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  • Writer's pictureDavid Morris

NEWSPAPER INSIGHTS: Agatha Christie & The Toronto Star

Agatha Christie has always had a publishing relationship with newspapers. Her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, was first published in The Times Weekly Edition (UK) in February 1920.  Over the years most of her short stories and books first appeared in either newspapers or magazines. The magazine publications of her stories are more commonly discussed primarily because they are more easily collected and seen. Newspapers were more likely to be discarded or recycled, making vintage newspaper collecting almost impossible. However, many of these newspapers contained wonderful original art to illustrate the stories.  For decades, this art has been lost to time.  However, with the proliferation of digitization of old newspapers fans of Christie now have better access to these old newspaper printings than ever before.  Consequently, I’ve decided to start a new series on these printings to bring them back to life.

The first of these articles focuses on the earlier years of The Toronto Star – one of Canada’s leading newspapers and a frequent publisher of Christie’s works. The Toronto Star newspaper was founded in 1892 as The Evening Star, and rebranded as The Toronto Daily Star in 1900. It’s current name was adopted in 1971. In addition to the newspaper, a weekly supplement was launched in 1910 – The Star Weekly.  It continued to be published until 1973. For this article, I'm reviewing the first four Christie stories published in this newspaper from 1927 through to mid-1937.


1927: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

Christie’s novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, had first appeared in the British newspaper The London Evening News in 1925 under the title ‘Who Killed Ackroyd?’.  In North America, it first appeared in the US magazine Flynn’s Detective Weekly, also with this shorter title.

In Canada, when The Toronto Star Weekly published the novel in six weekly instalments, it used the full title of the novel – The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.  For several weeks prior to the initial instalment, they promoted the upcoming book with the tag line “Who Murdered Roger Ackroyd?”

One of the key purposes on revisiting these newspaper versions is to resurface the artwork made to accompany the stories. All of the instalments for The Murder of Roger Ackroyd were accompanied by some wonderful original illustrations by Roy Fisher - all of which can be seen below.

1927-Jan-15:     The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Part 1.

Note: a few of the pages were incorrectly dated in this publication, and the floor plan of Styles was included as designed by Christie.

1927-Jan-22:     The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Part 2.

1927-Jan-29:     The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Part 3.

1927-Feb-05:     The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Part 4.

1927-Feb-12:     The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Part 5.

1927-Feb-19:     The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Part 6.

1931: The Murder at Hazelmoor.

The second Agatha Christie story to appear in The Toronto Star Weekly was The Murder at Hazelmoor (UK title: The Sittaford Mystery). The serialisation of this novel was promoted on September 26th, 1931 and included a stipple image of Christie. The book had recently been published and the story had also been serialised in Good Housekeeping (US).

The nine instalments were mostly accompanied by illustrations. However, rather unusually, for the first instalment the newspaper chose to include photographs of actors in the roles of several characters accompanied by an illustration from Victor Child. All of the remaining illustrations were signed 'Robert'.

1931-Oct-03:     The Murder at Hazelmoor, Part 1.

1931-Oct-10:     The Murder at Hazelmoor, Part 2.

1931-Oct-17:     The Murder at Hazelmoor, Part 3.

1931-Oct-24:     The Murder at Hazelmoor, Part 4.

1931-Oct-31:     The Murder at Hazelmoor, Part 5.

1931-Nov-07:     The Murder at Hazelmoor, Part 6.

1931-Nov-14:     The Murder at Hazelmoor, Pary 7.

1931-Nov-21:     The Murder at Hazelmoor, Pt. 8

1931-Nov-28:     The Murder at Hazelmoor, Pt. 9

No illustrations were provided with this final instalment.


1936: The Regatta Mystery.

In May 1936, The Toronto Star Weekly was the first known newspaper to print Christie’s The Regatta Mystery, featuring Hercule Poirot. Of note, the title used was solely ‘The Regatta Mystery’.  While other US newspapers also printed the story in the week following with the same title, when The Strand magazine published the story in June 1936 they used the title ‘Poirot and the Regatta Mystery’ – perhaps to leverage the appeal of Poirot with their readership. There was no Parker Pyne version of the story yet so arguably there was no need to add Poirot to the title for clarity.

The story was published in a single instalment, with only one image. The artist's initials are in the middle of the image but I'm unable to clearly identify him/her. This image was also used by various US newspapers, though some of them cropped it.

1936-May-02:     The Regatta Mystery.

1937: The Incredible Theft.

The Toronto Star Weekly’s publication of The Incredible Theft was the first North American printing of this short story. In the UK, it was published in 1937 both in the Collins book Murder in the Mews and Other Stories and in the Daily Express newspaper.  However, aside from this publication in The Toronto Star Weekly, it did not appear in North America again until 1953 when it was included in MacKill’s Mystery magazine.  Its first North American book inclusion was in 1987.

The initial promotion for the serialised story appeared on 22nd May 1937, but with the incorrect title. Instead it was referred to as ‘The Incredible Lie’. It was serialised over six instalments, all with illustrations. Several artists were used - some with credit and some without. Fred Wood, John Hanson and D.M. Paterson all receive credit with their illustrations.

1937-May-29:     The Incredible Theft, Part 1.

1937-June-05:     The Incredible Theft, Part 2.

1937-June-12:     The Incredible Theft, Part 3.

1937-June-19:     The Incredible Theft, Part 4.

1937-June-26:     The Incredible Theft, Part 5.

1937-July-03:     The Incredible Theft, Part 6.

1937: The Yellow Iris.

The publication of this story in The Toronto Star Weekly was the first printing of this story in North America. It was first published in the UK in The Strand in their July 1937 issue, but under the very slightly shorter title of ‘Yellow Iris’. This was likely released several weeks earlier than this printing. Originally, it had been thought that all early publications dropped the "The", but this confirms that The Strand actually shortened the title rather than later editions expanding it.

Even though the article appeared in one publication, two artists contributed illustrations: Fred Wood (who had also provided art for The Incredible Theft) and Clarence Chong.

1937-July-24:     The Yellow Iris

In a future article, I'll look at several other Christie stories published by The Toronto Star Weekly, including two more published in 1937 - The Veiled Woman (alternate title to The Veiled Lady) and The Witness for the Prosecution.

Input Wanted:

I welcome feedback on this article. Are newspaper printings of interest? Is the artwork interesting to see? Anything else that would make a newspaper focused article more interesting?

As I usually do, I've likely missed a few things or made a few errors - so do get in contact with me if there's an improvement to be made to this article. I view all my articles as collaborative efforts and want them to be an accurate resource for collectors. I have lots more articles I'm working on but if there's something you'd like me to consider do let me know by writing to me at: 

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May 17

I think the illustrations are wonderful. Where did you find the source? I subscribe to several digital services and even found the Toronto Star at a library service -- but not the Star Weekly.


May 17

So nice that these contemporary illustrations aren't lost... they're wonderful! The illustrations of the maid from "The Incredible Theft" reminded me of one of my favorite humorous exchanges/character moments in the Poirot series... "If I meet monsieur on the stairs, be well assured that I shall not scream"... "My child, ... I am of advanced years. What have I to do with such frivolities?"


May 17

Terrific illustrations. Thanks for the post.

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