INSIGHTS: Forgotten Anthologies: The first Miss Marple story in a book.
Updated: Jul 30
While most collectors of Christie's books focus on full length novels and collections of short stories, it is important to note that Christie's short stories often appeared in print in multi-author collections. Of particular note is Christie's short story "The Tuesday Night Club". Many of Christie's short stories appeared in magazines first before being collected in book form. "The Tuesday Night Club" marked the first appearance of Miss Jane Marple and was first published in issue 350 of The Royal Magazine, published December 1927. While this short story did not appear in a Christie-only collection in book form until The Thirteen Problems was published in 1932 (US: The Tuesday Club Murders published in 1933), it did appear in book form in 1929, prior to the publication of the first full length Miss Marple book - The Murder at the Vicarage (1930).
In the UK, this first Miss Marple short story was included in The Best Detective Stories of the Year - 1928 edited by Father Ronald Knox. In the US, the book was titled Best English Detective Stories of 1928. It is still rather unclear why it was not included in a "1927" compilation when the story was technically printed in 1927. That said, for any avid collector of Christie "firsts", obtaining a copy of this book is essential for any complete collection. In particular, for US collectors, since The Royal Magazine was a UK publication, the US printing of Best English Detective Stories of 1928 is the first time Miss Marple ever appeared in print in the US, or anywhere outside of the UK.
The UK printing was published by Faber & Gwyer Limited while the US verison was published by Horace Liveright. Both book are identical in the stories they contain and the introduction by Ronald Knox.
It should also be noted that a year later, Knox and Christie would become founding members of the Detection Club (click "here" to see the article related to this club). In the introduction to this book, Knox restates his "10 commandments of detective fiction" and provides additional insight into each of them. In addition to collecting this book for the Miss Marple story, reading Knox's perspective on these commandments in the introduction is a true delight. For those who have never seen them they are as follows:
1. The criminal must be someone mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow.
2. All supernatural and preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.
3. Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.
4. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.
5. No Chinaman must figure into the story.
6. No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.
7. The detective himself must not commit the crime.
8. The detective must not light on any clues which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader.
9. The stupid friend of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind; his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.
10. Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.
Of note, for collectors of magazines, The Royal Magazine continued to publish Miss Marple short stories for several months - all of which became the core content for
Issue 350: December 1927: The Tuesday Night Club
Issue 351: January 1928: The Idol House of Astarte
Issue 352: February 1928: Ingots of Gold
Issue 353: March 1928: The Bloodstained Pavement
Issue 354: April 1928: Motive vs. Opportunity
Issue 355: May 1928: The Thumb Mark of St. Peter
Values: Both of these books are quite uncommon but can be found without too much difficulty if no jacket is desired. A jacketed copy of the UK book has not been seen in recent memory and thus should one ever appear for sale it would be pay what you will with pricing likely in the £500 - 1,000+ range depending on condition and demand. The hardback book without the jacket should be available for £50-80.
The US copy is also quite uncommon, and often a later "popular" edition jacketed book is found (sometimes incorrectly added to the first hardback). The correct first edition jacket states "1928" on the front panel with no reference to popular editions. The front flap is priced $2.50. The hardback alone should be available for £20-40, while a jacketed copy likely commands a price of £200-400 depending on condition.
The Royal Magazines of that era are quite scarce too, and were often bound into multi-issue collections. Single magazines may sell for £10-50 each, depending on the stories within them, while bound issue collections would be a multiple based on number of issues.