The Tuesday Night Bloggers: Book scouting John Dickson Carr (Part 2 of 2)

12784234_10206990403411371_1309856526_nA group of related bloggers who work in the general area of Golden Age Mysteries has decided to collaborate and publish a blog post every Tuesday as the Tuesday Night Bloggers. We began in the spirit of celebrating Agatha Christie’s 125th birthday anniversary. We’re now going to continue looking at a different Golden Age mystery writer each month; Tuesdays in March will be devoted to John Dickson Carr.

Book scouting John Dickson Carr (Part 2 of 2)

Part 2 is covers under JDC’s main pseudonym, Carter Dickson. Part 1, with illustrations of paperbacks as by John Dickson Carr, can be found here.

Pocket Books had a close association with both JDC and Carter Dickson in his earlier years and I think they did a particularly good job on his Carter Dickson titles. Pocket’s surrealism period is represented here with a few beautiful entries, and Pocket also provides my all-time favourite Dickson or Carr cover, The Red Widow Murders, with the corpse clutching the Ace of Spades against a background the colour of dried blood (Pocket #86). There are some good Dell mapback covers — Dell #108, Death in Five Boxes and Dell #65, Scotland Yard: Department of Queer Complaints are examples of the lush airbrushed abstract style pioneered by artist Gerald Gregg, and the spectacular “cobra” cover for He Wouldn’t Kill Patience. The Pan/Great Pan editions of Dickson from the UK are both lovely and very collectible. Just in case your heart stopped for a moment at the sight of a Dickson title you’d never seen, Cross of Murder is the UK retitling of Seeing is Believing. Sorry.

One thing to keep your eyes open for when you’re out scouting; some of the Bantam editions of John Dickson Carr titles were abridged, an ugly and reprehensible practice. The paperbacks themselves are still collectible as being in the first thousand or so Bantam titles, but you’ll find that students of detective fiction will be more anxious to have an unabridged version. Real collectors, of course, want all the editions, thank goodness!

8849365236_52126b715e_bThe best scouting tip I can give you is to keep your eyes open for copies of Avon #nn7 (un-numbered, but their seventh title), The Plague Court Murders. This one is interesting for a number of reasons. I have a copy of this surprinted with an indication that it sold for 29 cents in Canada, which I think definitely makes it the first Canadian edition and an interesting little bit of socioeconomic history. The Dickson aficionado will be amused to see that the cover tells you that the star of the book is Chief Inspector Masters (!) instead of Sir Henry Merrivale. And finally, you can distinguish the valuable first printing from the relatively less prized later editions by checking the endpapers.  Avon unnumbered firsts have “globe” endpapers (see above); later editions do not. Your discovery of a copy of this book will be sweet, but knowing the difference between editions will make your experience sweeter. How much sweeter? As of today, a later edition on ABE goes for US$15 and the first — cited with globe endpapers — is US$43 for a Good copy and US$65 for a Very Good copy from a very good bookseller.

8 thoughts on “The Tuesday Night Bloggers: Book scouting John Dickson Carr (Part 2 of 2)

  1. Bev Hankins says:

    I have five of these, Noah! [Pocket: Nine & Death Makes Ten; Dell: And So to Murder; Avon: Plague Court; Dell: The Unicorn Murders; and Dell: The Skeleton in the Clock. Of the ones I own, I think Skeleton is my favorite.

    That WDL copy of A Graveyard to Let is very Gothic Mystery-ish with the damsel in distress in the graveyard.

  2. […] 2 will be titles under JDC’s major pseudonym, Carter Dickson, and I’ll insert a link here when I do the […]

  3. Noah Stewart says:

    The esteemed Douglas Greene pointed out that I’ve got The Nine Wrong Answers sorted into the wrong group; it was that to which I was referring when I was talking about abridged titles. I’ve made a correction in the text and thanks to Dr. Greene — who, as I’ve noted elsewhere, literally wrote the book on JDC — for catching it!

  4. […] Noah Stewart, Noah’s Archives: Book scouting John Dickson Carr (Part 2 of 2) […]

  5. Noah Stewart says:

    Just a note: I’ve scooped the image of the globe endpapers you see above from the Flickr feed of Avon expert (and general paperback expert) Steve Wallace. The original image is here:
    Avon Books - Globe Endpapers
    and you’ll find his images of early Avon paperbacks as fascinating as I did, I hope!

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