Hastings Storyline

 
© ITV
The producers have really given me a lot of difficulties with poor Hastings – a storyline that should have been so simple to work out! Here are the main problems, all from 1936:
                                                                                                                                                                                
Murder on the Links – May 1936
Murder on the Links is one of the most essential episodes of the whole series in terms of chronology.  A poster advertising the 1936 Deauville cycling contest is shown on screen. In addition, a calendar in Giraud’s office shows the date as “Mercredi 18 Mai” (Wednesday, May 18th). Wednesday, however, was not May 18th  in 1936. The closest fit with the calendar is 1932. But we’ll assume that the producers wanted the episode to be set in 1936. It is in this episode that Hastings first meets Bella Duveen (or Dulcie Duveen in the books).

The Million Dollar Bond Robbery – May 1936
The Queen Mary ( ocean liner) is mentioned. Hastings reads aloud from an article in the Times about the 'maiden voyage', and Poirot and Hastings both join this voyage. Wikipedia says this was May 27th 1936, which gives us a date. But that gives us a problem with Murder on the Links (May 18th 1936) – and Mystery of the Blue Train (May 17th 1936) for that matter. Hastings also fancies one of the culprits, so he can’t possibly have met Bella Duveen yet… 

Lord Edgware Dies – June/July 1936
Carlotta Adams’ letter is dated June 29th 1936. Hastings is supposedly back from the Argentine, having lost the farm in financial difficulties (stock speculation). Then he can’t have been at Lord Astwell’s house in The Underdog the same month (June 23rd). Or visited Cambridge in The Case of the Missing Will (June 15th). And how could he have had time to move to the Argentine in the first place, when he only met Bella a month earlier? It's all very peculiar.

The ABC Murders – August/September 1936
First of all, Hastings has been with Poirot at the health resort in Evil Under the Sun almost up until the first letter. Someone on the Agatha Christie 'Have Your Say' forum has worked out that since the murders takes place between August 22nd and September 9th, he would only have had four days to “bag a cayman” in the Amazon and get back again in time for the first murder. Secondly, Hastings asks Poirot "how have you been these last six months?", implying that they haven't seen each other for ages, which is quite frankly impossible, considering that he has been involved in almost all Poirot's cases in 1936 (even more peculiar, of course, is the fact that Poirot replies that his grey cells "grow the rust"! I mean, it's his busiest year ever!).

Yellow Iris – September 1936/1934
The main story takes place in 1934, during a General Strike in the Argentine (where did that come from?). There is a coup d’état, and Poirot is deported back to Britain. Then the story repeats itself “two years, almost to the day”. This day is probably in spring or early autumn, but for the sake of chronology, I place it in September. The reason for Poirot being in the Argentine in the first place is said to be Hastings: “You will recall, Hastings, that you once asked me to visit you when you were living in the Argentine? – Yes, two years ago, but you cancelled in the last minute”. Poirot also explains that he was “due to travel to las pampas and your ranch”. How can Hastings have a ranch in the Argentine in 1934 – before having met Bella in Murder on the Links? (I must admit this particular reference error annoys me more than the others, considering that these two episodes had the same script writer, Anthony Horowitz, who for those who know his later work, the excellent Foyle's War, is known for historical accuracy). 

The Incredible Theft - 1936 (autumn)
The Foreign Secretary, Sir Anthony Eden, is mentioned. He assumed office on 22 December 1935, so the episode will have to be set after that. The episode has a very autumnal feel, which would suggest autumn 1936. However, Hastings is seeing a female student of architecture, so he can't have met Bella yet.

My solution

1933: The ABC Muders (August)
After much thought, I've decided that it is absolutely neccesary to ignore the year of this particular episode (1936). See 1933 and 1936 posts for more details. The main argument in favour of this solution is a) the fact that Poirot and Hastings cannot possibly have been apart for almost the entire year in 1936, and b) there is no way Hastings would have had the time to go on a four-day holiday to the Amazon between Evil under the Sun and this case. Also, both the bizarre comment on the six month absence and the trip to the Amazon would work better in a 1933 setting. Since Poirot has been retired between July 1932 and May 1933 (see 'Poirot Timeline'), the fact that they haven't seen each other for six months is far more likely. Moreover, since I've decided Hastings's interest in South America is a storyline of its own in the TV series (see The Double Clue, Evil under the Sun), it would make sense that it is this long holiday that sparks the first idea of farming in Argentina to become a fixed idea from The Double Clue onwards.


1934: The Double Clue
In this episode, Poirot meets Countess Rossakoff and is distracted both from his friends and the investigation. Troubled, Miss Lemon and Hastings discuss what they’d do if Poirot decided to marry her. Hastings explains that he has always dreamt of farming in the Argentine (an idea sparked by his holiday the year before, maybe?). In my chronology, this (sort of) solves the problem of The Yellow Iris; Hastings puts his dream into action in 1934, going on a long vacation (Sep-Jan perhaps), renting a farm in the Argentine and inviting Poirot. Like his trip in The ABC Murders, this would also help explain his decision to move to Argentina with Bella later in life - he falls in love with the place.

1936: The Incredible Theft (February/March), The Million Dollar Bond Robbery (May), Murder on the Links (July), Evil Under the Sun (August)
In 1936, Hastings helps Poirot solve 'The Incredible Theft' in February/March. He later goes on the Queen Mary with Poirot and solves the robbery case. I've kept its setting. Murder on the Links has been moved to July (which also suits the scenery in the episode better), thus ignoring the calendar in Giraud's office (which is barely visible on screen). By moving the episode, Hastings can fancy the culprit in Million Dollar Bond Robbery and join Poirot for his investigations in June.

© ITV

In France, Hastings meets Bella Duveen. The two of them plan to move to Argentina. This takes a lot of time and planning, so they don't leave England until January 1937. Within this period, Hastings even opens an Argentinean restaurant in order to have enough money to buy the farm (Evil Under the Sun). He also finds the time to help Poirot out on his cases. I'll ignore the fact that his restaurant is closed down by the health authorities by the end of Evil Under the Sun - or at least imagine that Hastings was able to solve the problem and reopen. We might imagine that he has received financial support from Poirot as well, and his narratives of Poirot's cases (see 'Poirot Timeline') may have earned him a decent income.

1937 cont.: Lord Edgware Dies (June)
Hastings and Bella Duveen have been in Argentina since early in 1937, but Hastings returns in June, having lost the farm in financial difficulties (stock speculations). Poirot, who has been in a semi-retirement mode since he left, is re-establishing himself in Whitehaven (see 'Hercule Poirot Timeline'). After having solved the Edgware case together with Poirot, he receives financial support in the form of the Duke of Merton’s payment for Poirot’s services (see 1937 post).  He uses the money to buy back the restaurant he opened in Evil under the Sun (I imagine he sold it before they left/lost it in the financial difficulties) - or buy back his Argentinean farm - and moves back to Argentina some time later, having saved up enough money to buy the farm. This marks the end of his appearances in the series so far – apart from a holiday with Poirot the year after in Murder in Mesopotamia (we must assume they’ve kept in touch). He reappears in The Big Four, set in 1939, having lived in Argentina in the intervening year(s). Ten years later, he is back in England to help Poirot catch a murderer in Curtain.

Sigh. That’s the best solution I’ve found. I’ve ignored only three specific references (the month of the calendar in Murder on the Links, the year of Carlotta’s letter in Lord Edgware Dies and the year of the ABC Murders), but I hope you agree that it makes some kind of sense.

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