COLLECT: Parker Pyne Investigates 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. For January 2021, we explored collecting Agatha Christie’s The Hollow. This month, Agatha Christie Limited has selected Parker Pyne Investigates as their February 2021 book of the month. Below you will find many different ways to collect the book or the stories that comprise the book - and there's something for every budget.
The Book: The collection comprises twelve of her fourteen stories featuring detective James Parker Pyne. Parker Pyne Investigates is of note in that it also provides the first appearance of the characters of Ariadne Oliver and Miss Felicity Lemon. Listed below are the 12 short stories contained in Parker Pyne Investigates:
The Case of the Middle-aged Wife^
The Case of the Discontented Soldier*
The Case of the Distressed Lady*
The Case of the Discontented Husband*
The Case of the City Clerk*
The Case of the Rich Woman*
Have You Got Everything You Want?**
The Gate of Baghdad^^
The House at Shiraz**
The Pearl of Price^^^
Death on the Nile**
The Oracle at Delphi**
While greater detail on the magazines that contained these stories is provided far below, all were first published in magazines before being collected in book form. The first appearance of each story was as follows:
*: First appeared in Cosmopolitan Magazine #554, August 1932, USA.
**: First appeared in Cosmopolitan Magazine #562, April 1933, USA.
^: First appeared in Woman's Pictorial #613, 8th October 1932, UK.
^^: First appeared in Nash's Pall Mall Magazine #481, June 1933, UK.
^^^: First appeared in Nash's Pall Mall Magazine #482, July 1933, UK.
The First Hardbacks: The true first of Parker Pyne Investigates is the Collins Mystery imprint, by William Collins and Sons, UK, in November 1934. Priced 7/6 on the backstrip (spine) of the jacket, this was not a Crime Club imprint and the cloth was purple with silver lettering. The first published book review was in The Observer on 18th November, 1934.
There were two Christie books published under the Collins Mystery imprint – the other was The Listerdale Mystery. Both are scarcer that other books of this period and the print runs are assumed to be smaller. In addition, Collins printed a second edition of this book later in the same month as the first. Two print runs in one month also implies the first run was smaller than initial demand.
The first US edition is believed to have been published in December as the first US book review was in the New York Times Book Review on 1 January 1935. For unknown reasons, the US title was changed to Mr. Parker Pyne Detective.
However, it was still published under the Red Badge Mystery imprint of Dodd Mead & Company, New York, consistent with Christie’s other books. It appeared in the US later in the same year published by Dodd, Mead and Company and priced $2.00.
First Values: The UK first edition is exceptionally rare in dust jacket and the book is uncommon in collectible quality. Expect to pay £1,000 ($1,400 US) for a very good condition book and £20,000 - £25,000 ($28,000 -$35,000 US) for a very good book in very good dust jacket. The jacket has also been seen unpriced on the backstrip which was for the overseas markets and may be considered marginally less valuable.
The US first edition is much more affordable but still uncommon in jacket. For a very good book in very good jacket value is $1,500 - $2,000 (£1,200 - £1,500 UK).
For all books, it is important to note that prices escalate rapidly based on condition. See the comment at the foot of this article about pricing.
The 2nd, 3rd & 4th Collins Impressions: There were a total of four UK impressions of Parker Pyne Investigates in its first two years in print. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th impressions of this Collins Mystery book are all uncommon and correctly jacketed copies are exceptionally scarce.
1934, November: Collins 2nd impression. Given the two print runs in the first month of publication the normative assumption is that they were both issued with 7/6 priced jackets. However, it is possible this print run was for the Colonial market as unpriced jackets are known to exist. If a portion of this impression was clad in 7/6 priced jackets they will by now certainly have been married with a 1st impression book.
1935, December: Collins 3rd impression. A copy of the 3rd impression has been seen correctly paired with its original dustjacket, priced 3/6 in black on the backstrip. Otherwise the art is identical to the 7/6 first.
1936, August: Collins 4th impression. Some uncertainly still remains around whether this impression was still priced 3/6 or whether Collins had now changed to their cheap "2/6 Library Edition" brand. One respected dealer in Christie believes this 2/6 was used on several print runs, but no earlier than 1937. Sadly, few if any jackets still clad their original books so authentic pairing of jacket art to editions is harder from the 4th edition onwards.
For any of these impressions, expect to pay £150 ($210 US) for a very good condition book. A 3/6 jacket, should one surface, will still command a very strong price. Given the recent auction price for the 3/6 Three Act Tragedy jacket, expect to pay at least £3,000 - £4,000.
For the 2/6 Library Edition jacket expect to pay significantly less as the artwork is substantially different. The background is now green and the backstrip art is different from the first and second state jackets. Prices for this 3rd state jacket would be up to £1,500 ($2,100 US) if in very good condition.
