The Capture of Cerberus
It has always been a minor mystery to Christie scholars why ‘The Capture of Cerberus’ did not appear in
In ‘The Capture of Cerberus’ Poirot once more looks for a missing person, and in this respect his twelfth Labour resembles similar missions in ‘The Lernean Hydra’ and ‘The Girdle of Hyppolita’. But there all similarity’ ends, as this final task has an unprecedented aspect—his quarry is dead.
Although Collins Crime Club eventually published
When was it written?
Labours one to eleven were first published in the UK in
Notebook 44 contains most of the notes for all 12 of the stories. At first glance it seems that they were all plotted and finished together, as most of the notes tally with the finished Labours as we know them. But a closer examination, in light of the discovery of the alternative version and this correspondence, shows a potentially different story. The initial notes for the last half-dozen stories all begin, and in some cases finish, on a right-hand page of Notebook 44 with the left-hand page left blank, and follow the sequence of the book. Notes for the first and hitherto unpublished version of ‘Cerberus’ follow this pattern. But the notes for the collected one are inserted, in different ink and slightly different writing, on a left-hand page, sandwiched, out of sequence, between those for ‘The Horses of Diomedes’ and ‘The Flock Of Geryon’. It is not unreasonable to suppose that, when inspiration for the revamped story struck, Christie went back to her original notes and inserted her new idea as near as she could to the original. Also, the later notes are written in biro, whereas the original notes are, like those for all the other Labours, in pencil.
Why was it never published?
There can be little doubt that the political situation of the time and the poorly disguised picture of Adolf Hitler in section iii was the main (and probably only) reason for the rejection of the story. Unusually for Christie, it is blatantly political from the first page, mentioning not just the impending war but also the previous one: ‘The world was in a very disturbed state—every nation alert and tense. At any minute the blow might fall—and Europe once more be plunged in war.’ Later in the story we are told about ‘August Hertzlein…[who] was the dictator of dictators. His warlike utterances had rallied the youth of his country and of allied countries. It was he who had set Central Europe ablaze…’ And in case there is any lingering doubt he is later described as having ‘a bullet head and a little dark moustache’.
This would have been considered much too close to the actual state of the world and one of its inhabitants in 1939 to be considered escapist reading. Why Christie chose to write this story will never be known, as there is little evidence elsewhere in her work that she was particularly political. And the rejection by
In an interview for her Italian publishers, Mondadori, conducted soon after the publication of
‘The Capture of Cerberus’ (unpublished version) in the Notebooks
There are notes to the unpublished version of the story in Notebooks 44 and 62: Cerberus
Does Poirot go to look for 2 friends supposedly dead
Lenin Trotsky Stalin
George II Queen Anno
Must go unarmed (like Max Carrados in room story)