When I was in a production of And Then There Were None in 1982 in the seaside resort of Southwold — I played the housekeeper who (spoiler alert!) dies in the opening scene — it was still going under its politically incorrect title of Ten Little Niggers. Even at the time we thought that was a bad idea, but the producer of this seaside rep was insistent.
I very much enjoyed watching the BBC’s giallo-inspired, and star packed, dramatisation of And Then There were None, released in the UK over the Christmas break. A superior piece of storytelling, the production was praised for re-invigorating the Christie formula, stripping back the fustiness to let the sheer bloodthirstiness of the piece shine through.
The series made me wonder whether “the golden age” of detective fiction as popularised in the 1920’s and 30’s in itself deserved something of a re-appraisal. Although extremely popular, the particular brand of English country house detective story epitomised by And then There Were None, has never enjoyed critical approval.
As Raymond Chandler put it in his classic essay on The Simple Art Of Murder, “the classic detective story, has learned nothing and forgotten nothing”. While some authors may be better stylists than others, the same cast of…