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Endless Night First Edition Cover 1967

Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition

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

Explanation of the novel's titleEdit

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 summaryEdit

Ambitious young Michael Rogers - the narrator of the story - falls in love with Fenella Guteman (Ellie) the first time he sets eyes on her in the mysterious yet scenic 'Gipsy's Acre', complete with its sea-view and dark fir trees. Before long, he has both the land and the woman, but rumors are spreading of a curse hanging over the land. Not heeding the locals' warnings, the couple take up residence at 'Gipsy's Acre', leading to a devastating tragedy.

PlotEdit

Michael Rogers, a footloose, seemingly nonchalant, working-class dabbler, narrates the story. He has a close relationship with his friend, Rudolf Santonix, a famous but ailing architect with an interest in one day building a house for Michael. While walking along a village road, Michael meets Fenella "Ellie" Guteman, a wealthy heiress, who yearns for a life outside of her judgmental and pompous inner circle of relatives and advisers. Ellie and Michael form a romantic relationship and decide to marry.

Excited by the prospect of their new life, Ellie is able to fund the building of Gipsy's Acre, their new modern home near the place where they met. Michael requests Santonix build the house, to which he readily agrees. The couple come across locals, such as Major Phillpot, the village "God"; Claudia Hardcastle, a woman who shares Ellie's love of horse riding; and Miss Esther Lee, an elderly gypsy who tells Ellie to leave the village or fate will curse her. Matters are made worse when Ellie invites her attractive secretary/companion Greta Anderson to stay at the house. Michael eventually gets into a heated argument with her.

Ellie begins to become more worried about the dangers of Gipsy's Acre and more frightened of Miss Lee's increasing hostility towards her. Then, when she fails to return after embarking on a routine morning horse ride, Ellie's dead body is found in the woods. An inquest finds that a combination of a heart condition and being thrown from her horse was to blame. A melancholy Michael has to travel to America to attend Ellie's funeral and to receive the inheritance bequeathed to him in Ellie's will. While in America, Michael receives a letter from the village telling him that the bodies of Miss Lee and Claudia Hardcastle have been discovered, suggesting that Ellie's death was not an accident. Michael visits Rudolf Santonix in hospital as he is close to death. Santonix, with his dying breath, screams "Why didn't you go the other way?" before dying in front of Michael.

When he returns to the village, the true nature of Michael's intent is revealed: he had met Greta Anderson in Germany before meeting Ellie, and they had instantly fallen in love. Greedy for the good life, they had devised a plan in which Michael would marry Ellie to gain her inheritance, then murder her and marry Greta. Michael then murdered Ellie by poisoning the allergy capsule she took before riding her horse. The slow-acting cyanide killed her during the ride. Having paid Miss Lee to frighten Ellie to throw suspicion on the old gypsy, Michael eliminated her as a witness by pushing her into a quarry. The death of Claudia was an accident in that she had borrowed Ellie's allergy medicine to be able to ride her horse and so had died in the same way. Santonix had guessed Michael's intents previously, and his seemingly random outburst was in anger that Michael killed Ellie rather than living happily with her.

Even as Michael and Greta celebrate their triumph, Michael begins to break down in remorse and revulsion. He tells Greta of his vision of Ellie while on the road to Gipsy's Acre. Infuriated when Greta scolds him for his sudden weakness, he is further enraged by her disdain for Gipsy's Acre and his regret at the murder of Ellie. He viciously strangles her. At the end of the novel, Michael meekly awaits his fate as villagers discover Greta's murder and local officials interview him in his home.

CharactersEdit

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.

  • Fenella Rogers (née Guteman): Often called Ellie, she is a sweet heiress with a head for business
  • Michael Rogers: A 'rolling stone', who shifts from job to job
  • Greta Andersen: Ellie's Scandinavian, blonde companion with a penchant for arranging and often compared with a valkyrie.
  • 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 Lipincott: Ellie's guardian and trustee, a Bostonian with hardly a trace of 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.
  • Major Phillpot: The village 'god' who becomes a good friend of Michael
  • Mrs Rogers: One of the few people who knows Michael well. She worked hard to get her son a proper education since her husband was often drunk.

Literary significance and receptionEdit

The novel 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 November 16, 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."

The Guardian carried a laudatory review in its issue of November 10, 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."

Maurice Richardson in The Observer of November 5, 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." The poet and novelist Stevie Smith chose the novel as one of her Books of the Year in the same newspaper's issue of December 10, 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."

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."

References to other worksEdit

While the novel uses elements of the supernatural that feature rarely in Christie (By the Pricking of My Thumbs being a noticeable example), the novel's denouement is similar to that of her famous novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd in that Michael is revealed to be a twisted, mentally unstable man who is also the murderer. The plot also uses elements of a Miss Marple story, The Case of the Caretaker from Miss Marple's Final Cases (1979).

Film, TV or theatrical adaptationsEdit

The Case of the CaretakerEdit

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

Main article: Endless Night (1972 film)

A 1972 film was made, starring Hayley Mills, Britt Ekland, Per Oscarsson, Hywel Bennett and George Sanders (who committed suicide before the film's release). Christie reportedly had some reservations about the use of sex scenes to enliven the plot.

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 August 30, 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 adaptationEdit

Endless Night was released by HarperCollins as a graphic novel adaptation on November 3, 2008, adapted by François Rivière and illustrated by Frank Leclercq (ISBN 0-00-727533-1).

Marple adaptationEdit

Even though the book did not feature Agatha Christie's character Miss Marple, this book is planned to be adapted for the sixth series of Marple.

Publication historyEdit

  • 1967, Collins Crime Club (London), October 30, 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, ISBN 0-85456-115-3
  • 2011, HarperCollins; Facsimile edition, Hardcover: 224 pages, ISBN 978-0-00-739570-5

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

International titlesEdit

  • Czech: Nekonečná noc (Endless Night)
  • German: Mord nach Mass (Murder made to measure)
  • Polish: Noc i ciemność (Night and Darkness)
  • Portuguese: Noite sem fim (Night without end)
  • Spanish: Noche eterna (Endless Night)
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