From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Agatha Mary Clarissa, Lady Mallowan, DBE (15 September 1890 – 12 January 1976), mainly known as Agatha Christie, was an English crime fiction writer. She also wrote romance novels under the name Mary Westmacott, but is chiefly remembered for her 80 detective novels. Her work with these novels, particularly featuring detectives Hercule Poirot or Miss Jane Marple, have given her the title the 'Queen of Crime' and made her one of the most important and innovative writers in the development of the genre.
Christie has been called — by the Guinness Book of World Records, among others — the best-selling writer of books of all time, and the best-selling writer of any kind second only to William Shakespeare. An estimated one billion copies of her novels have been sold in English, and another billion in 103 other languages. As an example of her broad appeal, she is the all-time best-selling author in France, with over 40 million copies sold in French (as of 2003) versus 22 million for Emile Zola, the nearest contender.
Her stage play, The Mousetrap, holds the record for the longest run ever in London, opening at the Ambassadors Theatre on 25 November 1952, and as of 2007 is still running after more than 20,000 performances. In 1955, Christie was the first recipient of the Mystery Writers of America's highest honor, the Grand Master Award, and in the same year, Witness for the Prosecution was given an Edgar Award by the MWA, for Best Play. Most of her books and short stories have been filmed, some many times over (Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, 4.50 From Paddington), and many have been adapted for television, radio, video games and comics.
In 1998, the control of the rights to most of the literary works of Agatha Christie passed to the company Chorion, when it purchased a majority 64% share in Agatha Christie Limited.