• David Morris

COLLECT: True Firsts: Agatha Christie: 1935-1937

This is the third instalment on our series on ‘true firsts’ where we review the first time Agatha Christie’s stories from 1935-1937 were published – both in magazine and book form. In Part 1 of this series, we reviewed novels published from 1920 through 1932 - Christie’s formative years as characters were developed and styles explored. In Part 2, we reviewed novels first published between 1932 and 1935, considered by many to be the first part of Christie’s golden years. In this new instalment, we are reviewing six titles published in 1935 and 1937, a few of her most productive years and still at the height of her golden era.


For many, first edition hardback books are the pinnacle of a Christie collection. For others, the less travelled world of magazine collecting is appealing. For it is in magazines that most of Christie’s stories first appeared. Over the life, many of her stories were initially published outside the UK. For this period, many of the stories first appeared in US magazines, but all first appeared in book form in the UK. While exact publication dates are not known for some books, the five profiled here all have known UK release dates. Newspaper review dates often are used to support the publishing sequence as by the mid-1930s Christie was so well known that a review typically appeared within a week of publication.


In a few cases, specific titles had different content depending on where and when they were published. In such cases it could be argued that both are essentially first editions of their respective content. This will be referenced where appropriate but for our full article on ‘National Variants’ please click here. Lastly, a few assumptions are made which could always be in error. Any corrections are most welcome or if our readers have documents showing publishing dates please let us know.


For insights on values on the books please visit our price guide (click here) that documents recent auction results for many of these books. Some comments have also been provided related to recent auction results. For the magazines discussed below, collector quality copies are quite affordable and most can be found for £20-£30 per issue.


The A.B.C. Murders:

First Appearance: Cosmopolitan magazine (USA), Volume XCIX, Issue 5, in November 1935. Published as an abridged version of the story.

First UK Appearance: Daily Express newspaper (UK), 28 November – 12 December 1935 (16 instalments). Lacks the foreword, chapter divisions, parts of chapters 7 & 20, all of chapters 26, 32 & 35, plus other omissions reducing the total text by almost 40%. However, the Daily Express did have a ‘Reader’s Guesses’ section that they published alongside the instalments.


First Hardback: Collins, The Crime Club, London (UK), 6 January 1936.

Orange cloth with black lettering. The dust jacket is priced 7/6 net on the front flap. It was published second in the USA on 14 February 1936 by Dodd, Mead & Co, New York. The first review was in The Observer (UK) on 5 January 1936. The first US review was in The New York Times Book Review on 16 February 1936. A fine copy recently sold at auction for £47,880.


Murder in Mesopotamia:

First Appearance: The Saturday Evening Post magazine (USA), Volume 208, Issues 19-24, 9 November – 14 December 1935 (six instalments).

First UK Appearance: Titled “No Other Love” in Woman’s Pictoral magazine (UK), Volume 31, Issues 787-794, 8 February – 28 March 1936 (eight instalments). Lacking chapter divisions, abridged, and with several character names changed.


First Hardback: Collins, The Crime Club, London (UK), 6 July 1936.

The book was published with orange cloth boards with black lettering. The dust jacket is known to vary slightly in colour, with some having a stronger blue bias and other more of a green dominance. These are assumed to be printing issues and not indicative of a sequencing. The jacket is priced 7/6 net on the front flap. Published in [September] 1936 in the US by Dodd, Mead & Co, New York. First reviewed in The Times Literary Supplement (UK) on 18 July 1936. The first US review was in The New York Times Book Review on 20 September 1936. This image is of the copy that recently sold at auction for £4,788.


Cards on the Table:

First Appearance: The Saturday Evening Post (USA), Volume 208, Issues 44-49, from 2 May – 6 June 1936 (six instalments). There is no known UK magazine version of this title.


First Hardback: Collins, The Crime Club, London (UK), 2 November 1936.

The book was published with orange cloth boards with black lettering. The dust jacket is priced 7/6 net on the front flap. Published in the US the following year in [February] 1937, by Dodd, Mead & Co., New York. First reviewed in The Times Literary Supplement (UK) on 14 November 1936. First US review was in The New York Times Book Review on 28 February 1937. A good plus copy recently sold at auction for £2,772.


Dumb Witness:

First Appearance: Titled “Poirot Loses A Client” in The Saturday Evening Post (USA), Volume 209, Issues 19-25, from 7 November - 19 December 1936 (seven instalments).

