• David Morris

COLLECT: Christie "True Firsts" 1938-1940.

True First Printings: Part 4: 1938 – 1940

This is the fourth instalment on our series on ‘true firsts’ where we review the first time Agatha Christie’s stories 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 part 3, we reviewed books printed in 1936-1937. In this new instalment, we are reviewing titles published in 1938 through 1940, arguably the twilight years of the Golden Age. For many, first edition hardback books are the pinnacle of a Christie collection. For others, the less travelled world of magazine collecting is appealing as this is where most of Christie’s stories first appeared and prices are still very affordable.


All of the books profiled today first appeared in the US in magazines with the exception of one short story from The Regatta Mystery. All of the books reviewed within this article were first published in the UK, except for The Regatta Mystery. Exact publication dates are not known for some books but newspaper review dates can be 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. If any errors or omissions are noted corrections or fresh details are most welcome.


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


Appointment with Death:

First Appearance: A nine-part serialisation in Collier's Weekly (USA) from 28 August 1937 (Vol 100, No. 9) to 23 October 1937 (Vol 100, No. 17).


First UK Appearance: In the Daily Mail from Wednesday, 19 January to Saturday, 19 February 1938 (28 instalments) titled A Date with Death. The content was mildly modified as several small parts were omitted.

First Hardback: Collins, The Crime Club, London (UK), on 2nd May 1938. Orange cloth with black lettering. The dust jacket, designed by Robin Mac Macartney is priced “7s 6d net” on the front flap. In the USA, Dodd, Mead & Company published the book in September 1938, despite copyright references to both 1937 and 1938 which were due to the Collier’s magazine printing the year earlier. The first newspaper review was in The Observer (UK) on 1 May 1938. The first US review was in The New York Times Book Review on 11 September 1938.


Hercule Poirot’s Christmas:

First Appearance: The story was first serialised in Collier's Weekly (USA) in ten parts from 12 November 1938 (Vol 102, No. 20) to 14 January 1939 (Vol 103, No. 2) under the title Murder for Christmas.


First UK Appearance: The UK serialisation was in twenty parts in the Daily Express from Monday, 14 November to Saturday, 10 December 1938 under the title of Murder at Christmas.

First Hardback: Collins, The Crime Club, London (UK), on 19 December 1938 (although the first edition is copyright dated 1939). The jacket is priced “7s 6d net” on the front flap. It was published in US by Dodd, Mead & Co in February 1939 under the title of Murder for Christmas (sadly the release date was poor). Priced $2.00 on the front flap. First reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement on 17 December 1938. The first US was in The New York Times Book Review on 12 February 1939.


The Regatta Mystery:

This collection contains nine short stories, two of which had never appeared in print prior to this book being published.

Contains: The Problem at Pollensa Bay - one of The Regatta Mystery stories

First Appearances: The following lists the short stories in this book and their first magazine appearances:


The Regatta Mystery: Not published in this version, featuring Parker Pyne, prior to this book.


Miss Marple Tells a Story: This story was published in Home Journal (UK) in 25 May 1935 under the title Behind Closed Doors. Agatha Christie had previously read the story on BBC Radio in 1934.

The Mystery of the Baghdad Chest: Ladies Home Journal (USA), January 1932 (Vol LIIX, No. 1)

How Does Your Garden Grow?: Ladies Home Journal (USA), June 1936 (Vol LII, No. 6)

Problem at Pollensa Bay: Liberty magazine (USA), titled as Siren Business, 5 September 1936 (Vol 13, No. 36).

Yellow Iris: Hartford Courant newspaper (USA), titled as Case of the Yellow Iris, 10 October 1937.

The Dream: The Saturday Evening Post (USA), 23 October 1937 (Vol 210, No. 17)

In a Glass Darkly: Collier’s Weekly (USA), 28 July 1934 (Vol 94, No. 4)

Problem at Sea: This Week (USA), a Sunday newspaper supplement, on 12 January 1936.


Note: A different version of The Regatta Mystery featuring Hercule Poirot did appear in the Hartford Courant newspaper (USA) on 3 May 1936.

First Hardback: Dodd, Mead & Co, New York (USA) in June 1939. Priced $2.00 on the front flap. The collection was not published in the UK and was the first time a Christie book was published in the US without a comparable publication in the UK. The New York Times Book Review appeared on 25 June 1939.


First UK Appearances:

The Dream appeared in The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, Collins Crime Club, London, UK (1960).

How Does Your Garden Grow? and Problem at Sea appeared in Poirot's Early Cases, Collins Crime Club, London, UK (1974).

Miss Marple Tells a Story and In a Glass Darkly appeared in Miss Marple's 6 Final Cases and Two Other Stories, Collins Crime Club, London, UK (1979).

