COLLECT: The Hollow by Agatha Christie
Updated: Jan 10
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 (#readchristie2021). To further build on this focus Collecting Christie will provide insights into collecting the chosen book – from first editions to recent paperbacks. For January 2021, the chosen novel is Agatha Christie’s The Hollow. First published in 1946, this Hercule Poirot novel satisfies the January focus of reading a book “set in a grand house”.
Collecting "The Hollow" in Print
Collier's Magazine: The first appearance of The Hollow in print was in the US weekly magazine Collier’s. The four issues in May 1946 (Volume 117, editions 18-21) contained an abbreviated version of The Hollow under the title “The Outraged Heart” with illustrations by Mario Cooper. Copies of this magazine do show up for sale periodically and usually sell for around $25 US, depending on condition. One item of note is that the art used on the first page of this story in Collier’s was reused for the cover of the 1948 Pocket Books edition (US), though shown in a mirrored image. Images of the covers of all four issues plus the first page of the first installment are below.
First Hardback Editions: The first hardback printing of this novel was the Dodd, Mead & Co edition, published in the US (image at the top of the page). It’s cover art was certainly more inspired than the soon to be issued Collins version, though by historical comparison it was still fairly unimaginative in design.
Issued at a price of $2.50, the exact month of publication is unknown other than it was before the UK edition which was issued in November 1946. Finding the US true first is relatively hard. It is still a fairly scarce item and thus often commands a price of $200 - $400 US (jacketed) for very good to fine copies.
The 1946 Canadian edition was likely the first version of The Hollow to use the Collins brand. However, it was essentially identical to the US version by Dodd Mead but with printing credits given to Collins, Toronto, Canada both in the book and on the jacket. This is a fairly scarce item given the smaller Canadian print run, and is likely worth $200 - $300 CDN for a very good jacketed copy.
In the UK, Collins’ The Crime Club imprint of this title was entirely different than the Collins Canada edition. It was initially issued with a price of “8s. 6. net” on the front flap and is dated 1946 on the bottom of the copyright page. The pure red cover with white letter perhaps echoes the mood of the UK after emerging from World War II but it is certainly disappointing for collectors.
Pricing varies widely for this book as there are common flaws. The spine is almost always heavily faded due to the poorer quality paper, and since the book was issued just before Christmas many of the prices have been clipped from the front flap. A typical faded spine clipped jacket book may sell for £200 UK while one showing the price with an unfaded spine may sell for closer to £500 UK.
There is also an Indian printing of the Collins Crime Club book. It is quite unique in that the jacket design is slightly different. Instead of a solid red, there is a two-tone design, “A Crime Club Selection” is printed on the foot of the front panel, the spine omits the masked gunman logo, and the rear panel lists other recent novels published by Collins in lieu of reviews. The book is also slightly thinner, lists “Price Rs. 5/4” on the front flap, is undated, and is printed by R.W. Pearce at the Times of India Press, Bombay. The assumption is it was published contemporaneously and as such is a sought after collectible for the Christie completist. This book is seen less frequently, but its value tends to be in the £200 UK range for a very good jacketed copy.
Paperbacks: The first paperback printing of The Hollow is either the 1948 Pocket Books #485 published in New York, USA or the 1948 Collins White Circle #365 published in Canada. As mentioned earlier the US Pocket Book reused the artwork of Mario Cooper that was used in the first installment in Collier’s magazine. The book is quite easy to find and very good copies can be acquired for $10 US.
The Canadian version published by Collins’ White Circle Pocket Edition is the first of five Christie’s published under this imprint. The cover art marks a distinct shift from that of the US version. This paperback is quite rare and while very good copies are hard to find they are still quite reasonable in price, often around $20-$30 CDN.
The first UK paperback was Pan #119 published in 1950. The correct first edition of this paperback has a red cover, with the title in white font contained within a black text box. The second version of this paperback, published in 1952, changes the text to black font in a yellow band that stretches across the top of the front panel. For the UK market both were prriced 2/- on the bottom front right. It appears some may have been exported and did not have a price on the cover. Both versions are hard to find, but when the do appear on the market prices are still reasonable. Expect to pay £15-30 UK depending on condition, with a meaningful premium for the true first.
1952 saw the publishing of The Hollow as a playscript by Samuel French. Agatha Christie adapted the play herself from the book and removed Poirot from it as she thought he had ruined the book. While the play was first performed in 1951, the first printing of this play was in 1952 and is priced "5s net". A near fine copy would be worth £70-100 UK ($90 - $135 US), while poorer copies can likely be found for £25 -40 ($33 - $55). Many play scripts were used and often have underlining or marks throughout the script. The cleaner the better if you have a choice.
Murder After Hours: In the US, Dell Books changed the title to Murder after Hours in their 1954 version (Dell #753). One can only speculate that the publisher felt the original title didn’t convey the contents effectively to a casual shelf browser. Issued with a price of 25 cents, the cover art by Griffith Foxley shifted towards the sexy-pulp style that was becoming mainstream in the US during this period. The book is fairly easy to locate and often sells for $10 US in very good condition.
Dell continued publishing books with this alternate title for many years and with various different covers. One unfortunately has the dead body in a fountain not a pool!
Fontana Paperbacks: In the UK, Fontana Books first published a version in 1955 priced 2/6 featuring a crouching woman holding a gun to a man’s neck. This cover was changed in 1961 (Fontana’s 5th impression) to Barbara Walton’s fairly boring cover of a man on a staircase. In 1963, for Fontana’s 6th impression, we get the iconic Tom Adams cover which was one of his earliest images. Fontana was still using the yellow band on the bottom on the front cover at this time. In 1968, for Fontana’s 9th impression, the cover art was freshened up with an image from Ian Robinson with the revolver in the basket of eggs. Commonly mistaken as one of Tom Adams’ images, this is one of the 13 book covers Robinson did for Fontana. Fontana’s new design of the white band at the top and bottom of the front panel was now being used. All of these Fontana editions are fairly easy to locate with a bit of patience and most can be acquired for £5 - £15 UK depending on condition.
Over the years many more versions of this book have been created with covers that typically focused on the swimming pool as the iconic image. Some publishers took different approaches. All of these paperbacks from 1970 onwards are easy to find and sell for typical used book prices.
The most recent quasi-collectible printing is the 2008 HarperCollins facsimile edition. Generally the facsimile editions are more appealing for the early golden age cover art of the 1920-1930 editions. But staying true to the mission of this series HarperCollins printed a replica of the bland 1946 Collins jacket with an added wraparound band that carried their logo. While many sellers still aspire to high valuations, recent sales imply copies of this book in fine condition can be acquired for around $25.
Summary: As shown, collectors of Christie could stay busy just focusing on collecting all books related to a single title such as The Hollow. This article hasn’t even touched on all the foreign language editions. While few of these books offer tremendous growth potential, the true first edition from Dodd Mead, along with the Collins Canadian, UK and Indian editions offer the best long-term potential for appreciation. The play version is something that should be read by fans of this novel because it provided Christie an opportunity to present the story without Poirot – something she had wanted to do. However, for pure enjoyment, the broad range of wonderful paperbacks will give the collector plenty of versions to hunt for online, in bookstores or at boot sales. Whether you enjoy collecting magazines, hardbacks or paperbacks, hopefully this article has provided you with some insights that will enhance your enjoyment of this novel.