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Grolier Club Exhibitions

The War Years, 1941–1945

Although many detective fiction historians state that very little detective fiction was published during World War II, it was not difficult to find examples of both American and British novels from this period in my collection, including new writers like Thomas B. Dewey and experienced pros like Agatha Christie.

Agatha Christie. The Moving Finger. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1942. 

The first American edition of the prolific author’s thirty-sixth novel. Poison pen letters begin circulating in a small English village.

Gypsy Rose Lee [likely ghostwritten by Craig Rice]. Mother Finds a Body. New York: Simon and Schuster (An Inner Sanctum Mystery), 1942. 

Best known for her work in burlesque, Gypsy Rose Lee put her name to two Inner Sanctum mysteries. Mother Finds a Body features her as the narrator and contains the line, “I’m going. I find the company very uncongenital.” This copy is inscribed by Lee.

Thomas B. Dewey. Hue and Cry. New York: Jefferson House, 1944. 

This is the author’s rare first book. His writing career would span almost forty years.

Agatha Christie. Sparkling Cyanide. London: Collins for The Crime Club, 1945. 

Sparkling Cyanide is an expansion of a Hercule Poirot short story featuring Colonel Johnny Race, who partnered with Poirot in two of Christie’s best-known novels, Cards on the Table (1936) and Death on the Nile (1937). With a striking dust jacket designed by Stead.

August Derleth. “In Re: Sherlock Holmes,” The Adventures of Solar Pons. Sauk City, WI: Mycroft and Moran, 1945. 

Written by a very young August Derleth in the late 1920s, this is the first published collection of his tales of Solar Pons, a Sherlock Holmes–type detective, set in postwar England. Arkham House editor Peter Ruber wrote, “Derleth produced more than a few Solar Pons stories almost as good as Sir Arthur’s, and many that had better plot construction.” This copy is inscribed by the author.

William L. Stuart. The Dead Lie Still. New York and Toronto: A Murray Hill Mystery by Farrar & Rinehart, Inc., 1945. 

Stuart’s first novel (and the first book published in Farrar & Rinehart’s Murray Hill Mystery series) features Sam Talbot, an ex-Navy intelligence officer working as a commercial artist. The novel is hard-boiled and violent, and it presages the paranoia of the coming Cold War era.