Agatha Raisin Book Titles

As mentioned in the blog on M.C. Beaton and Agatha Raisin, there are many more books for creating PBS shows. From the list of book titles below, look for the words in capital letters. Solution to follow at a later date.

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M.C. Beaton and Agatha Raisin

As many of you would agree, British television does a marvelous job with developing and presenting mystery shows. And fortunately for us, PBS brings many of these shows to this country.

After watching hundreds of episodes of the various British series, I’ve come to the conclusion that these mystery shows fall into three categories. There are the dark story lines like, Sherlock, Vera, Case Histories or Jack Taylor. There is the cozy type of mysteries like all the Christie stories with Poirot and Miss Marple or Midsomer Murders. Then there is the last category which I classify as the lighthearted mysteries. The lighthearted mystery shows definitely investigate murder but are sprinkled with a heavy amount of humor and social behaviors. Examples of these shows include Murder in Suburbia, Father Brown and one of the latest entries Agatha Raisin.

Marion Chesney and M.C. Beaton MC Beaton 1

Agatha Raisin is a series based on the books by British writer Marion Chesney under her pseudonym M.C. Beaton.

M.C. Beaton/Chesney was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1936. Her first job was in the fiction department of booksellers, John Smith & Sons Ltd.  While working for Smith she received a job offer from the Scottish Daily Mail where she was a reviewer of variety shows and then advanced to the job of theater critic. She left Smith when she took on the duties of fashion editor with Scottish Field magazine. Her next job was at Scottish Daily Express where she was a crime reporter. Once more she made a move to the Daily Express where she became the chief woman reporter. All these reporting jobs provided her with a variety of writing experiences.

She married Harry Scott Gibbons and had a son, Charles. Harry took a job as editor of the Oyster Bay Guardian and the family moved to the United States. This job did not work out and they moved to Virginia where Marion actually worked as a waitress. Finally, they both found jobs in New York on Rupert Murdock’s new tabloid, The Star. However, Marion wanted to spend more time with her son and her husband agreed.

She left her reporting career and switched to writing Regency romances under her maiden name of Marion Chesney. After authoring over 100 romances, she eventually tired of writing about the limited period between 1811 to 1820. She turned to writing detectives stories using the pseudonym M.C. Beaton.

The family eventually returned to England. Marion continued writing while Harry raised black sheep in Scotland. However, it was a long commute from London to Scotland. When their son finished school, they moved to the Cotswolds which also happens to be the home of the Agatha Raisin series.

Agatha Raisin-the Early Years

We learn from the short story Agatha’s First Case that Agatha Raisin is a 26-year-old woman working at a public relations firm. She is doing all the work and receiving little reward for her effort. She’s willing to do this because she is trying to better herself from her humble beginnings in a block slum in Birmingham.

Raisins 1st case

When Sir Bryce Teller is charged with murder Agatha is sent to break the news that the firm will no longer keep him as a client. However, during the interview Agatha decides to help with the press. Once he sees her ability at handling the press, he sets Agatha up in her own PR firm.

While establishing her PR firm, Agatha also proves that Sir Teller didn’t kill his wife and thus, establishes her detective credentials.

Her understanding of people, in addition to her PR skills over the years helps Agatha grow her business into one of the most successful agencies in London.

Agatha Raisin Retires to the Cotswolds

Now we jump ahead in time with the first book Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death. This is also the first episode in the PBS series. Agatha is now 53 and owns a highly successful PR agency with top clients. She has made her fortune and has also made the decision to retire while she can still enjoy life.

Based on a childhood memory of a camping trip she decides to leave London and retire to the fictional village of Carsely in the Cotswold. She is ready for a quiet retirement by enjoying life in a quaint village. And village life and all it has to offer would be perfect if it wasn’t for the murders.

Agatha decides the best way to fit into village life is to participate in the various activities. Her first attempt at blending in is by entering the local contest for baking the best quiche. There’s only one problem−Agatha doesn’t cook. Her cooking is limited to having a selection of prepared and frozen food items that she microwaves for most of her personal meals. For her entry in the baking competition, Agatha purchases a quiche from “The Quichery,” a top delicatessen in London. However, even with a professional entry, Agatha doesn’t win.

