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Endless Night
AuthorAgatha Christie
Cover artistKenneth Farnhill
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
GenreCrime novel
PublisherCollins Crime Club
Publication date
30 October 1967
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
Pages224 pp (first edition, hardcover)
Preceded byThird Girl
Followed byBy the Pricking of My Thumbs

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Endless Night is a crime novel by Agatha Christie, first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club on 30 October 1967[1] and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company the following year.[2][3] The UK edition retailed at eighteen shillings (18/-)[4] and the US edition at $4.95.[3] It was one of her favourites of her own works and received some of the warmest critical notices of her career upon publication.

Etymology[edit]

The title comes from William Blake's Auguries of Innocence:

Every night and every morn,
Some to misery are born,
Every morn and every night,
Some are born to sweet delight.
Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.

Plot summary[edit]

The story begins with Michael Rodgers, a young twenty-two year old, telling us about his time as a chauffeur and how he met the architect Rudolph Santonix. He plans to one day have a house built by Santonix. Michael is poor though, and so can't afford to hire Santonix to build the house he wants. Michael explains that he isn't content doing just one thing and so has held down many different jobs over the years. One day he wants to settle down in his dream house with his dream woman, but for now he can't imagine settling down.

Michael is walking along a village road near the Gipsy's Acre property one day when he falls in love with the grounds. He fantasizes about one day building a house there with the woman he loves. Curious to see what an auction is like, he goes to the auction for the acre. Several people are interested in buying it, but the bid doesn't go high enough and no one ends up getting the property rights. Michael suspects that this is because of the supposed curse over the property.

While lurking on the grounds, he meets Fanelle (Ellie) Gutman by chance, a wealthy heiress who wants to escape from her world of snobby friends, begging relatives, and restrictive financial advisors. She introduces herself as Fanelle 'Goodman,' not wanting him to know her true identity as an heiress. They get along quite well and it seems like love at first sight. He shares his dream of owning the acre with her and she seems to reciprocate and encourage the idea. Ellie also mentions her lovely housemaid, Greta Anderson. Apparently, Greta has acted like a best friend to her for several years now and is described as very efficient. Michael appears incredibly jealous of their close relationship, despite never actually having met Greta before.

Michael then sees Ellie on and off over the next few weeks before she has to travel abroad for her twenty-first birthday. While away from Ellie, Michael discovers that the property he wants has finally been bought. Michael also returns to his mother's house to ask her for money to marry Ellie. It's quite clear that he doesn't like his mother and she doesn't like him. The situation reads as though she simply disapproves of his spontaneous lifestyle, but Michael claims that his mother knows him all too well. He leaves without the money.

When Ellie returns, she reveals to Michael that she is in fact, one of the wealthiest women in America and that it is she who bought Gipsy's Acre. She wants to marry him and fulfill his dream on building a beautiful house there. She doesn't even mind leaving her home and family in America to move to England for him. Their marriage is a small event without much fanfare and they marry behind her family's back. Michael is poor and Ellie fears that her family would not approve of him. She is correct, and once they find out, they are highly disapproving of Michael. They even fire Greta for helping arrange the secret marriage. Regardless, Ellie refuses to leave Michael.

Once married, they hire Santonix to build a mansion for them on the acre. After it's finished, Santonix remarks that this will probably be the last house he ever builds due to his failing health. On the night they move in, a rock is thrown through their window, telling them to leave the acre. Ellie is shaken by the incident, but not enough to want to move. Ellie entertains the idea of inviting Greta to live with them at the acre, feeling bad for getting her fired, but Michael doesn't like the idea.

Michael and Ellie discover a small alcove near the cliffs on their property. They fix it up and build a small gazebo there, but they don't tell anyone about it, using it as a secret getaway area just for them.

The newlywed couple spend the next few weeks meeting the villagers. Major Philpot stands out as a man wealthy in land but not money and he is seen as the 'god' of the village; he becomes close with Michael. Claudia Hardcastle is another villager of note; she rides horses and becomes good friends with Ellie. They start riding horses together regularly. Ellie reveals that although she is naturally allergic to horses, she takes pills to calm her allergies before riding. She offers them to Claudia, who is also mildly allergic. Later it is revealed that Claudia is Santonix's half sister and used to be married to one of Ellie's lawyers.

Meanwhile, an old gypsy woman, Mrs Lee, continues to warn them of a curse and instructs them to leave the acre. Ellie grows increasingly wary of her, so much so that Michael goes to the police station to inquire about Mrs. Lee. He learns from an officer there, that in the past, Mrs. Lee had been bribed with money to terrify other residents. Michael wonders if someone is doing that again.

