top of page
  • Writer's pictureDavid Morris

COLLECT: Agatha Christie First Editions 1975-2020

Updated: May 11

This is the thirteenth and final instalment in my series on ‘true firsts’ where I review the first time Agatha Christie’s stories were published - both novels and magazine printings are considered. To review all the other articles on first editions from 1920 onwards just select ‘First Editions’ (link) from the menu choice on the home page of my website. There are also articles there about her books published under her other names.


The Late 70s:

By the 1970s, Agatha Christie was in her 80s and both the volume and quality of her writing was changing. 1973 marked the publication of her last novel to be written - Postern of Fate. But she had written Curtain and Sleeping Murder many years earlier, and by 1975 it was clear there would be no more original books written, so she approved the publication of Curtain, which was the last book to be published while she was alive. Sleeping Murder followed swiftly, but after those two books, her publishers on both sides of the Atlantic focused on cobbling together short stories that had not yet appeared in a book. Several of these were unique to either the UK or US markets.  I have not included the 2008 book Hercule Poirot: The Complete Short Stories which is often cited to contain the first UK book printing of the Poirot version of The Regatta Mystery.  It was actually printed by Polybooks in the UK during the 1940s in several book formats.  For more details see this link.


Curtain – 1975.

 While Agatha Christie wrote this novel in the 1940s, publication finally occurred in the summer of 1975, six months prior to Christie’s passing but at a time when it was clear no more original writing would occur.


First Magazine Appearance: Curtain first appeared in Ladies' Home Journal (the US magazine) in two abridged instalments - July (Vol. XCII, No. 7) and August 1975 (Vol. XCII, No. 8).


For the hardback, it is unclear whether the British or American edition is the true first printing.  If anyone has information on the specific date of publication, do let me know.


First British Edition: The book was first published in September 1975 by Collins (UK) under their Crime Club imprint. It's austere black cover arguably appropriate. The first edition will state "Crime Club Choice" inside the handcuff image, while later book club editions will not. Thank you to collector Robin Hedditch for this reminder. While I’ve been unable to identify when the Crime Club book actually became available for sale, the book was available to borrow from various libraries by the first week of October.

 

First US Edition: The novel was first published by Dodd Mead & Co. Advertisements for the novel first appear in US newspapers on the 7th September, 1945 though this may have been for pre-orders. By September 21st, there were numerous ads for this book as available for sale and stating it was priced $7.95.  Thus, I expect its true publication was near the end of September in the US.


Value: Both the UK and US editions are quite ubiquitous, though be patient and only acquire a copy with a complete jacket (not price clipped) and no previous owner's names etc. Expect to pay £30 or $40 for a very good copy with a complete dust jacket.


Sleeping Murder – 1976.

 Similar to Curtain, the actual writing of this novel was likely in the 1940s. Also, as with many of Christie’s stories, this had various titles over its life before settling on Sleeping Murder.  The original titled Murder in Retrospect had to be replaced once Five Little Pigs was serialised under that title in the States.  The follow up title it had for years while waiting to be published was Cover Her Face.  However, prior to the ultimate publication, P.D. James had a book issued with that title. So Sleeping Murder it finally became – a title Christie did select prior to her passing.


I feel compelled to point out that when the serialisation was being promoted in Ladies Home Journal, "Sleeping Murder" appears directly under 'what makes O.J. Simpson so special'.


First Appearance:  As with Curtain, this novel also first appeared in Ladies Home Journal (US). It was published in two instalments – July (Vol. XCIII, No. 7) and August (Vol. XCIII, No. 8) 1976.


First Edition: First published in the US in September 1976 by Dodd Mead & Co. By the 23rd of September, the book was available in bookstores so its publication was close to this date. Priced $7.95, it's cover had a similar design to Curtain, but now in cream.


First UK Edition: It appears that the book was released in the first week of October 1976 as by October 8th, W.H. Smith was reporting it was a new best-seller.  Priced £3.50 it had a purple cover and some very 70s font choices.

 

Values: Both the UK and US editions are quite ubiquitous but seek a collector quality copy. Both are fairly priced in this condition around £30 or $40.