After the contest, the judge, Mr. Cummings-Browne takes home Agatha’s left-over quiche. The next day he is found dead after eating a second slice of the spinach quiche. However, this slice of quiche was laced with cowbane and Agatha quickly becomes the top suspect.

In order to help her defense as the potential murderer, she is forced to admit that her quiche was store bought. This faux pas immediately reduces her standing in the village to that of a cheater. In order to get back in the good graces of the villagers, she decides she must solve the crime.

Agatha Raisin on PBS 

Agatha Raisin Season 1

In the television series, the story lines tend to follow the original plots of the books. However, there are several character modifications from those in the books. However, the changes seem to add to the television drama.

Agatha, played by Ashley Jensen is clearly not 53, but an active forty something This age difference is reinforced when Bill Wong, the local constable, fills out his on-line dating profile and lists he is interested in women 40-50. He’s hoping to attract Agatha.

In addition to Bill, Agatha relies on an eclectic group of helpers including Roy Silver from her PR days in London and her house cleaner, Gemma Simpson and her daughter.  James Lacey, Agatha’s good-looking neighbor, is introduced early in the first television episode and plays a role in saving Agatha from danger. To make your own character comparisons be sure to check out the books as well as the PBS series.

This crew of amateur detectives under Agatha’s guidance plow through the list of suspects who can be just as eclectic as her helpers. Sometimes they stumble into misadventures but at the end of the day, they uncover the killer of quiche judge Cummings-Browne.

And so, life in the village continues with a sprinkling of murders to keep it from becoming too complacent or dull for the dynamic Agatha Raisin.

This is only one example from the first season of the television series. There are many more adventures based on the books to entertain PBS viewers. In fact, there are many more books available beyond those represented in this first season. To date there is only one season of this delightful series. Hopefully, with the added interest from American PBS audiences, producers will be persuaded to film several more seasons of Agatha Raisin.

Note: Marion Chesney is the author of the Hamish Macbeth detective series, which she also writes under the pseudonym M.C. Beaton. Perhaps in a future blog we will discuss this series.

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Methods of Murder #3 Word Search- Solution

Here are the answers for the latest Methods of Murder Word Search. How did you do? Did you find all the dastardly ways to commit murder?
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Methods of Murder # 3

Yes, we still have more Methods of Murder for you to consider. In some ways, it’s hard to believe there are so many ways to murder our fellow citizens. I might mention that I’ve already started list #4.  To solve the puzzle, look for the words in capital letters. The solution will be posted at a later date.
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John P. Marquand/Mr. Moto Crossword Solution

I know you worked very hard on completing this puzzle. Just in case you need some extra help, here is the solution for the John P. Marquand/Mr. Moto crossword.

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John P. Marquand/Mr. Moto Crossword

You’ve had a couple of weeks to look at the blog about John P. Marquand and Mr. Moto. Now it’s time to test your knowledge. Check out the crossword puzzle below. Remember, most of the answers can be found in the blog. Solution will be posted in a couple of weeks.

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John P. Marquand’s Mr. Moto

What Pulitzer Prize winning author of satirical novels also created one of the most memorable spy detectives in both books and films? The answer is−John P. Marquand.

John P. Marquand won the Pulitzer Prize for The Late George Apley (1938). His title character, George Apley, is a Harvard-educated, white, Anglo-Saxon protestant living on Beacon Hill in downtown Boston. Beacon Hill is one of the oldest and wealthiest areas of Boston where the old money families live. It is located near the Massachusetts State House which sits prominently at the top of the hill, which gives us the term “Beacon Hill.” It was this world of wealth, privilege and power with its strict code for social behavior that Marquand was born into and later satirized.John_P._Marquand

Marquand’s Early Years

Marquand was descendant from several of the early governors of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. His mother was the great niece of well-known feminist writer, Margaret Fuller, and a cousin of Buckminster Fuller. Aside from his prestige lineage, there was the family fortune made from shipping and merchandising.

However, during the crash of 1907 the family lost their money and suffered a financial downturn. Marquand was sent to live with two eccentric aunts in an old deteriorating mansion in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Unable to afford the tuition for an elite private school he attended the local public high school. He did go to Harvard by winning a scholarship for Chemistry.

