This was the first time that a Christie book had been published in the UK but not in the US although all of the stories contained within it appeared in later US collections (see US book appearances of stories below). Unusually, most of these are tales of fate and the supernatural with comparatively little detective content. This collection is most notable for the first appearance in a book of Christie's famous short story The Witness for the Prosecution. The author subsequently wrote an award-winning play based on this story which has been adapted for film and twice for television.
List of storiesEdit
- The Hound of Death
- The Red Signal
- The Fourth Man
- The Gypsy
- The Lamp
- The Witness for the Prosecution
- The Mystery of the Blue Jar
- The Strange Case of Sir Arthur Carmichael
- The Call of Wings
- The Last Seance
Literary significance and receptionEdit
As this book was not published through the usual channels or available to buy in shops until 1936, there were no reviews of the original publication.
Robert Barnard: "Mostly semi-supernatural stories. In this setting, Witness for the Prosecution stands out as the jewel it is: surely this is the cleverest short story she wrote. Of the others, the best is perhaps The Call of Wings, but that, depressingly, was one of the very first things she wrote (pre-First World War). In this mode she got no better."
References or AllusionsEdit
References to other worksEdit
In The Lamp the lines of poetry that Mr. Winburn quotes are taken from the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám and they provide the story's title:
"What Lamp has Destiny to guide Her little Children stumbling in the Dark?" "A Blind Understanding," Heaven replied.
References to actual history, geography and current scienceEdit
- In The Hound of Death, Ryan equates the story of the destruction of the convent to other miracle stories at the time, specifically the Angel of Mons which supposedly appeared over the battlefields of Belgium in 1914 to aid the British Expeditionary Force.
- In The Gypsy, Dickie Carpenter tells of a recurring dream in which whatever the circumstances, he would feel the presence of the gypsy:
She - the gypsy, you know - would just come into any old dream - even a good dream (or a kid's idea of what's good - party and crackers and things). I'd be enjoying myself no end, and then I'd feel, I'd know, that if I looked up, she'd be there, standing as she always stood, watching me... With sad eyes, you know, as though she understood something I didn't... Can't explain why it rattled me so - but it did! Every time! I used to wake up howling with terror.
This mirrors Christie's own haunting experiences as related in her Autobiography:
My own particular nightmare centred around someone I called "The Gunman". The dream would be quite ordinary - a tea-party, or a walk with various people, usually a mild festivity of some kind. Then suddenly a feeling of uneasiness would come. There was someone - someone who ought not to be there - a horrid feeling of fear: and then I would see him, sitting at the tea-table, walking along the beach, joining in the game. His pale blue eyes would meet mine, and I would wake up shrieking: 'The Gunman! The Gunman!'
- 1933, Odhams Press, October 1933, Hardcover, 252 pp
- 1936, Collins Crime Club (London), February 1936, Hardcover, 252 pp
- 1960, Pan Books, Paperback (Great Pan G377), 218 pp
- 1964, Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 190 pp
- 1968, Ulverscroft Large Print Edition, Hardcover, 218pp, ISBN 0-7089-0187-5
- 2010, HarperCollins; Facsimile edition, Hardcover: 256 pages, ISBN 978-0-00-735465-8
First publication of storiesEdit
The first UK magazine publication of all the stories has not been fully documented. A partial listing is as follows:
- The Red Signal: First published in issue 232 of The Grand Magazine in June 1924.
- The Fourth Man: First published in issue 250 of The Grand Magazine in December 1925.
- Wireless: First published in the Sunday Chronicle Annual in December 1926.
- The Mystery of the Blue Jar: First published in issue 233 of The Grand Magazine in July 1924.
- The Last Seance: First published under the title of The Stolen Ghost in issue 87 of The Sovereign Magazine in March 1927. The illustrator of the story was not named.
- SOS: First published in issue 252 of The Grand Magazine in February 1926.
In addition to the above, in the US The Witness for the Prosecution was published in the January 31, 1925 issue of Flynn's Weekly (Volume IV, No 2) under the title of Traitor Hands with an uncredited illustration and the first true printing of The Last Seance also occurred in the US when it was published in the November 1926 issue of Ghost Stories under the title of The Woman Who Stole a Ghost.
No magazine printings of the remaining stories prior to 1933 have yet been traced.
Publication of book collectionEdit
The book was not available to buy in the shops but through coupons collected from The Passing Show, a weekly magazine published by Odhams. The coupons appeared in issues 81 to 83 published from October 7 to October 21, 1933 as part of a promotional relaunch of the magazine. In exchange for the coupons and seven shillings (7/-), customers could receive six books. The other five books to choose from were Jungle Girl by Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Sun Will Shine by May Edginton, The Veil'd Delight by Marjorie Bowen, The Venner Crime by John Rhode and Q33 by George Goodchild. The promotion appears to have been successful insofar as The Hound of Death is by far the easiest pre-war UK Christie book to obtain as a first edition in its dustwrapper. An edition for sale in the shops appeared in February 1936 published by the Collins Crime Club.
In common with most collections of Christie's short stories, this book carried no dedication.
The blurb on the inside flap of the dustjacket of the first edition (which is also repeated opposite the title page) reads:
"Stories by a world-famous detective-story writer – but not detective stories this time. Mrs. Agatha Christie has written a collection of hair-raising tales of mystery and the supernatural. Excitement, horror, pathos, and humour stalk hand in hand through the pages of the book. Mrs. Christie’s tales range from psychic nuns to demimondaines, from Chinese jars to haunted wireless sets; and each one is a perfect example of its kind, with just that satisfying extra twist that only a really fine novelist knows how to introduce into a story already full of surprises."
US book appearances of storiesEdit
The stories contained in The Hound of Death appeared in the following US collections:
- The Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories (1948) - The Fourth Man, The Mystery of the Blue Jar, The Red Signal, S O S, Wireless (under the revised title of Where There's a Will) and The Witness for the Prosecution.
- Double Sin and Other Stories (1961) - The Last Seance.
- The Golden Ball and Other Stories (1971) - The Hound of Death, The Gypsy, The Lamp, The Strange Case of Sir Arthur Carmichael (under the slightly revised title of The Strange Case of Sir Andrew Carmichael) and The Call of Wings
- German: Der Hund des Todes (The Hound of Death)
Der Hund des Todes (The Hound of Death)
Das rote Signal (The Red Signal)
Der vierte Mann (The Fourth Man)
Die Zigeunerin (The Gypsy)
Die Lampe (The Lamp)
Am falschen Draht (On the Wrong Wire)
Zeugin der Anklage (Witness for the Prosecution)
Das Geheimnis des blauen Kruges (The Mystery of the Blue Jar)
Der seltsame Fall des Sir Arthur Carmichael (The Strange Case of Sir Arthur Carmichael)
Rolltreppe ins Grab (The Moving Staircase into the Grave
Die letzte Sitzung (The Last Seance)