In the meantime, much to Ellie's chagrin, her American family refuses to leave her alone. Her step mother, Cora, has even moved across the ocean to be in the same country as her. Ellie's lawyers too, keep in constant contact with her. Some of them claim it's because she is fragile and needs to be protected since she has a bad heart. Her head lawyer, Mr. Lippincott, is especially concerned over her marriage to Michael.

When Ellie injures her ankle, she needs someone to help take care of her and she finally convinces Michael to let Greta stay with them. Ellie begins to worry about Michael and Greta, as they don't appear to like each other and even get into a very heated argument one night.

Michael's mother comes to visit them on the acre, having never met Ellie before. She wants to see her daughter-in-law. Michael has made it clear that he doesn't want his mother to visit the acre or see Ellie, so they meet in private. Ellie only mentions this later in passing to Michael, but he becomes enraged that they met behind his back. She finds his anger curious.

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One day, like normal, Ellie goes out horse riding in the morning. She goes alone because Claudia is going shopping with Greta at the outlets that day. Before she leaves, Mike invites Ellie to lunch later with him and Major Philpot. She accepts their invitation. Mike then goes into town with Major Philpot and attends an auction for various items. Being rich now, he's able to afford whatever he wants and outbids several others to buy a small gift for Ellie. After the auction, he thinks he sees two people resembling Claudia and one of Ellie's lawyers driving away in a car. He thinks it odd, since Claudia was supposed to be shopping at the outlets and the lawyer was supposed to be in America.

While at lunch with Major Philpot, Mike begins to worry about the fact that Ellie has not yet joined them. She never shows up to lunch, and eventually they find out that it's because Ellie was thrown from her horse and died. Her dead body is found, having sustained no apparent injuries, and the local police determine that Ellie died of shock when she was thrown from her horse. Several witnesses come forward, claiming that they saw a woman in the woods the same time Ellie was riding her horse. Based on this, authorities believe it was Mrs. Lee who scared the horse on purpose and murdered Ellie by accident, not knowing she had a heart condition.

At the inquest, it is revealed that a gold lighter was found in the alcove with the initial C on it. It could either belong to Claudia or Cora. The inquest is left incomplete though, due to the fact that Mrs. Lee does not show up in court. Mrs. Lee is deemed missing.

After the inquest, Michael travels to America to attend Ellie’s funeral with her family and collect the inheritance. While there he hears that Mrs. Lee has been found dead in a quarry, and Claudia Hardcastle has also died while out riding her horse. He wonders if it can be a coincidence.

From Mr. Lippincott, he also officially learns that Claudia used to be married to another one of Ellie's lawyers (the one he thought he saw her with that day). Mr. Lippincott asks Michael if he ever knew Greta before meeting Ellie. Michael says no. Mr. Lippincott says that he has a letter for Michael, but that he'll send it in the mail so he gets it when he arrives back in England.

Before returning to England, Mike goes to visit Santonix on his deathbed in California, having heard that his friend was dying. Right before Santonix dies, he screams, “You should have gone the other way!” Feeling disturbed by this, Mike returns to the UK on a sea voyage to give him time to reflect.

When he finally returns to his dream home, he opens the door to his dream woman: Greta Anderson. He reveals how he and Greta had met many years earlier in Germany. They had fallen in love and devised a plan to take Ellie’s money. Greta fixed it so Ellie would meet Michael at the acre that day. In reality, he already knew exactly who Ellie was. Mike and Greta pretended not to know each other and even hate each other so no one would suspect them. They plan to get married and share Ellie's wealth now that she's gone. The cover story being, both of them were so close to Ellie, no one else could understand the loss except each other.

In reality, they killed Ellie with cyanide. They put it inside her allergy pills. Mike was the one who paid Mrs. Lee to frighten Ellie and raise suspicion of the heart shock theory and the possible curse. To eliminate Mrs. Lee as a witness, Michael and Greta pushed Mrs. Lee into a quarry. Claudia Hardcastle was unintentionally poisoned after finding and taking some of Ellie's pills in the alcove. She was the one who left the lighter by accident. It is also assumed that Santonix was suspicious of Michael’s true intentions.

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Michael and Greta celebrate what they have done, but when Michael opens the letter from Mr. Lippincott, he is horrified to find a picture of himself and Greta years ago in Germany. He starts to become paranoid that everyone knows that he is the murderer. He starts to lapse and sees Ellie everywhere he looks. Greta tries to assure him that it is nothing, but in a fit of psychotic rage, he strangles Greta.

