The Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie
These 1980s Fontana paperback Agatha Christies are rather wonderful and they how off this body outline in our Murder and Mayhem bookshop in Hay-on-Wye.
Published in 1981, this copy is the seventh impression of Thirteen Problems, first published in 1932 by William Collins Sons & Co Ltd and first issues in Fontana Books in 1965. In America it was published as The Tuesday Club Murders.
William Collins, a millworker from Glasgow, first set up a company for printing and publishing hymn books, prayer books, pamphlets and sermons in 1819. He continued to build up his publishing company until his retirement in 1846. His son William II took over the company. When he died in 1853, his son William III took over as chairperson. In 1868 the company was renamed William Collins, Sons and Co Ltd. After William III’s death in 1895 his nephews William IV and Godfrey took over the firm. They developed ‘books for the millions’, offering classical literature at cheap prices. They introduced Collins Pocket Classics. By 1919 the main publishing office was 48 Pall Mall, London.
Collins Crime Club was an imprint/extension of William Collins and Co Ltd and was set up in May 1930, running until April 1994. Customers were sent a quarterly newsletter with information of the latest books to be issued.
The editor of the series was Elizabeth Walter, a writer of horror and fantasy novels and short stories. She was brought up in the Welsh Borders, and although she moved to London she regularly returned to the Wye Valley and the Black Mountains around Hay-on-Wye. She edited the Collins Crime Club series for more than thirty years, from 1961-1993.
All except the first 5/6 Agatha Christie books were published with the Collins Crime Club imprint, and many of these were true first editions (some books were first published in the US). First Crime Club editions were all dated, had red or orange cloth with black writing and were priced on the dust jacket as 7/6 or more. Reprints were often printed without dates and with different coloured cloth and lettering. Cheaper editions, priced below 7/6 were also produced. Books printed for New Zealand, Australia etc were ‘colonial’ editions and were printed without a price on the dust jacket.
In the 1950s, another imprint of Collins, Fontana, began to publish paperbacks. Early Fontana paperbacks were published with a blue banner at the bottoms and priced at 2/-. \
During the end of the 1950s and the 1960s, Fontana paperbacks were printed with yellow banners and priced at 2/6.
Fontana also produced colourful but plain covers in the 1960s, with a bright banner at the top, and a small colourful line with ‘Fontana books’ and the price 2/6 towards the bottom of the book.
Towards the end of the 1960s, Fontana had moved to the better known white banners at the top and bottom, and were priced 3/6.
In the 1970s the books had just a white banner at the top with the title and author and the price was not printed on the cover. The picture sometimes had a white border on, and sometimes filled the rest of the book.
Some titles had a white background with a small portion of picture, and had written on them ‘first time in paperback. The 70s also saw the introduction of the decimal system, with early titles showing both old (5/-) and new (25p) pricing on the back cover.
In the late 1970s and 1980s Fontana had moved towards using photographs for their covers. These books had no banners or borders. Books that had been made into films (such as Endless Night and Evil Under the Sun) had the actors on the cover.
The 1990s saw the introduction of The Christie Collection. A black ‘The Christie Collection’ banner ran along the top of the cover, and most of the rest of the page was filled with the title and author. The picture was small and in the middle of the page.
In 1989, William Collins and Sons merged with an American company Harper and Row to form HarperCollins Publishing.