• David Morris

Agatha Christie First Editions: 1952-1954 (part 8)

This is the eighth instalment on our series on ‘true firsts’ where we review the first time Agatha Christie’s stories were published – both in newspaper or magazine, and book form.

Part 1: 1920 to 1932 (link)

Part 2: 1933 to 1935 (link)

Part 3: 1935 to 1937 (link)

Part 4: 1938 to 1940 (link)

Part 5: 1940 to 1944 (link)

Part 6: 1944 to 1948 (link)

Part 7: 1948 to 1951 (link)


Part 8: 1952 to 1954:

In this part we will focus on five books published during these years. While first edition hardback books are the pinnacle of many Christie collections, for others, the less travelled world of magazine collecting is appealing. All of these novels, or the stories collected, first appeared in magazines or newspapers. While magazines are still generally easy to locate, original newspaper printings will be almost impossible to obtain.


For the hardbacks, several of these books were first published in the USA which collectors of true firsts will need to obtain. Also, we do not discuss A Daughter’s A Daughter, which was published in 1952 under her pen name, Mary Westmacott. For that book, and other Westmacott titles, please click here.


Mrs. McGinty’s Dead:

First Appearance: This novel first appeared in the Chicago Sunday Tribune newspaper. Serialised from the 7th October to the 30th December 1951, it was published under the title of Blood Will Tell.

That Agatha Christie's story was essentially a footnote in the newspaper's promotion of other stores - including 'I was a dope addict' - is surprising! There was no UK magazine or newspaper publication.


First Edition: Published in February 1952 as a Red Badge Detective Mystery by Dodd, Mead & Co, New York, USA.

Note: the book references copyrights for both 1951 and 1952. This has become a surprisingly difficult book to find in very good or better condition. Value for a near fine copy: $300.


First UK Hardback: Published by The Crime Club, Collins, London on the 3rd March 1952.

This book was sold both in the UK and overseas, and only reflects a 1952 copyright as it was not published in the UK in any form prior to this. The domestic jacket is priced 9s 6d net, while the export version has an unpriced jacket. Value for a near fine copy with a priced jacket is £200.

Other Insights: Later in 1952, The Detective Book Club (publisher: Walter Black), in New York, US, issued the book under the alternative title Blood Will Tell.

While the book reflects a 1951 copyright date due to its earlier newspaper publication in the States, it was published in late 1952. It is commonly mislisted by dealers as a first edition.


Collins did lower the price of this book to 6/- net and referred to it as the ‘First Cheap Edition’, but aside from a small sticker to the bottom of flyleaf it appears to be left over first edition stock.


The image on the cover of the Collins jacket is of a sugar hammer. One such hammer appeared on eBay claiming to have belonged to Christie and then disappeared after questions about its provenance were raised!


Lastly, this book is the second Christie novel to feature the character of Ariadne Oliver, a person whom Christie acknowledged has “a strong dash of myself”. However, she has a much larger role in this book than in Cards on the Table.


Murder with Mirrors (US) - They Do It with Mirrors (UK):

First Appearance: The novel was first published in Cosmopolitan magazine (USA) in April 1952 (Vol. 132, No. 4), but under the title Murder with Mirrors.

In the UK the novel was serialised in John Bull magazine in six abridged instalments from the 26th April to the 31st May 1952 (Vol. 91, Nos. 2391- 2396).


Hardbacks: There is no specific date known for the release of the book by Dodd, Mead and Company in the USA. However, given the fact that Christie’s prior and subsequent novel were published in the US first, and given its US magazine release in April, it is generally assumed that the US printing is the correct first edition.


First Edition: Published in 1952 under the title Murder with Mirrors as a Red Badge Detective Mystery by Dodd, Mead & Co, New York, USA.

This is a surprisingly difficult book to find. Value for a near fine copy: $300.


First UK Hardback: Published under the Christie’s penned title They Do it with Mirrors by The Crime Club, Collins, London, UK on the 17th November 1952.

The original UK jacket is priced 10s 6d net on the front flap. Export copies are again known with no price present. Value for a near fine edition in a priced jacket: £200.


Funerals are Fatal (US) - After the Funeral (UK):

First Appearance: The novel was first serialised in the Chicago Tribune (USA) in from 20th January until the 14th March 1953 – a whopping 47 instalments - that’s one way to keep a subscription going!

