The Imaginary Bookshop 1934

Walking Library 1930s

For my 200th post, we’ll be traveling all the way back to 1934. Despite (or perhaps because of) the Depression, this was a banner year for mystery fiction that would see the publication of many future classics, most notably Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers, The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain, The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett, and Fer-de-Lance, the debut of Rex Stout’s iconic detective Nero Wolfe.

Orient Express is only one of three novels Christie published in 1934—one of which, Three Act Tragedy, actually appeared in the United States prior to its UK publication in 1935. (The UK got its revenge this same year, as Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? made its debut there well before American readers got their hands on it.) Since the covers below are American editions, representing what a reader like me might be able to find in their local bookstore that year, it becomes especially obvious how many titles were changed for the US market during this time.

The year’s other prolific authors include John Dickson Carr/Carter Dickson, who produced three books under two different names; Erle Stanley Gardner’s three Perry Mason novels; and grand champion John Rhode/Miles Burton with four. Not all of these titles are pictured below due to their repetitive cover designs, but they would certainly have tempted any discerning book buyer of 1934.

  • Death of a Ghost by Margery Allingham
  • Out Went the Taper by R. C. Ashby

Death of a Ghost by Margery AllinghamOut Went the Taper by R C Ashby

  • Mr. Pidgeon’s Island by Anthony Berkeley
  • Plan XVI by Douglas G. Browne

Mr Pidgeon's Island by Anthony BerkeleyPlan XVI By Douglas G Browne

  • The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
  • The Eight of Swords by John Dickson Carr

The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M CainThe Eight of Swords by John Dickson Carr

  • Mr. Parker Pyne, Detective (aka Parker Pyne Investigates) by Agatha Christie
  • Murder in the Calais Coach (aka Murder on the Orient Express) by Agatha Christie

Mr Parker Pyne Detective by Agatha ChristieMurder in the Calais Coach by Agatha Christie

  • Murder in Three Acts (aka Three-Act Tragedy) by Agatha Christie
  • Death in the Quarry by G. D. H. and Margaret Cole

Murder in Three Acts by Agatha ChristieDeath in the Quarry by G D H and Margaret Cole

  • End of an Ancient Mariner by G. D. H. and Margaret Cole
  • The Brandon Case (aka The Ha-Ha Case) by J. J. Connington

End of an Ancient Mariner by G D H and Margaret ColeThe Brandon Case (The Ha-Ha Case) by J J Connington

  • Wilful and Premeditated (aka The 12.30 from Croydon) by Freeman Wills Crofts
  • The Plague Court Murders by Carter Dickson

Wilful and Premeditated by Freeman Wills CroftsThe Plague Court Murders by Carter Dickson

  • The White Priory Murders by Carter Dickson
  • The Cat Screams by Todd Downing

The White Priory Murders by Carter DicksonThe Cat Screams by Todd Downing

  • The Cases of Susan Dare by Mignon G. Eberhart
  • Sinister Inn by J. Jefferson Farjeon

The Cases of Susan Dare by Mignon G EberhartSinister Inn by J Jefferson Farjeon

  • For the Defense: Dr. Thorndyke by R. Austin Freeman
  • Mr. Pinkerton Goes to Scotland Yard by David Frome

For the Defense Dr Thorndyke by R Austin FreemanMr Pinkerton Goes to Scotland Yard by David Frome

  • The Case of the Lucky Legs by Erle Stanley Gardner
  • The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

The Case of the Lucky Legs by Erle Stanley GardnerThe Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

  • The Hand of the Chimpanzee by Robert Hare
  • The Murder of My Aunt by Richard Hull

The Hand of the Chimpanzee by Robert HareThe Murder of My Aunt by Richard Hull

  • The Lesser Antilles Case by Rufus King
  • Settled Out of Court by Ronald Knox

The Lesser Antilles Case by Rufus KingSettled Out of Court by Ronald Knox

  • Still Dead by Ronald Knox
  • The Manuscript Murder by George Limnelius

Still Dead by Ronald KnoxThe Manuscript Murder by George Limnelius

  • The Greenwell Mystery by E. C. R. Lorac
  • The Chianti Flask by Marie Belloc Lowndes

The Greenwell Mystery by E C R LoracThe Chianti Flask by Marie Belloc Lowndes

  • The Clue of the Dead Goldfish by Victor MacClure
  • Give Me Death by Isabel Briggs Myers

The Clue of the Dead Goldfish by Victor MacClureGive Me Death by Isabel Briggs Myers

  • The Puzzle of the Silver Persian by Stuart Palmer
  • The Divorce Court Murder by Milton Propper

The Puzzle of the Silver Persian by Stuart PalmerThe Divorce Court Murder by Milton Propper

  • The Adventures of Ellery Queen by Ellery Queen
  • The Chinese Orange Mystery by Ellery Queen

The Adventures of Ellery Queen by Ellery QueenThe Chinese Orange Mystery by Ellery Queen