 

Miss Marple’s 6 Final Cases and Two Other Stories – 1979.

With arguably the most convoluted title for any Christie book, this collection contains eight short stories and was only published in the UK.  The first six are Miss Marple stories, while the latter two are not.

 

Sanctuary

Strange Jest

Tape-Measure Murder

The Case of the Caretaker

The Case of the Perfect Maid

Miss Marple Tells a Story

The Dressmaker's Doll

In a Glass Darkly

 

All these short stories were previously published in the US in one of the following Christie collections:  Three Blind Mice & Other Stories, Double Sin and Other Stories or The Regatta Mystery.  A few also appeared prior to those collections in Anthologies. They had not previously appeared in book form in the UK.

 

First Magazine Appearances: These stories all appeared in magazines prior to the book’s publication. Most of them were published in the 1930s and 1940s – many in The Strand magazine. Surprisingly, Sanctuary was originally published under the title Murder at the Vicarage when This Week (US) published it in September 1954. The US publishers were unaware that a novel of the same title had already been published! The short story also returns to the village of Chipping Cleghorn, as featured in A Murder is Announced.


First Edition: First published on 18th October 1979 by Collins (UK) priced £4.50. There was no US edition as all of these short stories had previously been published in the US.


Value: This book is also easy to acquire in collector quality condition and is fairly priced at around £20 or $25.


Problem at Pollensa Bay and Other Stories - 1991.

 This short story collection contains two stories appearing in hardback for the first time in the UK. They are Yellow Iris and The Love Detectives.  All the other stories had previously been included in a Christie collection or an Anthology collection.  Of the stories that feature familiar characters, there are two with Hercule Poirot, two with Parker Pyne, and two with Harley Quin.

 

The stories in this collection are:

 

Problem at Pollensa Bay (Parker Pyne)

The Second Gong (Poirot)

Yellow Iris (Poirot)

The Harlequin Tea Set (Mr. Satterthwaite & Harley Quin)

The Regatta Mystery (Parker Pyne version)

The Love Detectives (Mr. Satterthwaite & Harley Quin)

Next to a Dog

Magnolia Blossom

 

All were previously published in the US in one of the following Christie collections:  Three Blind Mice & Other Stories, The Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories, The Harlequin Tea Seat, The Golden Ball and Other Stories or The Regatta Mystery.  A few also appeared prior to those collections in Anthologies.

 

First Magazine Appearances: All of these stories with one exception first appeared in magazines in the 1920s and 1930s.  Many were in The Strand, but a few were in less common publications. The Harlequin Tea Set does not seem to have been printed in a magazine.


First Edition: Published by HarperCollins in November 1991, priced £13.99. There was no US edition as all the stories had already been published there. However, HarperCollins did distribute the book in Australia, priced $32.95.

 

Value: This book is not as easy to find as a first edition as one would think given how recently it was published. It was reprinted and issued as a book club title, so be conscious of what edition you are buying. It is fairly priced in collector quality condition around £30 or $30.

 

The Harlequin Tea Set – 1997.

 This short story collection was only printed in the US.  Most of these stories would be printed in the UK later in the year in the collection While the Light Lasts and Other Stories. However, the US collection did not include The Mystery of the Baghdad Chest as it had previously been included in The Regatta Mystery and Other Stories (Dodd Mead, 1939). The book also has comments from Christie expert Tony Medawar.

 

The stories in this collection are:

 

The Edge

The Actress

While the Light Lasts

The House of Dreams

The Lonely God

Manx Gold

Within a Wall

The Mystery of the Spanish Chest

The Harlequin Tea Set

 

First Edition: Published on 14th April 1997 by G.P. Putnam and Sons (US). The correct first edition is priced $21.95 on the front flap. 

Value: This book is quite easy to find as a first edition. It is fairly priced in collector quality condition around £20 or $25. Note: book club editions do exist, so be certain you are acquiring a first that has the correct price on the front flap.

 

While the Light Lasts and Other Stories – 1997.

