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  • Writer's pictureDavid Morris

INSIGHTS: A Christie for Christmas

Updated: Jan 14

1939 Collins Crime Club first edition

The expression "A Christie for Christmas" has been around for almost 70 years - and the tradition continues to this day. In Christie's early years, she often published more than one book per year, or a book and a short story collection. However, by the late 1940s it became far more common for only one book to be published each year. Some ascribe this to managing income and taxation, others to capacity and a few to just the motivation of a by now very wealthy and successful author. Christie's publishers soon realized that since book buying spikes for Christmas, releasing her annual book in time for Christmas would lead to a tradition for many people - buying yourself or your loved one a Christie for Christmas.

To this day, the tradition is continued in the UK primarily through the release of a television special. For example, in 2015 the new version of And Then There Were None received strong praise as Christmas release. Then in 2016 the new adaption of Witness for the Prosecution was the Christmas Christie. 2017 had a hiccup due to misconduct claims against one of the actors in Ordeal by Innocence causing its delay until Easter. 2018 saw the Christmas release of The ABC Murders. While the adaptations of The Pale Horse and Death Comes As The End were not finished in time for this Christmas, viewers in the UK did get Agatha Christie and the Curse of Ishtar. While not penned by Christie it will satisfy those in need until later in 2020 when the two major book adaptions are screened.

The USA printing of Star Over Bethlehem

On the book front, Christie used the season of Christmas in a number of her books. Most notable is Hercule Poirot's Christmas. Others include The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding (though a short-story) and even 4:50 From Paddington where Mrs. McGillicuddy is going to visit Jane Marple for Christmas. On the non-fiction side, Agatha Christie Mallowan published a lovely collection of poems and short stories under the title Star Over Bethlehem.

Hercule Poirot's Christmas & Abney Hall: This is a surprisingly bloody murder for a Christmas book - but perhaps that's one of the beautiful aspects of Christie's writing that she could allow us to get cozy with a murder book. Christie's brother-in-law, James Watts, had asked her to write a good violent murder with lots of blood. Not only did she oblige, but she set it at his house - Abney Hall near Manchester (called Gorston Hall in the book). Christie visited Abney Hall often. She wrote several books there - After The Funeral and The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding. She also used the house as the inspiration for buildings in many of her other books, including Styles, Chimneys, Rutherford Hall and Stonygates.

Tom Adams cover art on the 1972 Fontana edition

Values & Collecting: From a collectors standpoint, putting together a collection of Christmas related stories can be good fun - and a perfect gift for the Christie fan in your life. Of these books, the rarest would be the original first edition of Hercule Poirot's Christmas published by Collins Crime Club in 1939 with the original dust wrapper priced 7s 6d. A very good copy of this book can still be found but will likely command prices of £2,500 - £3,500, or $3,300 - $4,600 US. On the other end of the price range, but still great fun to collect, would be the Fontana book with cover art by Tom Adams. As most people have sadly learned recently, Tom Adams passed away earlier this month. His legacy will remain strong and his contribution to the world of Agatha Christie will forever be remembered and cherished. Christie's books with his cover art are extremely collectible yet affordable. Prices are generally in the £5 range ($7) or higher for good quality copies of the more common titles, though some copies can cost over £100, such as Miss Marple's Final Cases.

Later Christie Collins published books, such as 4:50 From Paddington and The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding are much easier to find than those from the 1940s and earlier. As such prices are also affordable. Both books can usually be found for no more than the cost of a new hardback. The same is true for Star Over Bethlehem.

Merry Christmas to all. I hope you are able to find time to enjoy one of these books to read over the holiday.

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