Shortly afterwards, the police and the local doctor arrive; their suspicions aroused by Claudia Hardcastle's death. They find him sitting with Greta's corpse, slowly losing his sanity.

It is revealed that after Mike was arrested, he wanted to write down the entire story of how it happened: this is the book you have been reading all along. Mike then recounts all of the bad things he has done. As a child, he drowned his friend in a pond to steal his watch. As a young adult, he let another friend bleed out after a mugging just so he could steal all of the money on his person. He always hated his mother because he thought that she was suspicious of him. She was the only person (maybe other than Santonix) who could see through him. This is why he was angry that Ellie had met his mother; he was worried his mom might throw suspicion on him.

He wonders if he could have ever actually been happy with Ellie and why he threw his chance with her away. He wonders if he ever did love her. The novel ends.

Characters[edit]

The following details of the characters are based on the original novel. Backstories, backgrounds, and names vary with differing international adaptations, based on censorship, cultural norms, etc.

  • Michael Rogers: A 'rolling stone', who shifts from job to job. Michael hides dark secrets behind his nonchalant facade.
  • Fenella Rogers (née Guteman): Often called Ellie, she is a sweet heiress with a head for business.
  • Greta Andersen: Ellie's Scandinavian, blonde companion with a penchant for arranging and micromanagement.
  • Claudia Hardcastle: A young woman in the village who shares Ellie's passion for horse-riding.
  • Cora Van Stuyvesant: Ellie's stepmother, several times divorced, and a thoroughly unpleasant woman of roughly forty years of age who married Ellie's father for money.
  • Andrew Lippincott: Ellie's guardian and trustee, a Bostonian with hardly a trace of an accent, who resents Greta's 'influence' over Ellie.
  • Esther Lee: The village gypsy, who enjoys frightening people, especially when money is involved.
  • Stanford Lloyd: Claudia Hardcastle's former husband and one of Ellie's trustees.
  • Frank Barton: The husband of Ellie's aunt, a man who borrows but doesn't return.
  • Rudolf Santonix: A perfectionist architect who 'looks through you' and 'sees right through the other side'. A personal friend of Michael's from the latter's time as a cab driver. Half-brother of Claudia Hardcastle.
  • Major Phillpot: The village 'god' who becomes a good friend of Michael.
  • Mrs. Rogers: as his mother, one of the few people who know Michael well. She worked hard to get her son a proper education since her husband was a poor role model and an alcoholic.

Literary significance and reception[edit]

The novel was published in 1967. Christie later said she normally wrote her books in three to four months but wrote Endless Night in six weeks.[5] The novel – which recycles plots and characters Christie had used in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and Death on the Nile[citation needed] – is dedicated 'To Nora Prichard from whom I first heard the legend of Gipsy's Acre.' Nora Prichard was the paternal grandmother of Mathew, Christie's only grandson. Gipsy's Acre was a field located on a Welsh moorland. The Times Literary Supplement of 16 November 1967 said, 'It really is bold of Agatha Christie to write in the persona of a working-class boy who marries a poor little rich girl, but in a pleasantly gothic story of gypsy warnings she brings it all off, together with a nicely melodramatic final twist.'[6]

The Guardian carried a laudatory review in its issue of 10 November 1967 by Francis Iles (Anthony Berkeley Cox) who said, 'The old maestrina of the crime-novel (or whatever is the female of 'maestro') pulls yet another out of her inexhaustible bag with Endless Night, quite different in tone from her usual work. It is impossible to say much about the story without giving away vital secrets: sufficient to warn the reader that if he should think this is a romance he couldn't be more mistaken, and the crashing, not to say horrific suspense at the end is perhaps the most devastating that this surpriseful author has ever brought off.'[7]

Maurice Richardson in The Observer of 5 November 1967 began, 'She changes her style again and makes a determined and quite suspenseful attempt to be with it.' He finished, 'I shan't give away who murders whom, but the suspense is kept up all the way and Miss Christie's new demi-tough, streamlined style really does come off. She'll be wearing black leather pants next, if she isn't already.'[8] The poet and novelist Stevie Smith chose the novel as one of her Books of the Year in the same newspaper's issue of 10 December 1967 when she said, 'I mostly read Agatha Christie this year (and every year). I wish I could write more about what she does for one in the way of lifting the weight, and so on.'[9]

Robert Barnard: 'The best of the late Christies, the plot a combination of patterns used in Ackroyd and Nile (note similarities in treatment of heiress/heroine's American lawyers in Nile and here, suggesting she had been rereading). The murder occurs very late, and thus the central section seems desultory, even novelettish (poor little rich girl, gypsy's curse, etc.). But all is justified by the conclusion. A splendid late flowering.'[10]

Adaptations[edit]

'The Case of the Caretaker'[edit]

A short story collection by Agatha Christie, titled Miss Marple's Final Cases and Two Other Stories, published in October 1979, features a short story called 'The Case of the Caretaker' whose overall plot is the same as Endless Night, although the character names are different.

