Mystery revealed

Had Agatha Christie been reincarnated, Adele Vincent would be a likely descendant.

The two women have a number of things in common, chief among them their roots in Great Britain where each was born.

One point of divergence is that Agatha lived her entire life in England, whereas Adele immigrated to the United States as a young woman, eventually winding up in Columbus, where she lives today with husband Geoff.

Both women made their livings through writing. The name Agatha Christie is synonymous with mystery novels. She wrote 68 of them in her lifetime and in the process created such household names as Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple. She achieved worldwide fame through some of her titles, such as “Murder on the Orient Express.”

Adele has spent a good part of her adult life as a journalist, beginning with stints at English newspapers in Manchester and London. She continued reporting and writing after coming to the United States in the 1960s, first at the New York Times and later at the Louisville Courier-Journal.

In 1981 she came to Columbus, taking a position with the then-named Cummins Engine Co. Eventually she was named director of the Cummins Foundation, retiring in 1999.

What really ties Adele Vincent to Agatha Christie is a project the Columbus woman embarked on more than two decades ago. That was when she started work on her first mystery novel.

She completed it this past year.

“I set out to simply write an old-fashioned mystery novel,” she explained in an interview last week. “There’s no technology since it’s set in the 1970s — pre-cellphones and the like.”

Although there are obviously murders involved in her plot, Adele presents them in a non-violent manner.

Her main character, a woman named Julia, is akin to Christie’s Miss Marple.

She utilized the works of T.S. Eliot, another famed English writer in titling her book “Dust on a Bowl of Roses,” explaining that “it’s a partial quotation from one of his poems.”

The book, distributed by Trafford Publishing in Bloomington, is available locally at the Viewpoint Bookstore and online at Amazon.com.

That “Dust on a Bowl of Roses” is on the actual and digital bookshelves would be an achievement for any writer.

It’s more so for Adele because of the process she went through in reaching this point. It’s a process to which many journalists can relate.

“I really began developing the concept for the book in the 1990s and worked on it at home,” she said. “However, I had always wanted to do this kind of writing, especially after I started working in newspapers.”

That particular career began at some pretty prestigious journals. “I started at the Manchester Guardian,” she recalled. “It was the equivalent of a copy boy position and I graduated into reporting at the Observer in London.

She came to the United States in 1964 and landed a job at the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times, later moving to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

In her work with the newspapers and the Cummins Foundation, Adele was bound to a style of writing far different from what she would employ in her first novel.

In her newspaper stories she was bound by sources and deadlines. When she moved into the corporate world she found that while her audience might have been more limited it could also be influential.

“One of my main duties was to convince others,” she said.

Working on her novel provided a sense of freedom but it also proved time-consuming and was marked with a number of stops and starts along the way.

“I finally completed a first draft and sent it out to a publisher,” she said. “They were encouraging but I was told that my draft was far too long for a first novel.”

The rewriting and revisions were time-consuming, but on a subsequent effort she was told that her work was so good that she should contact an agent.

The agent she contacted agreed as to the value of her work and set off in finding a publisher. That process proved a lengthy one which ended several months later when she received word that the agent had died.

“I let things sit until someone suggested that I should look into self-publishing,” she said. “I contacted the Trafford firm and they were very interested in moving forward.”

Adele Vincent is not about to compare herself with Agatha Christie or any of the other famed English mystery writers, such as P.D. James.

It’s quite enough for her to say that she fulfilled a desire she has had for much of her adult life.

In the process, I would bet that she had a lot of fun.

Harry McCawley is the former associate editor of The Republic. He can be reached at harry@therepublic.com.