The Regatta Mystery, Problem at Pollensa Bay, and Yellow Iris appeared in Problem at Pollensa Bay and Other Stories, HarperCollins, UK (November 1991).

The Mystery of the Baghdad Chest (original version) appeared in While the Light Lasts and Other Stories, HarperCollins, UK (August 1997).


As one can see from above, five UK books, from 1960 to 1997, are needed to put together the same collection as the original The Regatta Mystery published in the US.


Murder is Easy:

First Appearance: The Saturday Evening Post (USA) in seven parts from 19 November 1938 (Vol 211, No. 21) to 31 December 1938 (Vol 211, No. 27) under the title Easy to Kill.


First UK Appearance: Twenty-three parts in the Daily Express from Tuesday, 10 January, to Friday, 3 February 1939, as Easy to Kill.

First Hardback: Collins, The Crime Club, London (UK), on June 5, 1939. The book was published with orange cloth boards with black lettering. The dust jacket is priced “7s 6d net” on the front flap. Published in the US by Dodd, Mead & Co, NY, in September 1939 under the title of Easy to Kill. First reviewed in The Observer on 4 June 1939. The first US review was in The New York Times Book Review on 24 September 1939.


And Then There Were None:

First Appearance: First published under the title And Then There Were None, this story was first serialized in The Saturday Evening Post (USA) in seven parts from 20 May 1939 (Vol 211, No. 47) to 1 July 1939 (Vol 212, No. 1).


First UK Appearance: Also titled And Then There Were None, serialised in twenty-three parts in the Daily Express from Tuesday, June 6 to Saturday, July 1, 1939. Of note, the first installment included an illustration of Burgh Island which was clearly the inspirational setting.

First Hardback: Collins, The Crime Club, London (UK), 6 November 1939 under the title Ten Little Niggers*. The book was published with orange cloth boards with black lettering. The jacket was priced “7s 6d net” on the front flap. Published in hardback in the US in January 1940 titled And Then There Were None by Dodd, Mead & Co., New York. The first book review was in The Times Literary Supplement (UK) on 11 November 1939. The first US review was in The New York Times Book Review on 25 February 1940.


*: The title of the Collins hardback book was questionable in its day and is certainly inappropriate today. The original title is only used here for historical and academic accuracy.


Sad Cypress:

First Appearance: Collier's Weekly (USA) in ten parts from 25 November 1939 (Vol 104, No. 22) to 27 January 1940 (Vol 105, No. 4).


First UK Appearance: Serialised in nineteen parts in the Daily Express from Saturday, 23 March to Saturday, 13 April 1940.

First Hardback: Collins, The Crime Club, London (UK), March 1940. Published with orange cloth boards with black lettering. The dust jacket is priced “8’ 3 net” on the front flap. In the US, the book was published in September 1940. 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 15 September 1940.


One, Two. Buckle My Shoe:

First Appearance: Collier's Weekly (USA) in nine parts from 3 August 1940 (Vol 106, No. 5) to 28 September 1940 (Vol 106, No. 13) under the title The Patriotic Murders. There is no known UK magazine or newspaper version.

First Hardback: Collins, The Crime Club, London (UK), in November 1940. The dust jacket is priced “7s 6d net” on the front flap. Published in the US in February 1941 under the title of The Patriotic Murders, by Dodd, Mead & Co., New York. Note: In some later printings in the US the title An Overdose of Death was used. First reviewed in The Times Literary Supplement (UK) on 9 November 1940. The first US review was in The New York Times Book Review on 2 March 1941.


Summary:

These seven books are certainly easier to collect than those we reviewed in the first three instalments of this series. However, The Regatta Mystery is surprisingly difficult to find in a collector quality dust jacket but is essential for any complete collection of Christie's works. Otherwise, the UK firsts are harder to locate than the US firsts. These books also represent a turning point for Collins Crime Club in several ways. They are the last of the ‘thick’ printings. In our next installment, Evil Under the Sun becomes the transitory book that changes from thick to thinner during its initial printings, after which N or M? completes the transition to ‘thin’ only. In addition, these books mark a shift in dust jacket art design. The first, Appointment with Death, has the wonderful art work of Robin ‘Mac’ Macartney, after which designs deteriorate into simple illustrations (though that of Sad Cypress was close the design Christie herself created).


For all of these books, whether UK or US editions, very good or better copies with complete jackets are becoming very scarce. Collectors should still seek the best quality copy then can find and avoid 2nd state dustjackets whenever possible. 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) & Collier’s Weekly (US) magazines which have a robust online market. As mentioned at the top of the article, please use our price guide on our website for recent auction results of hardbacks and thus current values.


Happy Hunting!


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