  • Poison for One by John Rhode
  • The Robthorne Mystery by John Rhode

Poison for One by John RhodeThe Robthorne Mystery by John Rhode

  • The State vs. Elinor Norton by Mary Roberts Rinehart
  • The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers

The State vs Elinor Norton by Mary Roberts RinehartThe Nine Tailors by Dorothy L Sayers

  • Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout
  • For the Hangman by John Stephen Strange

Fer-de-Lance by Rex StoutFor the Hangman by John Stephen Strange

  • The Talking Sparrow Murders by Darwin L. Teilhet
  • Richardson’s Second Case by Basil Thomson

The Talking Sparrow Murders by Darwin L TeilhetRichardson's Second Case by Basil Thomson

  • Criss-Cross by Don Tracy
  • The Casino Murder Case by S. S. Van Dine

Criss-Cross by Don TracyThe Casino Murder Case by S S Van Dine

  • The Visiting Villain by Carolyn Wells
  • Fear by Night by Patricia Wentworth

The Visiting Villain by Carolyn WellsFear by Night by Patricia Wentworth

  • The Case of the Gold Coins by Anthony Wynne
  • Death of a Banker by Anthony Wynne

The Case of the Gold Coins by Anthony WynneDeath of a Banker by Anthony Wynne

There were also quite a few notable titles that, as far as I can tell, were UK-only releases that year—including a number of future British Library Crime Classics.

  • The Case of the 100% Alibis by Christopher Bush
  • Insoluble by Francis Everton

The Case of the One Hundred Percent Alibis by Christopher BushInsoluble by Francis Everton

  • Death at Broadcasting House by Val Gielgud and Holt Marvell
  • The Unfinished Clue by Georgette Heyer

Death at Broadcasting House by Val Gielgud and Holt MarvellThe Unfinished Clue by Georgette Heyer

  • Murder at the Bookstall by Henry Holt
  • Obelists En Route by C. Daly King

Murder at the Bookstall by Henry HoltObelists En Route by C Daly King

  • A Man Lay Dead by Ngaio Marsh
  • Henbane by Catherine Meadows

A Man Lay Dead by Ngaio MarshHenbane by Catherine Meadows (UK)

  • Quick Curtain by Alan Melville
  • Scarweather by Anthony Rolls

Quick Curtain by Alan MelvilleScarweather by Anthony Rolls

  • Death of an Airman by Christopher St. John Sprigg
  • Constable Guard Thyself by Henry Wade

Death of an Airman by Christopher St John SpriggConstable Guard Thyself by Henry Wade

It’s honestly mind-boggling how many great books were published in this single year. With summer, and therefore the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge, just around the corner, my plan is to immerse myself in 1934 reading. The only question is which twenty to choose…

The Imaginary Bookshop, 1946

Bookstore The Big Sleep

For my 100th post, I thought I’d do something a little different: time travel. What could be more fun than to roam the bookstores of the past, snapping up all those vintage first editions that are now so difficult to obtain?

Since 1946 is the average publication date of books reviewed on this blog so far , let’s do a little fantasy window-shopping at a totally imaginary, very well-stocked bookstore in the United States during that year. The price of a new hardcover book was $2.50 to $2.95, which sounds great until you realize that minimum wage was $0.40 an hour.

  • The Unsuspected by Charlotte Armstrong
  • The Deadly Percheron by John Franklin Bardin

Book cover of The Unsuspected by Charlotte ArmstrongThe Deadly Percheron by John Franklin Bardin

  • The Last Twist of the Knife by Margerie Bonner
  • The Case of the Seven Sneezes by Anthony Boucher

The Last Twist of the Knife by Margerie BonnerThe Case of the Seven Sneezes by Anthony Boucher

  • The Crooked Wreath (aka Suddenly at His Residence) by Christianna Brand
  • Kiss the Blood Off My Hands by Gerald Butler

The Crooked Wreath by Christianna BrandKiss the Blood Off My Hands by Gerald Butler

  • He Who Whispers by John Dickson Carr
  • Stranger than Truth by Vera Caspary

He Who Whispers by John Dickson CarrStranger than Truth by Vera Caspary

  • Spanish Blood by Raymond Chandler
  • Red Wind by Raymond Chandler

Spanish Blood by Raymond ChandlerRed Wind by Raymond Chandler

  • The Hollow by Agatha Christie
  • The Shocking Pink Hat by Frances Crane

The Hollow by Agatha ChristieThe Shocking Pink Hat by Frances Crane

The Moving Toyshop by Edmund CrispinAs Good as Dead by Thomas B Dewey

  • My Late Wives by Carter Dickson
  • Five Passengers from Lisbon by Mignon G. Eberhart

My Late Wives by Carter DicksonFive Passengers from Lisbon by Mignon G Eberhart

  • The White Dress by Mignon G. Eberhart
  • The Horizontal Man by Helen Eustis

The White Dress by Mignon G EberhartThe Horizontal Man by Helen Eustis

  • Halo in Blood by John Evans
  • Crows Can’t Count by A. A. Fair

Halo in Blood by John EvansCrows Can't Count by A. A. Fair

  • The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing
  • The Pigskin Bag by Bruno Fischer