 This collection included eight short stories that were also published in the US collection – The Harlequin Tea Set and Other Stories – but included The Mystery of the Baghdad Chest in lieu of The Mystery of the Spanish Chest as it had previously been included in The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding and Other Stories (Collins, 1960). It also did not include the short The Harlequin Tea Set as it was included in the earlier UK collection The Problem at Pollensa Bay and Other Stories (HarperCollins, 1991).  The book also contains comments from Christie expert Tony Medawar. The short stories are:


The House of Dreams

The Actress

The Edge

Christmas Adventure

The Lonely God

Manx Gold

Within A Wall

The Mystery of the Baghdad Chest

While the Light Lasts

 

Most of these short stories were previously published in the UK in various magazines in the 1920s and 1930s, but were yet to appear in book form. The Mystery of the Baghdad Chest had appeared in a small format 1944 Polybook in the UK as a single story issue (link at the top of the article). In the US, most were published earlier in the year in The Harlequin Tea Set and Other Stories. However, Christmas Adventure was not published in the US until the collection Midwinter Murder was published by HarperCollins in October 2020.

The original cover art was painted by Geoffrey Appleton, who created many covers for HarperCollins in the 1990s and 2000s. The original painting above I'm fortunate to have in my collection. For more details on this artist, click here.


First Edition: First published on 4th October 1997 by HarperCollins (UK). The first edition will have a number line starting with a ‘1’under the published date on the copyright page.


Value: This is a fairly challenging book to find and may take some patience.  There were reprints and there are facsimile copies, so be confident you are acquiring a first edition. Expect to pay £40 or $50 for a collector quality copy.


Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly - 2014.

 This novella ultimately formed the basis for the full length novel Dead Man’s Folly but had not previously been published in its original length.


First Edition: This novel was first published on 31st July 2014 by HarperCollins in the UK.  It is a small format book.  The book was priced £12.99. The dust jacket artwork was created by Tom Adams and, perhaps surprisingly, is the only first edition Agatha Christie book his art ever adorned. Tom Adams also writes an introduction to the book, while other content is provided by Mathew Prichard and John Curran.


Tom Adams’ artwork was also selected for the ‘Books About Town’ summer public art exhibit in London (July – September 2014).  The bench was placed on the Bloomsbury Trail and was unveiled by Mathew Prichard and Tom Adams.  It was removed in September and exhibited at the 2014 International Agatha Christie Festival.  It was sold by auction.

Value: While the book was made available for export, there was only a UK printing. The first edition appears to have been a fairly small print run, so obtaining a true first printing is harder than you would expect.  Reprints had the issue number (i.e. 2, 3, 4, or 5 etc..) printed directly under ‘First Published 2014’ on the copyright page.  Expect to pay £50 or $70 for a collector quality first printing.

 

Midwinter Murder – 2020.

This collection was published in both the UK and US, but with slight variances.  The UK edition contained no first printings for that market.  The short stories included were:

 

Three Blind Mice (US edition only)

The Mystery of the Baghdad Chest (UK edition only).

The Chocolate Box

A Christmas Tragedy

The Coming of Mr Quin

The Clergyman's Daughter/The Red House

The Plymouth Express

Problem at Pollensa Bay

Sanctuary

The Mystery of Hunter's Lodge

The World's End

The Manhood of Edward Robinson

Christmas Adventure

 

First US Printing: William Morrow published the book in the US on the 20th October 2020 (three weeks after the British edition). The story Christmas Adventure had not previously been published in book form in the US. Thus, for completist collectors of US book printings, this paperback will be needed. 

Value: The US edition is easy to find and still sells for retail pricing.  It was only issued as a paperback.


Input Wanted:

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. I have lots more articles I'm working on but if there's something you'd like me to consider do let me know by writing to me at: collectchristie@gmail.com 


Subscribe & the Socials:

If you are not a subscriber to my website, please consider subscribing here: link. This ensures you receive an email any time I write and post an article. Also, consider following me on X (formerly Twitter) @collectchristie and on Facebook (link). The content varies across platforms.


2024 International Agatha Christie Festival:

Also, tickets are still available for my presentation at the 2024 International Agatha Christie Festival, though the remaining slots are starting to dwindle down, so if you do plan on coming please consider acquiring tickets soon. I hope to see you there. For more details or to obtain tickets go to this link: Festival Link.




238 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page