By Xinhua Writers Bai Xu, Yin Gang
TORQUAY, Britain, Sept. 15 (Xinhua) -- In Torquay museum, a man with a black hat and an iconic mustache posed for photographers, who excitedly called him "Poirot."
Gary Cooper, 58-year-old, who was one of the biggest fans of Agatha Christie, the English crime writer who would turn 123 on Sunday.
The man from Norfolk traveled for six hours to the seaside town of Torquay in southwest England, especially for the eight-day Agatha Christie Festival, which started on the writer's birthday.
This time of the year, thousands of pilgrims like Cooper flocked in here to pay tribute to this world-famous prolific crime story writer.
TORQUAY UNDER HER PEN
Greenway, the best preserved buildings where Christie had lived for 35 to 40 years, is the holiday residence, as she emotionally mentioned as the "loveliest place in the world." It receives an average of 500 visitors each day.
According to Lucinda Heron, the house steward, Christie loved the house so much that it appeared in several of her novels.
"In Dead Man's Folly, Marlene Tucker was strangled in the boathouse," Heron told Xinhua. The boathouse by the water was about ten minutes' walk from the building downhill. It was a place perfectly desolate so as to hide a body.
Traces of some other places in Torquay could be discovered by careful readers of Christie's novels.
An example was the Burgh island, which was pictured as a place so cut-off from the outside that all the ten characters stranded there died one after another in And Then There Were None.
Millions of people who have read Evil Under the Sun might find the reminiscence of the Smugglers' island as well, where the strangled body of actress Arlena Stuart was found.
CHRISTIE IN MEMORY, IMAGINATION
With 66 detective novels and more than 15 short story collections under her own name, Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time and most-translated individual author. The Mousetrap is the world's longest-running play.
Piecing up the accounts of those whose work or interest bore links to her life, one might get a clearer picture of the legendary writer.
To Lydia Stone, senior marketing executive of the English Riviera Tourism Company Ltd which runs the Agatha Christie Festival, she was a "remarkable lady, witty and with a good sense of humor."
While in the eyes of Lucinda Heron, she was ahead of her time. "She loved surfing and traveled a lot," Heron said.
"But at the same time, she is shy and retiring," Heron continued. "She had a piano in the drawing room, but she never played in the public."
To grandson Mathew Prichard, Christie has always been a loving grandmother.
"She haven't talked about her works with me, and we just enjoyed normal family life," Prichard said. His happiest memory was when they had picnics in Dartmoor and walked on mountains in Devonshire.
He also learned a lot from his grand-mother. "Not talking too much, and listening to what people say," he said.
The character Christie depicted also aroused imagination from readers.
Gary Cooper, the "Poirot" in Torquay Museum, believed the retired Belgian police officer a "perfectionist."
Martin Gaisford, 54, has acted as the "official Poirot" for the Agatha Christie Festival for five or six years, posing for photos with visitors.
LEGACY AND CHARM
Despite with different opinions, both men was apparently proud of being Poirot.
The Torquay Museum is the only home to Britain's only permanent Agatha Christie gallery, which started in 1986, ten years after her death.
Now one could find the suit worn by David Suchet, famous actor who played TV Poirot since 1989. The scenes of the detective's sitting room and study were also re-created for visitors. "In fact, only the chair is authentic because Art Deco furniture is quite expensive," said Steve Witten, facility officer with the museum.
The latest exhibit added to the Christie collection was a Poirot's walking stick, which Suchet gave to the museum not long ago, after he finished his final Poirot film, Witten added.
But Christie's legacy to her hometown was more than that.
"She wrote all the books inspired by Torquay, so as to make this place unique," said Lydia Stone, a fan of the author.
The first Agatha Christie Festival was held in 2004, Christie's daughter Rosalind died.
"It started as a library event, and grew bigger and bigger," Stone said.
The lady remembered seeing David Suchet and Julia McKenzie, Miss Marple on TV, in 2010, when the writer's 120th birthday was celebrated.
"Now we have many visitors from outside the UK, like Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, the Netherlands and the United States," she said. "About 4,000 to 5,000 each year."
To celebrate her birthdays, interesting events, including dancing, singing and thrilling role-play mystery solving games, were held. In the town center, a fete was held in traditional tea rooms.
"It was just like the scene in Dead Man's Folly," Stone said.
Now in Wales, Prichard is returning Torquay on Thursday to have a dinner celebrating her granny's birthday. He will also take part in a panel discussion.
"It is about a book planned to be written in Christie style," he said. The book, not yet named, was by novelist Sophie Hannah, in which Poirot returned 38 years after he was killed by Christie in Curtain.
It is apparently a surprising birthday gift for Christie.
"How exciting," said Lydia Stone. "Poirot is back."