The Big Clock by Kenneth FearingThe Pigskin Bag by Bruno Fischer

  • Winter Kill by Steve Fisher
  • Death and the Pleasant Voices by Mary Fitt

Winter Kill by Steve FisherDeath and the Pleasant Voices by Mary Fitt

  • The Case of the Backward Mule by Erle Stanley Gardner
  • The Case of the Borrowed Brunette by Erle Stanley Gardner

The Case of the Backward Mule by Erle Stanley GardnerThe Case of the Borrowed Brunette by Erle Stanley Gardner

  • The DA Breaks a Seal by Erle Stanley Gardner
  • Dark Passage by David Goodis

The DA Breaks a Seal by Erle Stanley GardnerDark Passage by David Goodis

  • Nightmare Alley by William Lindsay Gresham
  • The Innocent Mrs. Duff by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding

Nightmare Alley by William LIndsay GreshamThe Innocent Mrs. Duff by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding

  • Build My Gallows High by Geoffrey Homes
  • The Double Take by Roy Huggins

Build My Gallows HIgh by Geoffrey HomesThe Double Take by Roy Huggins

  • Ride the Pink Horse by Dorothy B. Hughes
  • The Dancing Detective by William Irish

Ride the Pink Horse by Dorothy B HughesThe Dancing Detective by Cornell Woolrich

  • Blood Is a Beggar by Thomas Kyd
  • Pick Your Victim by Pat McGerr

Blood Is a Beggar by Thomas KydPIck Your Victim by Pat McGerr

  • Trouble Follows Me by Kenneth Millar
  • Deadly Weapon by Wade Miller

Trouble Follows Me by Ross MacdonaldDeadly Weapon by Wade Miller

  • Cats Don’t Need Coffins by D. B. Olsen
  • To the Queen’s Taste edited by Ellery Queen

Cats Don't Need Coffins by D B OlsenTo the Queen's Taste by Ellery Queen

  • Puzzle for Fiends by Patrick Quentin
  • The Silver Leopard by Helen Reilly

Puzzle for Fiends by Patrick QuentinThe Silver Leopard by Helen Reilly

  • Death in Harley Street by John Rhode
  • Secret of the Lake House (aka The Lake House) by John Rhode

Death in Harley Street by John RhodeSecret of the Lake House by John Rhode

  • Beware the Hoot Owl by Nancy Rutledge
  • Stranger at Home by George Sanders

Beware the Hoot Owl by Nancy RutledgeStranger at Home by George Sanders

  • Death’s Old Sweet Song by Jonathan Stagge
  • The Silent Speaker by Rex Stout

Death's Old Sweet Song by Jonathan StaggeThe Silent Speaker by Rex Stout

  • Pilgrim’s Rest by Patricia Wentworth
  • Make with the Brains, Pierre by Dana Wilson

Pilgrim's Rest by Patricia WentworthMake with the Brains, Pierre by Dana Wilson

Of course, there are some 1946 titles published in the UK that did not make their way across the pond in a timely fashion (or at all). No worries, the imaginary bookshop would no doubt welcome special orders.

  • Words Have Wings by Norman Berrow
  • The Cat Jumps by Miles Burton

Words Have Wings by Norman BerrowThe Cat Jumps by Miles Burton

  • Situation Vacant by Miles Burton
  • The Cockroach Sings by Alice Campbell (okay, this one actually did get a US edition that year, as With Bated Breath. But how can you resist the original title?)

Situation Vacant by Miles BurtonThe Cockroach Sings by Alice Campbell

The Striped Suitcase by Carol CarnacDeath of a Train by Freeman Wills Crofts

  • The Oval Table by J. Jefferson Farjeon
  • Peril in the Pyrenees by J. Jefferson Farjeon

The Oval Table by J Jefferson FarjeonPeril in the Pyrenees by J Jefferson Farjeon

  • Murder Among Friends by Elizabeth Ferrars
  • The Spinster’s Secret by Anthony Gilbert

Murder Among Friends by Elizabeth FerrarsThe Spinster's Secret by Anthony Gilbert

It’s surprising to see how much hard-boiled crime fiction and psychological suspense is already in evidence. Traditional detective stories are still well-represented, but mostly by already-established authors, while newer talents are branching off in other directions.

The overachievers of the year are Erle Stanley Gardner/A. A. Fair and Miles Burton/John Rhode, each with four works published (though it’s interesting that the two Rhode titles crossed the Atlantic promptly, while the Burton books did not).

Also worth noting is Gerald Butler’s ultra-gritty noir Kiss the Blood Off My Hands, making its American debut six years after initial publication in the UK. The jacket boasts that it’s “The first contemporary novel we’ve heard of that already has a past!” Pilgrim’s Rest by Patricia Wentworth is on the other side of the coin—the US got this one first. Wentworth’s later novels tended to be published in the United States well ahead of their UK first editions, perhaps suggesting that Americans had an even greater appetite for these cozy English mysteries than the English themselves.