COLLECT: Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie
For the last few years Agatha Christie Limited has promoted reading Christie books through their Read Christie campaigns. Each month a different novel is selected that will be a focus on their online book club, trivia and quizzes. To further build on this focus Collecting Christie is providing insights into collecting the chosen book – from first editions to recent paperbacks. September 2021’s choice is Cat Among the Pigeons.
Cat Among the Pigeons features a late appearance from Hercule Poirot. Mostly set in a girl’s school, Agatha Christie also blended into the detective story the world of international intrigue.
In the UK the novel was first serialised in the weekly magazine John Bull in six abridged instalments from September 26 (Vol. 106, No. 2771) to October 31, 1959 (Vol. 106, No. 2776).
In the US a condensed version of the novel appeared in the November 1959 (Vol. LXXVI, No.11) issue of the Ladies' Home Journal.
First Book Printings:
1959, November 2: Collins, The Crime Club, London, UK. This first edition retailed 12s 6d net. The dust jacket is relatively unique in that the rear panel has a studio photograph of Agatha Christie in lieu of promotional blurbs.
1957, n.d.: Collins, The Crime Club, Sydney, Australia. This first Australian edition is assumed to have been printed at the same time as the UK edition. The dust jacket is identical except for the format of the 12/6 price on the flap (states 12/6 not 12s 6d net) and the font size on the rear flap. The book binding is slightly different (no Crime Club insignia at the foot of the spine) and it states “London-Sydney” at the foot of the title page.
1960, March: Dodd, Mead and Company, New York, USA. Though printed in 1960 it has a copyright date of 1959. Priced at $2.95. Note: There is a later book club edition with the same cover art on the jacket but a different rear panel.
First Paperback Books:
The Australian paperback printing is often excluded from bibliographies. It is unclear whether this version or the US Pocket Books version was printed first. No order of precedence is inferred by the sequence below.
1961: Readers Book Club, Melbourne (AUST). Image below left.
1961, Pocket Books, New York (USA). No. 6052. Image below right.
1962, Collins Fontana, London (UK). Priced 2/6. Image at top of page.
Other Editions of Note:
1965: The first Tom Adams Fontana cover, priced 3/6 on the front.
1976, Heron Books published a library edition containing both Cat Among the Pigeons and Ordeal by Innocence.
2003: Planet Three edition with companion magazine.
There have been numerous covers created for this title. Many tried to evoke the atmosphere of a girls school and its sports, others played off the cat in the title, and arguably the most unfortunate take was the 1973 US Pocket Book edition (top left below) that went for a rather titillating cover evoking girls about to play beach volleyball.
Copies of John Bull magazine can generally be obtained for £5 each in very good or better condition. Obtaining all six copies may take a small amount of patience but they are generally readily attainable. The US Ladies Home Journal is a single issue, and can be easily found for $20 US.
The Collins UK first edition in near fine condition is fairly valued at £150 ($200). There are numerous copies available in near fine and fine condition in the market. It is highly likely that a patient collector will find a fine copy for significantly less. Given the relative newness of this book, flawed copies should be avoided.
For the US first edition, be certain it is not the book club printing by confirming the full jacket art. A near fine or better copy is fairly valued at $50 (£35).
For the paperbacks and other hardback editions, all are priced as typical used books and can be found in very good or better condition for £10 ($15).
Note: All the data regarding printings, editions and dates is to the best of our knowledge. Since we have not seen every edition in person, some specifics are missing. Those that are provided are accurate. Any information that fills in the gaps or other updates from our readers is most welcome. They can be sent to CollectChristie@gmail.com.