for a paycheck, adapting her first play, and several writing projects... Kudos to her.

We absolutely could. (And, agreed on "Mrs. McGinty" -- she really did use every bit of material! I hope Morton was flushing with embarrassment when he read that ...)

I don't think she had a *plot* outline for "Murder at the Vicarage" (or the Clements as characters) in her mind when she was writing "Blue Train". I think the whole thing developed organically, something like this:

* Caroline -- elderly village sleuth ... oh, cool, I want to write more about a character like her.

* Can't be King's Abbot, though. That's Poirot territory -- in the sense that he actually starred there. It's also tied to Caroline Shepard.

* Hmm. St. Mary Mead has a nice ring as a village name. What if I never use it again for Poirot but create a new setting there?

* Let's see ... whom do we need in addition to the village sleuth? A vicar, of course (more likely than not he would be a well-established elderly gentleman, not too high church), a squire (more likely than not an ex-officer) and his wife, a country doctor, and a country solicitor. Also, village gossip obviously involves more than just one elderly lady.

* I need money because of that damned divorce. So let's experiment with the new setting in a series of short stories first. Quick money, and leaves room for development. Let's keep it to one elderly lady first, though ... need to work on developing her character first.

* After the first couple of "Tuesday Club" stories: Ooh, I really like how that's working. And now -- let's stir up that traditional village setting a bit: We need a murder, of course ... what if it were to happen at the vicarage? What could create more of a scandal? Tongues wagging -- enter a whole host of gossiping elderly ladies! And what if I tell the story from the vicar's POV? Good old Dr. Pender would probably have a fainting fit, though, and he's not the best narrator anyway. Has to be a younger man ... let's make him a married man, with a scandalously young wife. Hmm. Do I want to increase the level of scandal yet another bit and also introduce a scandalously high church curate with the new vicar? He might come in handy in terms of red herrings -- or do I want him to be the culprit? Hmmm ...

BrokenTune 3 years ago
No, not a plot outline, but an idea of a setting that would lend itself to a future plot (or plots).

As for Morton, well... looking at Mrs. McGinty's Dead and at what Morton's manifestation in that novel had become, he'd probably not been going about telling anyone that that character was based on him. ;) Unless he was the sort to brag about having been the inspiration for one of the most pathetic characters in her books ... and for several murders.
Who knows? ("Even bad publicity is publicity?" :) ) ("Now let me tell you, of course that scene is exaggerated -- she's a writer, after all. Here's how it really happened ...")

What I do think is interesting to watch how that simple "light bulb" idea "elderly gossiping village sleuth" blossomed first into the fairly basic setup we see as the backdrop of the "Tuesday Club" stories (enlivened by Raymond West, Jean, and a few "guest stars") and quickly, within the space of only a year or two, evolved into the village society we first see in "Murder at the Vicarage" -- and in all subsequent Miss Marple novels set in St. Mary Mead.