THE APPEAL OF A GOOD MYSTERY
We all like to curl up with a good mystery novel every now and then. From
old-fashioned whodunits to hi-tech spy novels, it's a rich genre.
And it's also a rich field for collectors. You can choose a favorite
author, a favorite time period, or even favorites that have been made into
Some of you mystery enthusiasts may have been glued to your computers last
week, as sothebys.amazon.com held a special sale of detective and mystery
novels. More than 500 volumes were on the block, everything from classics
such as Arthur Conan Doyle's The
Hound of the Baskervilles to
modern thrillers such as John Grisham's The Firm.
People collect what they love — it's really that simple — and a
lot of people love mysteries. The storylines are highly accessible
and tend to have a universal appeal.
But that doesn't mean all mysteries are equally collectible. For some,
newness is the big attraction. There are hot new authors every year,
and copies of their books get run up into the hundreds of dollars. But many of these hot writers turn out to be passing
When everything is said and done, the most sought-after
novelists are those whose work has endured, writers like Agatha
Hammett, and John MacDonald.
The Maltese Falcon: classic mystery, classic film — expensive book.
Does that mean if the novel isn't considered a classic, it's not valued by collectors?
Throw mainstream literary standards out the window. As a distinct genre, mysteries tend to be judged on their own terms,
and it's doubtful whether literary critics have much influence. Mystery fans have their own standards.
And the thrill for some collectors is discovering an author who isn't
well-known. There are some truly great mystery writers, like Charles
Williams, who are collected by connoisseurs of
American hard-boiled fiction, but pretty much ignored by the critical establishment.
Well, there was no mystery in the results of last week's online sale. The
big seller was a signed first edition of The
Hound of the Baskervilles.
It fetched $5,250 (not including a 10 percent buyer's premium) — more than double its reserve.
Another popular item was a first edition of James M. Cain's
Pierce. After half a dozen bids, it finally sold for $350. Perhaps
some of those bidders were remembering the 1945 film starring Joan
Crawford. The movie was nominated for six Academy Awards and Ms. Crawford won an Oscar for best actress.
This first edition sold for $5,250.
Can a successful movie based on a book make that book more collectible? Immensely!
Many of the great mystery novels have been made into films. Often, that
means two groups of book collectors — those who collect mysteries and
those who collect first editions of books made into movies — are
competing for the same novel. The competition adds to a book's
collectibility and its value. Think of the
Maltese Falcon: classic mystery, classic
movie. Very expensive book.
Tracking down a copy might make a nice little mystery of its own.
How to Find, Buy, and Sell Used and Rare Books
by Ian Ellis
Use this pre-made search on Mystery Novels
Dashiell Hammett: Complete Novels: Red Harvest / The Dain Curse / The Maltese Falcon / The Glass Key / The Thin Man
by Dashiell Hammett
An Agatha Christie Encyclopedia
by Matthew Bunson
The Complete Short Stories
by Agatha Christie