S otheby’s is delighted to present a significant sale of detective fiction including The Alexis Galanos Collection. The auction will include works from the pens of Chandler, Christie, Fleming, Doyle, Hammett and more. The sale features a range of first editions from the golden age of the genre and many of the books feature attractive and rare dust-jackets.
The Collection of Alexis Galanos
An exclusive offering from the private library of crime and detective fiction built and curated over the past 50 years by Alexis Galanos (1940-2019), the noted collector. There is a particular emphasis on Golden age mysteries. Alexis was a prominent Greek Cypriot politician, who held various leading public service roles in Cyprus during a long and distinguished career, including terms as President of the House of Representatives and Mayor (in exile) of Famagusta. He was educated in the UK at King’s College, Cambridge and the Inner Temple.
The Golden Age of Detective Fiction predominantly refers to the two-decade period of the 1920s and 1930s. The interwar period saw a meteoric rise in “Whodunit" murder mysteries and the enduring legacy of some of modern literature’s favourite writers is still felt today. This sale features all of the greatest names from the period and serves as an outstanding timeline for the golden age.
Agatha Christie | The Mysterious Affair at Styles, 1921
Christie’s first published novel, and the debut of Detective Hercule Poirot, one of the most enduring and famous characters of the genre even today. The Times Literary Supplement originally reviewed it noting: "The only fault this story has is that it is almost too ingenious." The book launched Christie’s writing career and many of the features established would become icons and standards of the genre.
A.A. Milne | The Red House Mystery, 1922
The beloved author of Winnie-the-Pooh contributed this detective novel to the genre. An early “locked room” whodunit, the entire book takes place in an English country house (this would soon become a familiar context for murder mysteries) Written for his father, to whom it is dedicated, the blurb notes "In this work Mr. Milne has solved a difficult problem: how to tell a detective story in a humorous way without sacrificing any of its excitement".
Freeman Wills Crofts | Inspector French's Greatest Case, 1924
Freeman Wills Crofts was an Irish novelist who began to write in the genre from 1919. He is however, best remembered for his well-loved Inspector French, introduced in this book. Crofts was an engineer by training and many of his novels reflected this, in his unravelling of mysteries and even railway timetable alibis. Crofts produced a new book every year for at least thirty years.
Baroness Orczy | Unravelled Knots, 1925
Baroness Emma Orczy was a Hungarian-born British novelist and playwright. She is perhaps most well-known for the Scarlet Pimpernel which established the now familiar ‘hero with a secret identity’ trope. She was also a founding member of the Detection Club established in 1930.
A.B. Cox | Jugged Journalism, 1925 [together with:] Mr Priestley's Problem, 1927
Cox was also a founding member of the Detection Club and wrote under several pen-names, including Anthony Berkeley, Francis Iles, and A. Monmouth Platts. Jugged Journalism includes a 'lesson' on literary style in which the author writes a Sherlock Holmes story in the style of P.G. Wodehouse.
Dorothy L. Sayers | The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, 1928
Sayers is best known for her novels and short stories which feature Lord Peter Wimsey, an English aristocrat and amateur sleuth, of which this is the fourth book. The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club explores the trauma felt by veterans of the first world war. Beyond the genre she is best known for her translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Dashiell Hammett | Red Harvest, 1929
first edition of the author's first book
On the other side of the Atlantic, American novelists were contributing to the Golden Age with their ‘hard-boiled’ version of detective fiction. The New York Times described Hammett as the Dean of this school. Red Harvest is narrated by the Continental Op, who would go on to feature in subsequent novels by the author. The name of the character is never given.
Henry Wade | The Dying Alderman, 1930
Henry Wade was the pen name for Major Sir Henry Lancelot Aubrey-Fletcher, 6th Baronet. He fought in both world wars and was also a founding member of the detection club. His best known character is Inspector Poole and wrote prolifically during the two decades.
Cecil Waye | The Figure of Eight, 1931
Cecil Waye was a pseudonym for Major Street (1884-1965) who also wrote as John Rhode and also Miles Burton. The Figure of Eight was his second novel published as Waye and is announced by the dust-jacket blurb as "a thriller if ever there was one".
