Just the facts: Detective Fiction, The Collector’s Guide

This is a continuation of my occasional series on books about crime fiction. Last time I covered Murder in Print by Melvyn Barnes.

This time I’m looking at Detective Fiction The Collector’s Guide, a book which dates to a period of my life when I fancied myself as a collector of valuable first editions and rare copies of crime classics.

Aside from adding the occasional book to my shelf of rather too many editions of Margery Allingham’s The Tiger in the Smoke, I’ve pretty much abandoned that ambition in the face of restricted storage space and spending money.

It presents short biographies and longer bibliographies of 157 crime novelists. There’s no denying it’s a nerdy book:

All Dexter’s books were first published in London by Macmillan and are dated. Colours of cloth and spine lettering vary from title to title. In the first edition of The Wench is Dead, the date on the headstone on page 38 is incorrect. In the second edition it was changed from ‘June 14 1859’ to ‘June 21 1859’…

But there is always a certain charm in listening to experts, and the authors come across as self-assured and endlessly fascinated by their subject. They, like me, love a good pictorial cover and are quick to censure publishers who opted for covers of ‘the modern photographic type’. There’s a beautiful 12-page colour section in the middle of the book showing off dozens of dust jackets.

There are a couple of noticeable exceptions to the comprehensive coverage, which puzzled me until I realised how many pages they would occupy: Edgar Wallace (175 novels) and John Creasey (600 novels under 28 pseudonyms).

If you enjoy books about crime fiction, you should also look at my post about Books to Die For on Eurocrime.

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Past Offences by Rich Westwood is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

About pastoffences

Past Offences exists to review classic crime and mystery books, with ‘classic’ meaning books originally published before 1987.
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5 Responses to Just the facts: Detective Fiction, The Collector’s Guide

  1. Sarah says:

    I’ve never heard of this book Rich. With the exception of the green penguins which I collect I tend to go with reading copies rather than anything collectible. Mind you, I’ve accidentally picked up a few things over the years as it is mazing what you can find.


    • westwoodrich says:

      With more shelf space I’d definitely get into serious collecting, but like you at the moment I usually buy reading copies. I love a green Penguin and have several dozen, but somebody told me they are going to rot away very quickly due to the paper used, which is very sad. Didn’t stop me buying a couple more last week though.


      • Sarah says:

        The green penguins that were published during WW2 are very fragile as the paper was of poor quality. I have a few of these and I always think you are reading history as the physical component of the books also tell a story. I don’t think they are going to rot away for what it’s worth. I have lots of green paperbacks that I have read OK and put back in my shelves.


  2. Margot Kinberg says:

    Rich – Oh, this one does look interesting! I don’t have the time, the means or the space for truly serious collecting but I’m glad that some people do. Some things should be kept. Books are in that category.


  3. Pingback: Charles Williams: Many Dimensions | Past Offences

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