Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hercule Poirot: Incarcerated at the NY Times

I'll get to the NY Times in a moment. This morning, I serendipitously stumbled into the knowledge that Agatha Christie was born this day in 1890 (she died in 1976 at 85). She was of course the world-renowned crime mystery novelist. Among her most beloved fictional characters is one Hercule Poirot, the prodigiously odd but brainy Belgian detective with a fetish for impeccable attire. “A complete egoist,” Agatha Christie once said of her creation, a man noted for referring to himself in the third person ("But today, Mes Amis, Poirot shall produce a murderer of whose viciousness he stands in awe"). Today, Monsieur Poirot is perhaps best known as the character portrayed by David Suchet (shown above) on PBS Masterpiece Mystery.

Real fans know that Dame Agatha killed him off in "Curtain: Poirot's Last Case," the last book she published ― which brings me to the real subject of this post. Intriguingly, the NY Times marked Poirot's passing with a front page "obituary" on Aug. 6, 1975, a first for a fictional character. That should be delightful to read and share, I thought. Silly me. Shortly after Googling for it, I was obliged to radio in: Houston, we have a problem. The Poirot obit, alas, is not available for free. For some reason, the Gray Lady has deigned that the public must pay her for the privilege of reading this unique death notice, even 36 years after its publication. Ergo, Poirot is effectively under house arrest and available only to paying visitors. (Join the cashier queue here.)

The artful obit, written by Thomas Lask, reads in part:
"Hercule Poirot, a Belgian detective who became internationally famous, has died in England. His age was unknown. Mr. Poirot achieved fame as a private investigator after he revered as a member of the Belgian police force in 1904. ... At the end of his life, he was arthritic and had a bad heart. [Often in a wheelchair, he wore] a wig and false mustaches to mask the signs of age that offended his vanity." (© 2011 The New York Times Co.)
That's as far as I dare go with this uber copyrighted material (otherwise the black helicopters and dark-sunglass-wearing lawyers bearing "cease & desist" letters will swoop in). Oh c'mon, you say. Surely the entire obit is out there somewhere on the World Wide Web, right? My lips are sealed, coppers. I run a clean, respectable joint here at The Portal. Besides, as Rick would say in Casablanca, "I stick my neck out for nobody!" That said, why the Times refuses to freely donate this novelistic artifact to the public is a grand mystère, one I doubt that even the inimitable Hercule Poirot could solve. He would say, "Mon ami, it makes no sense yet to Poirot."

Photo Credit: PBS Masterpiece Mystery.

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