First UK Appearance: Titled “The Mystery of Littlegreen House” in Woman's Pictorial magazine (UK), Volume 33, Issues 841-847, from 20 February - 3 April 1937 (seven instalments). There were no chapter divisions, and the story was abridged.


First Hardback: Collins, The Crime Club, London (UK), 5 July 1937.

The book was published with orange cloth boards with black lettering. The jacket was priced 7/6 on the front flap and is unique in that it has a photograph of Agatha’s own dog, Peter. Published later in [September] 1937 in the US by Dodd, Mead & Co., New York. The first book review was in The Scotsman (UK) on 5 July 1937. The first US review was in The New York Times Book Review on 26 September 1937. The last copy to sell at auction was a very good example, and sold for $15,625 US.


Death on the Nile:

First Appearance: The Saturday Evening Post (US), Volume 209, issues 46-53 & Volume 210, issue 1, from 15 May - 3 July 1937 (eight instalments). There is no known UK magazine or newspaper version.


First Hardback: Collins, The Crime Club, London(UK), 1 November 1937.

Published with orange cloth boards with black lettering. The dust jacket is priced 7s. 6d. net on the front flap. Published in the US early the following year (1938) by Dodd, Mead & Co., New York). First reviewed in The Scotsman (UK) on 11 November 1937. The first US review was in The New York Times Book Review on 6 February 1938. A recent very good copy sold at auction for £5,670.


Murder in the Mews and Other Stories:

Note: The first hardback book contained four stories: Murder in the Mews, The Incredible Theft, Dead Man’s Mirror, & The Triangle at Rhodes. The first appearances of each story is considered below.


First Appearances:

Murder in the Mews: First appearance is in Redbook magazine (US) - below - Volume 67, Issues 5-6, in September & October 1936 (two instalments). First UK appearance was in Woman's Journal in December 1936.

The Incredible Theft: One could argue the first appearance of this novella was in The Sketch (UK), Issue 1606, 7 November 1923 under the title “The Submarine Plans”. In the US, it appeared in Blue Book Magazine, Volume 41, Issue 3, in July 1925. However, The Incredible Theft is significantly expanded and involves some plot changes. In its new form, its first appearance was in the Daily Express newspaper (UK) from 6 - 12 April 1937 (six installments as no paper on Sunday). There is no US magazine version of the newer story.


Dead Man's Mirror: As with the story above, this was also an expanded version of an earlier story, “The Second Gong” whose first appearance was in Ladies’ Home Journal (US), Volume XLIX, Issue 6, in June 1932. Its first UK appearance was in The Strand Magazine, Issue 499, in July 1932. There was no magazine version of this larger story.


Triangle at Rhodes: Titled “Poirot and the Triangle at Rhodes", the first appearance was in This Week magazine (US), on 2 February 1936. In first appeared in the UK in The Strand Magazine (UK), Issue 545, in May 1936. Below is a rare signed copy of The Strand publication of this story (scroll to see the signed page).


First Hardback: Collins, The Crime Club, London (UK), 15 March 1937.

Published with orange cloth boards with black lettering. The dust jacket is priced 7/6 net on the front flap. In the US, the book was published under the title Dead Man’s Mirror in [June] 1937, but only contained three stories making it a national variant. The missing story was The Incredible Theft which didn’t appear in print in the US until 1987 when all four original stories appeared in book form together in the Berkeley edition. The first review of this book collection was in The Times Literary Supplement (UK) on 27 March 1937. In the US, it was first reviewed by The New York Times Book Review on 27 June 1937. Of note, any Collins hardback is exceptionally uncommon as Collins transferred the reprint rights to Odhams after the first print run. A recent very good copy sold at auction for £30,240.


Summary:

These six books provide many challenges to collectors of true firsts. While first printings of the hardbacks can be found, the jackets are very scarce and highly sought. The US Dodd, Mead printings are easier to find in jacket; however, very good or better copies of those are also becoming scarce. As we’ve said with prior articles in this series, patience and deep pockets will be needed by any collector trying to find these first hardback printings and exceptionally deep pockets will be needed if jackets are sought. For now, the magazines are much more affordable but finding all issues for a title can be challenging. For magazine collectors you will find the easiest to find are the Saturday Evening Post (US) magazines, while Woman’s Pictoral (UK) copies are the hardest to find.


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