In the UK the novel was serialised, but abridged, in John Bull magazine from 21st March to 2nd May 1953 (Vol. 93, Nos. 2438-2444).


First Edition: Published March 1953 under the title Funerals are Fatal as a Red Badge Detective Mystery by Dodd, Mead & Co, New York, USA.

This is also surprisingly difficult book to find. Value for a near fine copy: $300.


First UK Hardback: Published 18th May 1953 under Christie’s penned title After the Funeral by The Crime Club, Collins, London, UK.

The original UK jacket is priced 10s 6d net on the front flap. Export copies are known with no price present. They would be slightly less valuable. Value for a near fine edition in a priced jacket: £200.


Note: In 1963, Fontana (UK) issued a paperback under the title Murder at the Gallop to tie in with the film version featuring Margaret Rutherford and promoted as a ‘hilarious new thriller’.


A Pocket Full or Rye:

First Appearance: The novel was first serialised, though heavily abridged, in the Daily Express newspaper (UK) from 28th September until 13th October 1953.

In the US, it first appeared (as did the prior few books) in the Chicago Tribune from the the 11th January to the 27th February 1954 – another 42 instalments!


First Edition: Published on the 9th November 1953 by The Crime Club, Collins, London, UK.

The original UK jacket is priced 10s 6d net on the front flap. Export copies are known with no price present. Value for a near fine edition in a priced jacket: £200.


First US Hardback: Surprisingly the US didn't change the title despite it not containing the words death, murder or fatal!

Published in early 1954 as a Red Badge Detective Mystery by Dodd, Mead & Co, New York, USA. Value for a near fine copy: $300.


Note: This is one of three books also published under The Thriller Book Club imprint (UK).

Published in 1954 by Collins, London & Glasgow, Great Britain, this book has a unique dust jacket and is collectible in its own right.


Destination Unknown (UK) – So Many Steps to Death (US):

First Appearance: The novel was first serialised in John Bull magazine (UK) from 25th September to the 23rd October 1954 (Vol. 96, Nos. 2517-2521).

In the US, the novel was again serialised in the Chicago Tribune from 12th April 12 to the 9th June 1955 (51 parts!) under the title of Destination X – a title that is quite fun as an alternate. However, as the US publisher Dodd Mead often did, they changed the title again to include a more fatalistic word when the hardback was printed!


First Edition: Published 1st November 1954 by The Crime Club, Collins, London, UK.

The original UK jacket is priced 10s 6d net on the front flap. Export copies are known with no price present. Value for a near fine edition in a priced jacket: £175.


First US Hardback: Published in 1955 as a Red Badge Detective Mystery by Dodd, Mead & Co, New York, USA.

Again, difficult to find. Correct first jacket has a price of $2.75 on the top of the front flap. Value for a near fine copy: $275.


Note: This is one of our favourite non-Poirot, non-Marple novels Agatha Christie wrote. With a strong female lead whose life experiences appear to echo Christie’s failed first marriage and plot points that tie into real life events that happened in the 1950s when two physicist defected to the USSR, this book is often under-appreciated given it is more of an adventure novel than a mystery.


Summary:

It used to be that Christie’s books from the early 1950s were fairly ubiquitous. This has changed in the last few years and collector quality copies of all these titles with complete jackets will require patience – perhaps more so for collectors of the US editions surprisingly. For US editions, ensure the copy you are buying is the correct first and not the book club version. There are online sites that sell facsimile jackets and these can be used as reference. For UK versions, all domestic books below had their price on the front flap. In all cases, identical but unpriced jackets were produced for the export market. These are generally worth 5-10% less. Many of the UK books also had later printing jackets with cheaper prices. Often these prices are clipped off and the jacket is then married to a first printing. As such, price clipped jackets are often worth at least 10-15% less. For the magazines discussed, collector quality copies are quite affordable, and most can be found for affordable prices. Newspaper printings will be incredibly rare as they were rarely, if ever, retained.

The information provided is believed to be accurate. Any corrections, enhancements or additional points are clarity are most welcome. Email them to collectchristie@gmail.com


Collecting is still cheaper than therapy!

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