• David Morris

COLLECT: Crooked House - The Agatha Christie Book of the Month.


1951: USA paperback by Pocket Book #753

Agatha Christie Limited promotes reading (or re-reading) Christie books through their Read Christie campaigns. Each month a different novel is selected that will be a focus of their online book club. To further build on this focus Collecting Christie is providing insights into collecting the chosen book – from first editions to recent paperbacks. November 2021’s choice is Crooked House.


Agatha Christie Limited sets a theme for the month, and while they choose their title, other options are given. November’s theme is 'A story set after WWII' – providing a broad range of choices! Given that Christie stated this was one of her favourite novels, the selection seems apt.


The Novel: Crooked House.

This book was first published in 1949 though the setting is autumn 1947. Behind the crime story, the novel explores the impact the Second World War had on many individuals, let alone the Leonides family. Without giving away too much, Maurice Richardson, a report for The Observer, wrote "Poisoning of aged iniquitous anglicised Levantine millionaire. Nicely characterised family of suspects. Delicious red herrings. Infinite suspense and shocking surprise finish make up for slight looseness of texture." (29 May 1949).


First Printed Appearance:

The story first appeared in the USA in Cosmopolitan magazine (though abridged) in October 1948 (Vol. 125, No. 4).

In the UK the novel first appeared in John Bull magazine (also abridged) across seven editions from 23 April – 4 June, 1949 (Vol. 83, Nos. 2234-2240).


First Book Printings:

1949, March: USA: The first hardcopy printing of this book was published by Dodd, Mead and Company, New York, USA. The jacket was priced $2.50.

1949, May 23: UK: The first British printing occurred two months later by Collins, The Crime Club, London, UK. The jacket was priced “8s. 6d. net”. This occurred while John Bull magazine was still publishing the serialised version.


Other editions:

1949: First Canadian hardback edition. Published by Dodd Mead for Collins. The jacket art and book matched the US first printing, but references to “Dodd, Mead & Co.” were replaced with “Collins” on the jacket spine and title page. An uncommon edition.


1950: First Australian hardback edition. Published by New Century Press, Sydney, for the Crime Club.


First Paperback Books:

1950: The Canadian Collins Pocketbook White Circle edition, #478 is the first paperback printing of this title.

1951 (January): Pocket Books, New York, USA. Pocket #753. A striking cover for the day - image at the top of the article.

1951: Le Masque, Paris, France. Le Masque #394, under the title “La Maison Biscornue”.

1953: Penguin Books, England. Penguin #925.


Other Editions of Note:

1959: Collins - Fontana Books, England.

1964, October: Fontana: 5th impression. The first Tom Adams UK cover.

1973, October: Pocket Books, US, #77613. The first Tom Adams US cover with its wrap-around art design.


1978: Heron Books, London. Volume contained two novels – Crooked House and Passenger to Frankfurt. Bound in red.


1990: Collins, UK. Limited Edition set of six volumes, one of which is Crooked House. Each set was signed by Agatha Christie's daughter, Rosalind Hicks, who states these six titles were Agatha Christie's favourite books. They included The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Towards Zero, The Labours of Hercules, Crooked House, Sleeping Murder, & A Murder is Announced. A total of 350 sets were published which come in a single slip case.


2021: The Folio Society, London. Illustrated by Sally Dunne.


Values:

While most copies of Cosmopolitan magazine from this era can generally be obtained for $20, this issue also contains the first printing of Raymond Chandler's Article "10 Greatest Crimes of the Century". Consequently, it is highly collectible to various collectors increasing its value. Fair value is likely closer to $100 US.


Copies of John Bull magazine can be found for £5 each in very good or better condition. Obtaining all seven copies may take a small amount of patience but they are generally readily attainable.


The first edition (Dodd, Mead & Co, USA) is surprisingly uncommon. Expect to pay $300 or more for a very good copy in jacket when one appears for sale. As a true first, this is good value.


The first Collins (UK) edition in near fine condition is fairly valued at £250 ($375). Unlike the US version, each year numerous copies available in very good or better condition appear in the market. It is highly likely that a patient collector will find a fine copy at this price.


The 1978 Heron printing is valued at £15.


The 1990 limited edition set of six books containing Crooked House periodically shows for sale. Fair value is likely £400-500.


The 2021 Folio Society version is still available for retail sale.


For the paperbacks, the Canadian Collins White Circle is the scarcest. It is estimated there are only 50-100 extant copies of this book. But surprising, collectors haven’t fully realized the scarcity. As such, if you can find a copy for sale, it may be as little as $30-50 CDN. For our full article of the five Christie titles published by Canada’s White Circle label click here.


Most other paperbacks all are priced as typical used books and can be found in very good or better condition for £10 ($15). Of these, we find the US jacket by Tom Adams to be highly appealing. While Tom Adams is well known for his UK covers, the art he designed for almost all the US covers he designed extends from the rear panel and across the spine to the cover. We wrote a more detailed article on these books which can be read by clicking here.


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.


Happy Collecting.




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