|More of a shocker sort of fellah|
Hercules battles the Lernean Hydra
Labours was first published in 1947, yet eleven of the stories had originally appeared in the UK over 1939-1940 in the Strand Magazine. The last tale, The Capture of Cerberus, was rejected by the the Strand, apparently because it too much dealt, unusually for Christie, with contemporary politics. A new version of the story appeared in the book in 1947.
Although The Labours of Hercules stories include both Poirot's secretary Miss Lemon and Inspector Japp (and, one imagines, it would have been easy enough to incorporate Hastings into them), Poirot's Labors were never filmed in the 1990s for the David Suchet Poirot television series. Instead, several of the Labors were incorporated into the penultimate television film in the series in 2013. I will be writing about this film and the rest of the final season of Poirot next week, along with the second half-dozen Labors.
Along with the Poirot novel One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, which was published in November 1940, the Labors in which Japp features constitute his last appearances in the Poirot canon. Did the Labors conversely see Miss Lemon's debut appearances in the Poirot canon? As we know from my last Christie Tuesday Night Club post, Miss Lemon was working for Parker Pyne in the early 1930s. I don't recall this most efficient of secretaries appearing in any of the Thirties Poirot novels.
|Has Hercule Poirot found his match in a lap dog?|
Christie also introduces a good character, the much put-upon paid companion, Amy Carnaby, who appears in a later Labor. Does anyone else think Miss Carnaby owes a bit of a debt in her conception to Dorothy L. Sayers's Miss Climpson? Both are delightful individuals.
There is a tiny nod to this tale, one of Christie's most engaging, in the film version of Labours.
The Lernean Hydra is less original but still quite enjoyable. The tale involves a situation I believe Christie had used before, about a doctor suspected of poisoning his wife so that he might marry his pretty female dispenser; but it's all very neatly carried out by the author.
The "monster" in this one is malicious village gossip--a hydra with many heads indeed! There's also yet another Christie house servant named Gladys. A promising subject for a future thesis: why did Christie so often name servant characters Gladys?
|2001 HarperCollins paperback|
edition--a striking design, I think!
Handsome young Ted ingenuously asks Poirot to find his lost love: a maid to a Russian dancer who was staying with her mistress at a local country house party but has since disappeared with no trace. Poirot resolves to bring Ted's dear, Nita, back to to the anguished mechanic, in a Labor involving a good deal of Continental travel on the sleuth's part. This story, really a romance tale with a twist, was one of the Labors used in the 2013 film version of the book.
The Erymanthian Boar also takes Poirot to the Continent, specifically to an off-season, snowbound hotel in Switzerland. This is a darker story than the others in the collection, involving as it does a vicious French murderer and master crook known as Marrascaud. It appears that this monster is holed up with Poirot at the very same hotel, which can only be reached by a funicular railway. After the funicular is disabled (naturally!) Poirot is isolated at the hotel for several days with the other guests. Which one of them is a bloodthirsty killer? Not surprisingly, this exciting story became the main basis for the film version of the book.
|the fateful funicular|
Christie goes highly figurative in The Augean Stables. In the original Labor, Hercules is tasked with cleaning out an ungodly amount of crap from King Augeas's stables of assorted animals. In Poirot's Labor the Belgian sleuth must put a halt to crap spewed out by England's gutter press. Good luck, Hercule!
|Hercules shoots the bird|
This Labour was slightly worked into the film, at least in my reading.
The Stymphalean Birds once again takes Poirot to a hotel--in Christie's fabled Balkan country of Herzoslovakia, no less--where something most untoward is occurring. This is a neat little twist story, involving an earnest young British politician and two ladies in need, that also was employed pretty faithfully in the film. Interestingly, it bears a certain resemblance to a P. G. Wodehouse Jeeves and Wooster story.
Well, we've taken the mighty Hercule halfway through his Labors. More to come next week!