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  • Writer's pictureDavid Morris

FORGOTTEN ANTHOLOGIES: 20th Century Detective Stories.

Updated: Jan 14

This article continues my series on anthologies that contain first printings of Agatha Christie stories. Numerous true firsts of short stories appeared in anthologies which contain short stories from many different authors in a single volume as opposed to an omnibus collection which would be stories solely by Christie. The goal of this series of articles is to raise awareness of these anthologies and provide tips and insights into collecting them. For collectors of true first printings, these are important to be aware of. At the foot of the article is a list of the prior anthologies we've discussed with links to each.

20th Century Detective Stories (1948):

This anthology, edited by Ellery Queen, contains fourteen modern detective stories - all of which had never previously been published in book form in the US (and many also not yet in the UK). These include G. K. Chesterton's Father Brown story 'Vampire of the Village' and Dashiell Hammett's 'Tom, Dick or Harry', along with short stories from John Dickson Carr, Ellery Queen and C.S. Forester. It was published under The Living Library imprint by The World Publishing Company in Cleveland, Ohio, USA in 1948.

For Christie collectors, two of her short stories had their first book appearance in 20th Century Detective Stories. They are the Hercule Poirot story The Double Clue and the Miss Marple story The Perfect Maid. Both of these had not been printed in a book before - either in the UK or the US. That makes this anthology highly desirable.

Hercule Poirot and "The Double Clue":

As is typical, most short stories first appeared in magazines or newspapers. This story was first published on the 5th December 1923 in The Sketch magazine (UK) as issue 1610. The first US publication was in The Blue Book magazine, on the 4th August 1925 as issue No. 4 in Volume 41. When published in this anthology, it included artwork by Seymour Nydorf portraying Countess Vera Rossakoff and the cigarette case.

Most Christie bibliographies state that the first book printing of this short story was Double Sin and Other Stories, published by Dodd Mead and Company (New York) in 1961. As this shows, this was not the case. The first UK printing was in Poirot's Early Cases, published by Collins's The Crime Club in September 1974.

Miss Marple and "The Perfect Maid":

This story was first published in April 1942 in The Strand Magazine (UK) as Issue 616. The first US publication was in the Chicago Sunday Tribune, on the 13th September 1942. It was now titled "The Case of the Perfect Maid" and included artwork portraying the crucial scene in the story.

After this newspaper article was published, This first book printing of this Miss Marple short story reverted to the shorter title of "A Perfect Maid" as first used in The Strand. The artwork in the book, here portraying the ill Miss Emily Skinner, was by Seymour Nydorf.

Most Christie bibliographies state that the first book printing of this short story was in Three Blind Mice and Other Stories, published by Dodd, Mead & Co (US) in 1950. However, as this shows this was not the case. The first appearance in book form in the UK was in Miss Marple's Final Cases and Two Other Stories, published in October 1979 by Collins' The Crime Club. There is some speculation that the Ulverscroft large print edition may have preceded it, but this is unlikely.

Ellery Queen and Queen's Quorum.

The editor of this anthology is Ellery Queen (the joint pseudonym of American crime writers Dannay & Lee). Included in the rear of the book is the first publication of the Queen's Quorum - "A readers and collectors guide to the 101 most important books of detective crime short stories". In later years the list was lengthened to include more books. This list has always been highly respected as a guide and serves as a check list for many collectors. Reading this list and the editors insights to the evolution of detective fiction warrants buying this book even for non-Christie fans. However, for Agatha Christie collectors, her short story collection Poirot Investigates is included as number 70 in the list.

As you can see above, the editor does state that he believes Christie's Philomel Cottage and Accident to be her best short-stories to date, as of 1948 they had not yet been published in a short-story collection in the US.


Anthologies are still generally very affordable as collectors are less familiar with them. The Ellery Queen edited book 20th Century Detective Stories is fairly valued at $60-80 for a very good book with a very good jacket.


As always, if you have insights about this story that I've missed do let me know at . Likewise, if you have an anthology you'd like me to profile do let me know. I will slowly work my way through all of them!

Prior Anthologies Reviews:

The Best Detective Stories of the Year, Faber & Gwyer, UK, 1929: Contains the first Miss Marple story in book form (link).

Best Detective Stories of the Year - 1929, Faber & Faber, UK, 1930: Contains two short stories first printings - S.O.S. and The Third Floor Flat (link).

Many Mysteries, Rich & Cowan, UK, 1933: contains the first book printing of the Hercule Poirot story The Second Gong (link).

The Hospital Centenary Gift Book, Harrap & Co, UK, 1935: Contains the first UK hardback printing of The Veiled Lady (link).

Sporting Blood, Little, Brown & Co, Boston, USA, 1942: Contains the first stand-alone hardback printing of Poirot's The Chess Problem (link).

Fifth Mystery Book, Farrar & Rinehart, NY, USA, 1944: Contains the first hardback printing of Tape Measure Murder (link).

Closing Comments:

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Happy Hunting!

267 views3 comments


Oct 26, 2023

Hi I have 55 agatha christie paper back books excellent condtion I bought in Melbourne & 8 in America also in the 1980s read once so virtually brand new. I also have 6 left of older books also paper back agatha chistiebooks inherited from my mum. In 1993. These are published in 1955 & 1957 /8 .(2nd editions .Reasonable condition ONLY 1 has front page torn & ashabby cond. FIVE LITTLE PIGS. I AM HAVING A BOOKSALE OVER THE WEEKEND ALONG WITH HAND MATE CRAFT I IEMS I MAKE. COULD YOU PLEASE ADVISE ME OF WHAT TO CHARGE PER BOOK THE COST IN THE80 from 2982 to 1989. WAS APP. $6 TO $10. New. So I just need some help.…


Oct 22, 2023

It’s just a pity this anthology used edited texts of these stories rather than the original versions.

David Morris
David Morris
Oct 22, 2023
Replying to

When I compared the texts, I found no difference between "The Double Clue" in the anthology or the later Collins printings. For "The Perfect Maid", the anthology printing had the second paragraph and a couple of minor sentences removed. Rather oddly, there were two additional sentences added when compared to the Collins printing. Also of note, the printing in the Chicago Sunday Tribune matches the Collins text.

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