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  • Writer's pictureDavid Morris

Agatha Christie's "other" Murder at the Vicarage.


In 1930, Collins published Agatha Christie’s The Murder at the Vicarage. It was the first novel to feature Miss Marple and the first under the ‘The Crime Club’ imprint. Over 20 years later, another story was published that featured Miss Marple and was also initially released under the same title – The Murder at the Vicarage. This duplication was attributed to the publisher being unaware that the title had already been used. So what was this other Murder at the Vicarage?


In 1954 the US weekly newspaper magazine supplement – This Week – was the first to publish Agatha Christie's new short story Sanctuary but chose to change the title to The Murder at the Vicarage. This decision was likely made to attract more interest and was not unusual for newspapers and magazines. For example, when This Week last published a Christie short story in 1947 it was The Capture of Cerberus. However, they retitled it as Meet Me In Hell! Certainly a little more dramatic.


However, the oversight of choosing a title that had already been used was unique. While the title continued to be used by various US paperback publications, the UK market only published it under its original title.


Sanctuary

The story was written in January 1954 and its title was rather apt as Christie chose to donate the British proceeds from the sale of the story to the ‘Fund for the Restoration of Westminster Abbey’. The ability to use proceeds from a story to fund charitable endeavours was repeated a few years later with Greenshaw’s Folly – which helped fund the stained glass window in her local church at Churston Ferrars (article link).


Of note, the story was set in the village of Chipping Cleghorn, where her 1950 novel A Murder is Announced was also set. The main characters in this story are Bunch, Miss Marple’s ‘favourite’ god-daughter, and Miss Marple herself.

This Week promoted it as her first short story in 7 years, which it was with regards to publication of stories by This Week. However, while Christie’s Three Blind Mice (published December 1948) may be viewed as more of a novella, if one considers it a short story then it had been nearly six years since she had any new short-story printed.


First Publications:

First Appearance:

1954: This Week (US). 2 instalments: 12th September & 19th September, 1954. Value: $50 in very good condition. Scarce.


First UK Publication:

1954: Woman's Journal. October 1954. It was the fee Woman’s Journal paid that went to Westminster Abbey’s restoration fund. Value: £40 in very good condition. Scarce.


First Book Edition:

1961, July: Double Sin and Other Stories, Dodd Mead and Company (New York). Value: $100 - $150 in very good condition. Getting harder to find.


First UK Book Edition:

1979, October 18th: Miss Marple’s 6 Final Cases and 2 Other Stories, Collins Crime Club (London). Value £30 in very good condition. Common.


First Anthology Paperback:

1957: This Week's Stories of Mystery and Suspense, Stewart Beach, Random House. Value: $40. Scarce.

Reprinted in 1962. Image below right. Value $20. Uncommon.


First UK Anthology Paperback:

1959: Argosy (UK), vol. 20 no. 1, January. Value £30. Uncommon.

First Paperback:

While the first paperback appears to be the Pocket Books edition cited below, the copyright page of that book does state 'First Printing ..... October 1962' and 'First Pocket Book edition published December 1962'. This implies there was a prior printing that was not a 'Pocket Book' branded paperback, but I am unable to locate it. If anyone has input, please let me know.

1962, December: Double Sin and Other Stories. Pocket Books No. 6144 (New York, US). Value $15. Common.

1964, October: Double Sin and Other Stories. Dell Books (New York, US). First reprint. Value $5. Common.


First UK Paperback:

It is important to note that Fontana first released the paperback in continental Europe with a cover designed by Tom Adams - which was the last cover he did for Fontana paperbacks (below left). This book is quite scarce and in my opinion highly collectible. The first British edition surprisingly replaced his artwork with something much more generic and still stated it was 'new in paperback' (below middle and right). Fontana's rationale for this is still unknown. Also, Fontana had shortened the title from the Collins novel and yet still included all eight short stories - two of which do not feature Miss Marple.

1980: Miss Marple's Final Cases. Fontana Books (UK). Value: £10. Common.

For the Tom Adams Continental Edition: Value: £75-100. Scarce.


Other Publications of Note:

In 1963, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine published this short story under the title Man on the Chancel Steps.

1963: Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, vol. 41 no. 3, whole no. 232, Mar 1963. Value: $25. Common.

2011: E-Book: On September 27, 2011, HarperCollins also released this as a standalone single for e-readers.


Corrections?

As I usually do, I've likely missed a few things or made a few errors - so do get in contact with me if there's an improvement to be made to this article. I view all my articles as collaborative efforts and want them to be an accurate resource for collectors.


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