'‘The Case of the Caretaker’ was first published in Strand Magazine, January 1942, and then in the USA in Chicago Sunday Tribune, 5 July 1942.' from 'Miss Marple – Miss Marple and Mystery: The Complete Short Stories (Miss Marple)' by Agatha Christie

Endless Night (1972 film)[edit]

In 1972, Sidney Gilliat directed a film adaption starring Hayley Mills, Britt Ekland, Per Oscarsson, Hywel Bennett and George Sanders (who committed suicide before the film's release). The film received mixed reviews, and following an unsuccessful run in the United Kingdom, was not released theatrically in the United States.

Christie was initially pleased by Gilliat's involvement and the casting. However, she was disappointed in the finished product, calling it 'lacklustre.' She also voiced her reservations about the film featuring a brief nude scene with Ekland at the end.[11][12]

Saturday Theatre (BBC Radio 4)[edit]

Endless Night was presented as a one-hour radio play in the Saturday Theatre strand on BBC Radio 4 on 30 August 2008 at 2:30pm. The play's recording took place at Broadcasting House and had an original score composed by Nicolai Abrahamsen.

Adaptor: Joy Wilkinson
Producer/Director: Sam Hoyle
Cast:
Jonathan Forbes as Mike
Lizzy Watts as Ellie
Sara Stewart as Greta
Joan Walker as Cora/Mike's Mother
Victoria Lennox as Mrs Lee
Chris Pavlo as Mr Constantine/Auctioneer/Policeman/Assistant
John Rowe as Philpott/Lippincott
Joseph Tremain as Young Mike/Army Boy
Dan Starkey as Santonix/Frank
Thomas Brown-Lowe as Oscar

Graphic novel adaptation[edit]

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Endless Night was released by HarperCollins as a graphic novel adaptation on 3 November 2008, adapted by François Rivière and illustrated by Frank Leclercq (ISBN0-00-727533-1).

Agatha Christie's Marple adaptation[edit]

Although the book did not feature Miss Marple, it is part of the sixth series of Agatha Christie's Marple, starring Julia McKenzie. It aired first on Argentina's Film&Arts on Wednesday 20 November, Australia's ABC on Sunday 22 December 2013, and aired on ITV on Sunday 29 December 2013. This adaptation by Kevin Elyot remains fairly faithful to the book, although, in addition to adding Miss Marple, it identifies the boyhood friend murdered for his wristwatch by Rogers with the architect's brother, who does not appear in the original novel. The architect (named Robbie Hayman in this TV adaption) ends up burning down the house he has designed for Rogers after discovering his brother's watch in Rogers' desk drawer.

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French adaptation[edit]

A French adaptation as part of the television series Les Petits Meurtres d'Agatha Christie is planned for 2021.

Publication history[edit]

  • 1967, Collins Crime Club (London), 30 October 1967, Hardcover, 224 pp
  • 1968, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1968, Hardcover, 248 pp
  • 1969, Pocket Books (New York), Paperback, 181 pp
  • 1970, Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 192 pp
  • 1972, Ulverscroft Large-print Edition, Hardcover, 342 pp, ISBN0-85456-115-3
  • 2011, HarperCollins; Facsimile edition, Hardcover: 224 pages, ISBN978-0-00-739570-5

In the US, the novel was first serialised in two parts in The Saturday Evening Post from 24 February (Volume 241, Number 4) to 9 March 1968 (Volume 241, Number 5) with illustrations by Tom Adams.

References[edit]

  1. ^The Observer, 29 October 1927 (p. 26)
  2. ^John Cooper and B.A. Pyke. Detective Fiction – the collector's guide: Second Edition (pp. 82, 87) Scholar Press. 1994; ISBN0-85967-991-8
  3. ^ ab'American Tribute to Agatha Christie'. insightbb.com.
  4. ^Chris Peers, Ralph Spurrier and Jamie Sturgeon. Collins Crime Club – A checklist of First Editions. Dragonby Press (Second Edition) March 1999 (Page 15)
  5. ^Crime Story Queen By Muriel Bowen. The Washington Post, Times Herald 15 Sep 1970: B4.
  6. ^The Times Literary Supplement 16 November 1967 (p. 1092)
  7. ^The Guardian. 10 November 1967 (p. 7).
  8. ^The Observer 5 November 1967 (p. 27)
  9. ^The Observer, 10 December 1967 (p. 9)
  10. ^Barnard, Robert. A Talent to Deceive – an appreciation of Agatha Christie – Revised edition (p. 193). Fontana Books, 1990; ISBN0-00-637474-3
  11. ^Dame Agatha Tells Whodunit—She Did: Grande Dame of Whodunit Los Angeles Times 15 Dec 1974: 11.
  12. ^Haining, Peter, Agatha Christie: Murder in Four Acts. Virgin Books, London, 1990. p 50. ISBN1-85227-273-2