Later US Editions: In the US, Dodd Mead handed off reprint rights to Grosset & Dunlap as they did with most of their Christie books. The 1935 reprint by Grosset and Dunlap is very affordable, though still uncommon, and will typically retail for $150 in the reprinted jacket, which is similar to the first.
Later Hardback Book Editions: Below is a sampling of later English language hardbacks. All are highly affordable alternatives.
1959: Collins reprint: Similar DJ art to first edition, green & yellow backstrip. Value: £35.
1967: Collins reprint: Similar DJ art to first edition, grey backstrip. Value: £45.
1974: Collins reprint: Similar DJ art to first edition, grey backstrip. Value: £30.
1987: Bantam Books, leatherette edition. Value: $5.
2010: HarperCollins facsimile edition. Value £20 as new in jacket.
The First Paperbacks: Below is a sampling of the English language paperbacks. UK paperbacks retained the original title, while US paperbacks stayed with the alternate title of Parker Pyne, Detective.
1946: Publisher: Lawrence E. Spivak, Bestseller Mystery imprint, NY, USA. First (softback).
1951: Dell Books, NY, USA, number 550, one of the “mapback” series. First paperback.
1953: Penguin “white stripe”, London, UK, number 932. First UK paperback.
1956: Penguin “white circle”, Canada & UK.
1962: Fontana Books, UK.
1968: Pan, UK.
1975: Fontana, 7th impression. First Tom Adams cover art.
Values: None of the paperbacks is particularly unique or uncommon. Most can be found in very good or better condition for £10 ($14 US).
The First Magazines: The true first printings for all the stories in the book were in magazines.
Cosmopolitan Magazine (USA), Issue 554, August 1932. Contains five original Parker Pyne stories under the collective title Are You Happy? If Not Consult Mr. Parker Pyne. Marketed as a ‘complete novel’ it comprised these stories: The Case of the Discontented Soldier, The Case of the Distressed Lady, The Case of the City Clerk, The Case of the Discontented Husband and The Case of the Rich Woman.
Woman’s Pictorial (UK), Issue 613, 8th October 1932. Contains the short story The Woman Concerned. This was retitled as The Case of the Middle-aged Wife when collected in book form.
Woman’s Pictorial (UK), Issue 614, 15th October 1932. Contains the short story Adventure – By Request: The Case of the Discontented Soldier. This is the first UK version. The book form solely used the latter part of the title.
Woman’s Pictorial (UK), Issue 615, 22nd October 1932. Contains Faked! The Case of the Distressed Lady. This is the first UK version. The book form solely used the latter part of the title.
Woman’s Pictorial (UK), Issue 616, 29th October 1932. Contains His Lady’s Affair: The Case of the Discontented Husband. This is the first UK version. The book form solely used the latter part of the title.
The Strand Magazine (UK), Issue 503, November 1932. Contains the short story The £10 Adventure. This is the first UK version. In the book it was titled The Case of the City Clerk.
Cosmopolitan Magazine (USA), Issue 562, April 1933. Contains four original Parker Pyne stories under the collective title Have You Got Everything You Want? If Not, Consult Mr. Parker Pyne. The stories are Have You Got Everything You Want?, The House at Shiraz, Death on the Nile and The Oracle at Delphi.
Nash’s Pall Mall Magazine (UK), Issue 481, June 1933. Contains three short stories under the sub-heading of The Arabian Nights. The three stories are On the Orient Express, At the Gate of Baghdad and In the House at Shiraz. In book form they were retitled as Have You Got Everything You Want?, The Gate of Baghdad and The House at Shiraz. Of these only The Gate of Baghdad is a first printing.
Nash’s Pall Mall Magazine (UK), Issue 482, July 1933. Contains three short stories under the sub-heading of More Arabian Nights of Parker Pyne. The three stories are The Pearl, Death on the Nile and The Oracle at Delphi. In book form The Pearl was retitled as The Pearl of Price, which is a first printing. The other two are first UK printings.
Values: Issues of Cosmopolitan Magazine are more common and can generally be found for $30 (£22 UK) in collectible condition. The Parker Pyne issues of Woman’s Pictorial, The Strand and Nash’s Pall Mall are all quite scarce so expect to pay £30-50 ($40-70 US) for copies in very good condition.
Other Parker Pyne stories: There were only two other Pyne stories - Problem at Pollensa Bay and The Regatta Mystery. Both were later collected in The Regatta Mystery and Other Stories (USA 1939) and in Problem at Pollensa Bay and Other Stories (UK 1991). Both of these stories originally featured Hercule Poirot when first published in The Strand Magazine in 1935 and 1936, but they were later rewritten to feature Parker Pyne.
Other Pricing Comments: The price jump from a good to very good book is not as significant as a very good to fine condition book. Prices cited above and discussed throughout this article as illustrative of prices one would typically pay for a very good book. Thus copies that are both far cheaper and far more expensive can always be found. If those in the trade or individuals who have recently transacted in this title have more accurate estimates, please contact us.