COLLECT: Nemesis by Agatha Christie
For the last few years Agatha Christie Limited has promoted reading (or re-reading) Christie books through their Read Christie campaigns. Each month a different novel is selected that will be a focus on an 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. While we are a little late reviewing June 2021’s choice, Nemesis has been selected as June’s book of the month.
Nemesis is one of Christie’s later books and could even be considered a sequel to A Caribbean Mystery. It is also the last Miss Marple book Agatha Christie wrote.
The first appearance was in a Toronto (Canada) newspaper supplement – The Star Weekly Novel. Published in two abridged instalments on October 16 and October 23, 1971. Each issue had the same cover illustration by Laszlo Gal.
The first UK appearance was in Woman’s Realm magazine, where it was published over seven abridged instalments. While the first occurred on September 25th, 1971 (earlier than The Star Weekly supplement), the last instalment was not published until November 6th (collectively Volume 27, No. 702-708). Illustrations were by Len Thurston.
First Published Books:
Nemesis was first published in book form by Collins’ The Crime Club, London, UK in November 1971.
The first US by Dodd, Mead and Company was also published in November, but is generally believed to have been after the UK release. The UK edition retailed at £1.50 and the US edition at $6.95.
First Paperback Books:
While most online guides state that the US Pocket Book was the first paperback, the actual first paperback was printed by Fontana but only released in Continental Europe. This book is exceptionally uncommon and highly desirable to collect.
1972, Fontana, (UK) Continental Edition.
Month of publication unknown. States “First time in paperback!” and has cover art evocative of A Caribbean Mystery.
1973, Pocket Books, USA.
Published in January, with cover art by Tom Adams and with the statement “The New Christie”.
1974, Fontana, UK.
Cover art by Tom Adams and with statement “First time in paperback” – a slight stretch!
Later books of note: Includes the 1986 Fontana tie-in to the TV series, the 1994 HarperCollins edition with its (Geoff Appleton?) cover art, and the 2000 Penguin edition (under their Signet imprint) with its ghostly cover.
All three are appealing, and the TV tie-in edition is quite uncommon and collectible.
At the top end of the price range for a novel of this era, £2,350 will get you a Collins first, signed and inscribed from Agatha Christie to “Mr. & Mrs. Lavin”. Mr. Frank Lavin was Christie’s estate manager and gardener for many years from the 1950s onwards. Generally, very good copies in complete jackets of the true first UK edition can be acquired for £60 ($85) while and US versions can be acquired for under £30 ($40). Buyers should only accept the very best copies, with no damage, intact jackets and no inscriptions. Any Christie book from 1960 onwards can be found in this condition with a little patience, especially for the US copy whose jacket is often worn and rubbed.
For the paperbacks, the Fontana Continental Edition is exceptionally hard to find, especially if you have limited access to foreign resale sites in Europe. Expect to pay €50 ($60) for a very good copy though collectors may want to take what they can find. The US and UK first paperbacks are much more affordable and very good or better copies can generally be acquired for £15 / $25 or less. Again, seek the best copy you can find for the US and UK versions as they are quite common.
The Star Weekly supplements are hard to find, but if they appear on the market you can usually obtain them for $25 CDN each. Woman’s Realm from the UK can generally be bought for no more than £10 per Issue, making the full set £70, but will be a challenge to find.
All later hardbacks and paperbacks are very affordable, in alignment with normal used pricing, as they offer no collectability value.
The extant original paintings by Tom Adams for both the UK and US editions are different than the actual cover art used by the publishers.
For Fontana, the painting originally had smooth skin on the face, but post-publication, Tom Adams modified the painting to make the face appear deceased. For the US paperback by Pocket Books, the publisher modified the image and unlike other US editions, placed both panels of the image on the front and again on the rear, rather than utilizing the wrap-around design. The original core painting, without the up-close face, was also modified post-publication and is one of the few original paintings that Tom Adams did not sign. Both paintings are in private collections and while hard to value would likely realize ~£5,000 - £10,000 at auction.
Note: All the data below regarding printings, editions and dates is to the best of our knowledge. Since we have not seen every edition in person, some dates 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.