External links[edit]

  • Endless Night (1972) at IMDb
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Free
< The Pickering Manuscript

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For other versions of this work, see Auguries of Innocence.
The Pickering ManuscriptbyWilliam Blake
Auguries of Innocence

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
A robin redbreast in a cage
Puts all heaven in a rage.
A dove-house fill'd with doves and pigeons
Shudders hell thro' all its regions.
A dog starv'd at his master's gate
Predicts the ruin of the state.
A horse misused upon the road
Calls to heaven for human blood.
Each outcry of the hunted hare
A fibre from the brain does tear.
A skylark wounded in the wing,
A cherubim does cease to sing.
The game-cock clipt and arm'd for fight
Does the rising sun affright.
Every wolf's and lion's howl
Raises from hell a human soul.
The wild deer, wand'ring here and there,
Keeps the human soul from care.
The lamb misus'd breeds public strife,
And yet forgives the butcher's knife.
The bat that flits at close of eve
Has left the brain that won't believe.
The owl that calls upon the night
Speaks the unbeliever's fright.
He who shall hurt the little wren
Shall never be belov'd by men.
He who the ox to wrath has mov'd
Shall never be by woman lov'd.
The wanton boy that kills the fly
Shall feel the spider's enmity.
He who torments the chafer's sprite
Weaves a bower in endless night.
The caterpillar on the leaf
Repeats to thee thy mother's grief.
Kill not the moth nor butterfly,
For the last judgement draweth nigh.
He who shall train the horse to war
Shall never pass the polar bar.
The beggar's dog and widow's cat,
Feed them and thou wilt grow fat.
The gnat that sings his summer's song
Poison gets from slander's tongue.
The poison of the snake and newt
Is the sweat of envy's foot.
The poison of the honey bee
Is the artist's jealousy.
The prince's robes and beggar's rags
Are toadstools on the miser's bags.
A truth that's told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.
It is right it should be so;
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.
Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.
The babe is more than swaddling bands;
Throughout all these human lands;
Tools were made and born were hands,
Every farmer understands.
Every tear from every eye
Becomes a babe in eternity;
This is caught by females bright,
And return'd to its own delight.
The bleat, the bark, bellow, and roar,
Are waves that beat on heaven's shore.
The babe that weeps the rod beneath
Writes revenge in realms of death.
The beggar's rags, fluttering in air,
Does to rags the heavens tear.
The soldier, arm'd with sword and gun,
Palsied strikes the summer's sun.
The poor man's farthing is worth more
Than all the gold on Afric's shore.
One mite wrung from the lab'rer's hands
Shall buy and sell the miser's lands;
Or, if protected from on high,
Does that whole nation sell and buy.
He who mocks the infant's faith
Shall be mock'd in age and death.
He who shall teach the child to doubt
The rotting grave shall ne'er get out.
He who respects the infant's faith
Triumphs over hell and death.
The child's toys and the old man's reasons
Are the fruits of the two seasons.
The questioner, who sits so sly,
Shall never know how to reply.
He who replies to words of doubt
Doth put the light of knowledge out.
The strongest poison ever known
Came from Caesar's laurel crown.
Nought can deform the human race
Like to the armour's iron brace.
When gold and gems adorn the plow,
To peaceful arts shall envy bow.
A riddle, or the cricket's cry,
Is to doubt a fit reply.
The emmet's inch and eagle's mile
Make lame philosophy to smile.
He who doubts from what he sees
Will ne'er believe, do what you please.
If the sun and moon should doubt,
They'd immediately go out.
To be in a passion you good may do,
But no good if a passion is in you.
The whore and gambler, by the state
Licensed, build that nation's fate.
The harlot's cry from street to street
Shall weave old England's winding-sheet.
The winner's shout, the loser's curse,
Dance before dead England's hearse.
Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born,
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.
Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.
We are led to believe a lie
When we see not thro' the eye,
Which was born in a night to perish in a night,
When the soul slept in beams of light.
God appears, and God is light,
To those poor souls who dwell in night;
But does a human form display
To those who dwell in realms of day.

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