Graham Greene | Stamboul Train, 1932
Stamboul Train, is a thriller set entirely on a three-day luxury train journey. The book was Greene’s first commercial success and renamed The Orient Express when it was published in the United States. This second issue saw references to "Q.C. Savory" changed to "Quin Savory" after the threat of a libel action from J.B. Priestley.
Leslie Charteris | The Brighter Buccaneer, 1933
Charteris was a British-Chinese author who wrote his first novel while in his first year of Cambridge and subsequently dropped out once the book was successful. He continued to write successfully in the genre as well as taking jobs prospecting for gold, diving for pearls, touring Britain with a carnival, working on a rubber plantation and driving a bus. His most beloved character is Simon Templar, also known as The Saint.
Agatha Christie | Murder on the Orient Express, 1934
One of the author’s most loved and most adapted novels. The review in the New York Times for the novel read as follows: "The great Belgian detective's guesses are more than shrewd; they are positively miraculous. Although both the murder plot and the solution verge upon the impossible, Agatha Christie has contrived to make them appear quite convincing for the time being, and what more than that can a mystery addict desire?"
Rex Stout | The League of Frightened Men, 1935
An American writer, Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe series is, in the opinion of Guy M. Townsend, "the most outstanding achievement in the mystery field in the post-Holmes era" (see Twentieth-Century Crime and Mystery Writers (London, 1980)).
Michael Innes | Death at the President's Lodging, 1936
first edition of the author's first novel
The first detective novel by Scottish novelist, John Innes Mackintosh Stewart, published under the pseudonym Michael Innes was the first to feature Inspector Appleby, who reappeared in numerous subsequent novels. Stewart would go on to publish nearly 50 crime novels under the name.
Cyril Hare | Tenant for Death, 1937
As noted by Charles Shibuk in Twentieth-Century Crime and Mystery Writers (London, 1980), "Hare's reputation as a mystery writer lapsed into obscurity for a decade after his death in 1958, but recent revaluation has established him as a master with at least four major novels and a notable collection of short stories to his credit. Tenant for Death introduced Inspector Mallett, a Scotland Yard detective who is tall and stout, and not unlike Freeman Wills Croft's Inspector Joseph French. This novel and its successor, Death Is No Sportsman, are good, solid detective stories..."
Clayton Rawson | Death from a Top Hat, 1938
An American writer, Rawson, this was the author’s first novel. He was an amatuer magician and many of his novels feature his knowledge of the subject. Death from a Top Hat is a locked-room mystery novel which introduces the character of The Great Merlini. The book was filmed in 1939 as Miracles for Sale.
Raymond Chandler | The Big Sleep, 1939
first edition of the author's first book
The Big Sleep sees the introduction of Philip Marlowe to Detective Fiction and is a Haycraft-Queen Cornerstone. The first film version, starring Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart, was released in 1946.
You Only Live Twice is one of Fleming’s best-loved novels, combining an evocatively described Japanese setting with a gripping story culminating in Bond’s final battle with Blofeld at his Castle of Death. Dr No, the first Bond film, had been released shortly before Fleming began work on the novel, bringing a new level of success to the series and developing Fleming’s own conception of his hero – the novel contains the famous (and, naturally, premature) obituary for Bond, who is given a Scottish ancestry as an acknowledgement, no doubt, of Sean Connery’s confident performance.
A pair of key highlights in our Detective Fiction sale provide a unique insight into Fleming’s creative process as he worked on Bond’s Japanese adventure. We have the corrected typescript (lot 112, £80,000/120,000) replete with revisions and corrections in Fleming’s own hand as the text was finalised for the publisher, showing his careful attention to detail as he continued to tighten his prose and add descriptive detail.
We also have an early proof copy of the book (lot 113, £40,000/60,000) with authorial corrections that was then sent to Playboy magazine for their publication of the novel in serial form, revealing both Fleming’s final corrections (made after the typescript had been returned to the publisher) and also how the novel was edited and cut for its appearance in the magazine. The vast majority of Fleming’s working manuscripts are held by institutions so these fascinating items are exceptional opportunities for the discerning collector.
Throughout the Golden Age of crime fiction some of the most successful memorable writers were women. The four with the longest lasting legacies were dubbed ‘The Queens of Crime’. Together they are responsible for some of the greatest titles of the genre.
Dame Agatha Christie holds the title for the best-selling fiction writer of all time, the most translated individual author of all time, and her novels have sold more than two billion copies world wide.