INSIGHTS: Forgotten Anthologies & Christie's The Second Gong.
Collectors of Agatha Christie’s works generally strive to acquire first printings of her stories. For the majority of collectors, the first printing sought is the first hardback book printing despite most stories first appearing in magazines. Full length novels are easy to collect as they are well known and ubiquitous. Short stories are much harder to collect as first printings when they did not appear in an Agatha Christie omnibus collection (i.e. all stories are Christie's). There have been many smaller publishers who assembled anthologies (i.e. multi-author collections) that had a Christie story in them. Some of these anthologies will contain a true Christie first printing. Often these collections are less well known and in some cases unknown by many. The true first printing of The Second Gong is even unacknowledged by Agatha Christie Limited.
One of the most collectible Christie stories in an anthology is The Tuesday Night Club - the first Miss. Marple story ever to appear in book form and was part of The Best Detective Stories of 1928. For more details on collecting this title click here. Since many of these anthologies are less well known they often are of good value for collectors who strive to build a collection of true firsts.
Today’s article focuses on collecting the true first book printing of Christie’s The Second Gong - a classic locked-room mystery featuring Hercule Poirot. As with most of Christie’s works, The Second Gong first appeared in a U.S. magazine. In this case it was Ladies Home Journal in June 1932.
In July 1932, it appeared in The Strand Magazine (UK). It's first UK appearance.
The first book appearance for this short story was as part of Many Mysteries, an anthology published by Rich & Cowan (UK) in 1933.
This book was a selection of 28 short stories, all by different authors, selected by E. Philips Oppenheim with an introduction written by him dated March 25th, 1933. It is possible Oppenheim discovered Christie's The Second Gong as he had one of his short stories published in the same issue of Ladies Home Journal (see image far above) in June 1932.
Many online Christie sites, including the official Agatha Christie website, ignore this publication or incorrectly state that the story first appeared in book form in 1948 in the U.S. within Dodd, Mead & Company’s printing of The Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories. In the UK, when HarperCollins published The Second Gong as part of the collection Problem at Pollensa Bay and Other Stories (1991) they also incorrectly stated on the cover that it was the first UK printing of this story among others. The official Christie website also fails to recognize Ladies Home Journal as the first ever printing. To view the Agatha Christie Limited site's comments click here.
A few years after The Second Gong was published Agatha Christie expanded it into the novella Dead Man’s Mirror. This novella first appeared in Murder in the Mews and Other Stories, published by Collins, The Crime Club, in March 1937. This book had four stories within it – Murder in the Mews, Dead Man’s Mirror, The Incredible Theft and The Triangle at Rhodes. In the USA, the book used Dead Man’s Mirror for the title, and it contained the same four stories and was published by Dodd, Mead & Co in June 1937.
1932: Ladies' Home Journal, Philadelphia, USA, June 1932: Volume LIIX, Number 6.
1932: The Strand, London, UK, July 1932: Issue 499, Volume 84.
1933: Many Mysteries, Rich & Cowan, London, UK, May 1933.
1948: Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories, Dodd Mead and Company, USA.
1991: Problem at Pollensa Bay and Other Stories, HarperCollins, UK; November 1991.
The first magazines are still very affordable in very good condition. The Ladies Home Journal is often sold for $40 US while The Strand will generally command closer to £100. A very good first edition in a complete jacket of Many Mysteries is very affordable when compared to other jacketed books of this era, with a fair value of £300. It was reprinted many times and these versions are worth a fraction of the first. Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories is a surprisingly hard book to fine in a complete jacket and as such is fairly valued at $1,375 based on the most recent auction price. Problem at Pollensa Bay and Other Stories can be acquired for £50 in very good condition.
More to Come:
While we have profiled a few Christie stories in anthologies in prior articles, we will be exploring more of them in greater detail over the months ahead.
Happy book hunting!