At Harvard, he had wanted to write for the newspaper but was turned down. Instead he was elected to the editorial board of the humor magazine, the Harvard Lampoon. After graduation, he finally worked for a newspaper when he was hired by the Boston Evening Transcript in 1915.

In 1922 he married Christina Sedgwick, niece of The Atlantic Monthly editor, Ellery Sedgwick. In 1925 Marquand published, Lord Timothy Dexter. This was considered an important book about the life of this Newburyport eccentric. His other well-known satirical novels include H. M. Pulham, Esquire (1941), B.F.’s Daughter (1946) and Sincerely, Willis Wade (1955).

By the mid-1930’s he was a prolific and successful writer and a regular contributor of fiction for slick magazines like The Saturday Evening Post. By the late 1930’s, Marquand, had created a series of novels about life in the upper-class.

Although he had been snubbed by his college roommates for his lack of wealth, he ultimately joined and embodied the lifestyle of the upper-class including owning luxury homes in Newburyport and the Caribbean. He was part of the very social scene that he often portrayed in a negative light. He was even linked to the Rockefeller family through his second wife, Adelaide Ferry Hooker, whose sister, Blanchette, was married to John D. Rockefeller III.

However, since this is a mystery blog, we think Marquand’s most important work was the creation of Japanese master spy and detective, Mr. Moto. Marquand achieved great popularity and commercial success with his spy novels about this fictional detective.

The Creation of Mr. Moto

Marquand was asked by The Saturday Evening Post to write a series of stories featuring an Asian character. In fact, the magazine sent him on a trip to Asia to do research. The magazine was attempting to fill the void created by the death of Erle Derr Biggers, the creator of Charlie Chan.

His first Moto story appeared in the magazine under the title, No Hero but later when published as a novel it was changed to, Your Turn, Mr. Moto.

Marquand wrote six Moto novels between 1935 and 1957.  All six novels were serialized first as magazine stories in The Saturday Evening Post except for Last Laugh, Mr. Moto which was serialized in Collier’s Weekly.

Marquand’s Moto novels were adapted into 23 radio shows starring James Monk. The first radio show was called A Force Called X07 (May,1951) and ended with The Dry Martini (October, 1951). Eight motion pictures were developed by Twentieth Century Fox starring Peter Lorre and Henry Silva starred in a 1965 film, The Return of Mr. Moto. In 2003 Moonstone Books published a graphic novel called Welcome Back, Mr. Moto.

Who Is Mr. Moto

When Mr. I.A. Moto is introduced to us, he appears as an eccentric Japanese aristocrat. In Think fast, Mr. Moto, Moto is described as a small man, delicate, almost fragile. book moto

He was dressed formally in morning coat and striped trousers. His black hair was carefully brushed in the Prussian style. He was smiling, showing a row of shiny gold-filled teeth, and as he smiled he drew in his breath with a polite, soft sibilant sound.

The focus of the novels is on westerners who experience problems involving some international intrigue. They are written from the westerner’s point of view. Mr. Moto is an international spy that operates behind the scene and enters into their lives to help them find a solution to their problem and extract them from danger.

In Think Fast, Mr. Moto he mentions other skills that he possesses:

Yes, I can do many things. I can mix drinks and wait on tables, and I am a very good valet. I can navigate and manage small boats. I have studied at two foreign universities. I also know carpentry and surveying and five Chinese dialects. So very many things come in useful.

Later in Mr. Moto Is So Sorry, we learn that one of the foreign universities he attended is American where he was a student of Anthropology. Later in the film versions of Mr. Moto, we will discover he has added several more skills to his list.

Plots of the Novels

In all the novels, Moto is a shadowy figure that seems to have numerous contacts in the Orient underworld that he manipulates to achieve his desired results.  Let’s take a look at the first Mr. Moto book.

In Your Turn, Mr. Moto, Flying Ace Lee Casey finds himself stranded in Tokyo when his transpacific pilot job for a tobacco company is cancelled. Low on funds Casey accepts a lucrative job offer from Mr. Moto and finds himself on a ship bound for Shanghai. His fellow passenger and female lead in this story is Sonya, a White Russian, who also seems to be assisting Mr. Moto. When a Chinese man turns up dead in Casey’s cabin, the trio is caught in a game of danger that could affect all of their countries.  Your Turn Mr. Moto

In the final novel, The Last of Mr. Moto (Stopover Tokyo-magazine title) is set in the 1950’s. Mr. Moto is now an intelligent officer for the pro-western Japanese government.

Jack Rhyce, a former paratrooper from World War II, has changed careers to becomes a secret agent in the early years of the Cold War. Rhyce and fellow spy Ruth Bogart have been dispatched to Tokyo to foil an assassination attempt. However, while the team is working to stop a murder they must also deal with an additional problem. Japan is now forming close ties with America and a communist ring is stirring up anti-American sentiment.

Jack and Ruth are pretending to be representatives of the Asia Friendship League and are met by Mr. Moto at the airport. Mr. Moto is undercover as a would-be tour guide who offers to make their stay more pleasant.

The American spies immediately suspect that there’s more to Mr. Moto than what appears. They need to stop the sinister plot and discover if the mysterious Mr. Moto will be their ally, or their enemy.

Both of these examples are representative of the plots in the novels. A westerner is in peril in the world of spies and deadly plots. The constant danger is offset with a romance between the male hero and the female lead.

The characters may not always understand the motives of Mr. Moto but he is ultimately there to help them. There’s also a sense that the people he is helping are talented individuals who emerge as a new form of hero. Moto recognizes this when he says:

“Undercover work is always like that,” …the people one encounters are much the same. They may be shady and raffish, but don’t forget they’re all of them brave. They do their work like a piece on a chess board and nothing stops them from moving along the diagonal. … they’re working for their respective countries and that’s more than a lot of people do.”

Mr. Moto Films

During one of the winter months this year, there was a very snowy day. This is the kind of day where you don’t want to leave the house and curling up with a good book is the perfect solution.

On this day, instead of opting for a good mystery book, I decided to do my own film fest. I had just received the collection of Mr. Moto movies. These are the eight movies from 20th Century Fox filmed between 1937 and 1939 featuring Peter Lorrie. I started with the first film, Think Fast, Mr. Moto. Think Fast Mr. Moto

Unlike the novels, there are several differences with the Mr. Moto in the films. Mr. I.A. Moto of the novels now has the first name of Kentaro. Mr. Moto is no longer the shadowy figure behind the scenes, but the focus of the films with the westerner playing a subordinate role. Occasionally he may be the seen in a tuxedo, but he does not wear formal morning attire as his normal dress and there is no signs of a gold tooth.

And perhaps based on the athleticism of Lorre we are aware that Moto is both an expert in Jiu-Jitsu and Judo and capable of circus like feats. He is a master of disguises and is also a skilled magician. For his personal enjoyment, he composes a form of poetry known as Haiku and draws caricatures.

The film plots are loosely based on the original stories but always involve spies and expose Mr. Moto to danger from some foreign government or group. And there is still the westerner who needs help in saving the secret plans, protecting their country or finding the hidden treasure. With the help of Mr. Moto, the problem is solved and for just a little while life returns to normal, until the next Moto film.

Mr. Moto Continues to be a Good Story

Mr. Moto was a good solid replacement for the Charlie Chan stories. I recommend on snowy days or on any day for that matter, to treat yourself to the detective stories of John P. Marquand’s, Mr. Moto. They are full of intrigue, spies, romance and plots that keeps the reader entertained.

 

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Erle Stanley Gardner Book Titles #2-Solution

Hope you found all the Perry Mason titles. Just in case you didn’t, here is the solution. I also hoped you enjoyed our posts about Erle Stanley Gardner.

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Erle Stanley Gardner Titles #2 Word Search

I’m going to finish our current set of blogs about Erle Stanley Gardner with a second word search puzzle of Perry Mason titles. Gardner was such a prolific writer that I couldn’t fit all the titles in just one word search. And these are just the Perry Mason titles. Who knows maybe I’ll have a word search of Cool and Lam titles at a later date. As always, find the words in the list of titles that are capitalized.

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Erle Stanley Gardner Crossword- Solution

There were a couple of tough questions in this puzzle, so I understand if you need to check your answers. I also know you are a mystery puzzle expert so I’m sure you did a great job!

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